July 11, 2013 10:32:45 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
A door-to-door Ward 3 campaign seeking support for embattled Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill could begin soon in an effort to swing a possible veto override, an Oktibbeha County Democratic Party member confirmed Wednesday.
Party executive committee member Patti Drapala said Democrats are looking into their options to influence Ward 3 Alderman David Little's vote and allow Mayor Parker Wiseman's veto of Spruill's firing to pass, thereby preserving the chief administrative officer's job. Little seconded Ward 1 Ben Carver's July 2 motion to fire Spruill and have her clean out her office the next day. The two Republicans were supported by three Democrats: Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn.
If the original July 2 vote holds, aldermen will be able to overturn Wiseman's challenge; however, if one vote swings, the challenge stands and Spruill would retain her at-will position for the moment.
The petition could evolve into a citywide movement, Drapala said, but the potential campaign's full scope is still under consideration. Party chairman Chris Taylor will return from an out-of-country trip soon, she said, but it is not known if the party as a whole will throw its weight behind any campaign.
The board's recent action contradicts how aldermen, including Carver, Perkins and Vaughn, handled department head reappointments in 2009. In that administration's first meeting, the board reappointed Spruill and other key city figures to their jobs with a 90-day review period. Each official was then formally reappointed with little opposition three months later after the board discussed personnel matters behind closed doors.
"We're trying to make connections with reasonable people," Drapala said in reference to the potential petition. "I would like to ask Ben (Carver) if he has been on the board for four years and had time to evaluate (Spruill's) job performance, why isn't he forthcoming about why he voted to fire her? If there's a problem, these aldermen need to come out and say something instead of hiding behind legalities.
"If she did something terrible and put the city in jeopardy, I can understand, but without a reasonable explanation, we can only assume this is about petty politics," she added. "I am absolutely baffled how a person can lose their character and work standards so quickly."
A phone call to Little went unreturned as of press time. Four of the five aldermen who voted to relieve Spruill from her position did not return Dispatch calls last week, but Little did answer a previous call in order to give a "no comment."
Wiseman issued his promised veto Tuesday and hammered the five aldermen for firing Spruill without any public or closed-door discussion on her job performance. In his motion, the mayor wrote Spruill "at minimum ... deserves to be informed of why she is being fired."
Aldermen could act on the veto Friday at the earliest, but sources say a special-call session is not expected since most board members will be traveling this weekend to the Gulf Coast for the annual Mississippi Municipal League conference.
No announcements or advertisements of a special-call meeting have been posted by the city as of Wednesday.
The board is expected to address Wiseman's veto in its July 23 meeting, and numerous Spruill supporters in the community have pledged to attend the meeting and support the chief administrative officer.
Spruill will retain her position until the matter is settled.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch