July 22, 2013 9:40:14 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Starkville aldermen are expected to amend Tuesday's board agenda to include a vote on Mayor Parker Wiseman's veto of chief administrative officer Lynn Spruill's termination despite its absence from the official plan.
Prior to the start of each meeting, aldermen usually adjust the schedule by moving items to its consent agenda and by adding, striking or tabling certain topics. Aldermen are expected to add the item despite its absence Friday when the official agenda was posted. Tentative agendas developed earlier last week also left out the agenda item.
Numerous Spruill supporters are expected to attend Tuesday's meeting to show support for the embattled chief administrative officer.
State law requires municipal boards to deal with vetoes in a timely manner after they're issued, but board attorney Chris Latimer was unavailable Sunday to discuss the status of Wiseman's directive if aldermen fail to act at their next meeting.
Mississippi Code 21-3-15 states, "No ordinance or any item ... shall take effect without the mayor's approval, unless the mayor fails to return an ordinance to the board prior to the next meeting of the board, but no later than 15 days after it has been presented to him, or unless the board of aldermen, upon reconsideration thereof on or after the third day following its return by the mayor, shall, by a vote of two-thirds of the members of the board, resolve to override the mayor's veto."
State statute goes on to define "ordinance" in the section to include resolutions and orders.
"I'm not sure if it was intentionally left off or if someone simply forgot to add it," Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said. "I was fully expecting to see it."
Wiseman vetoed the board's action on July 9, exactly one week after Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver's motion to not reappoint Spruill and "have her clean out her office" was supported by Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn. The two dissenting aldermen - Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard - attempted to have each municipal department head reappointed to their respective jobs, but the action went unsupported.
If the vote holds, the board would have the required five votes to override Wiseman's veto. Aldermen could then appoint an interim and redefine the position's duties for a future personnel search.
Spruill's termination differs from how the previous board handled department head reappointments in 2009. In that year, Spruill and 12 other key city employees were reappointed in July with three-month review periods, city minutes show. This year, only personnel director Randy Boyd's reappointment was given a 90-day interim period for review.
Aldermen did not discuss Spruill's job performance in public or behind closed doors on July 2, but the previous board did move to executive session before formally rehiring department heads in October 2009 with little opposition.
In announcing his veto Wiseman hammered the board on its lack of transparency, taking aldermen to task for failing to discuss Spruill's job performance or the reasons behind relieving the city administrator. The mayor stumped for Spruill, writing "at minimum, she deserves to be informed of why she is being fired."
"While the reasons to retain Lynn are abundant, I have yet to hear a single reason to terminate her from a single member of the board of aldermen," Wiseman's veto states. "Conducting the business of the public in such a manner is a disservice to the citizens we serve."
Internal city documents show Spruill consistently received high performance marks from aldermen in 2010 and 2012. Carver, Perkins and Vaughn served on the previous board which gave Spruill an "above average" overall designation in both reports. Documents show she never earned below the same ranking for the study's entire criteria.
Board records also show Perkins presented Spruill with the city's Employee of the Month award in June 2011. The plaque, which at the time Perkins said he paid for, recognized Spruill for her job performance and leadership.
In the June 2011 meeting, Perkins called her "a perfect choice" for the honor and said she always performed her work in an exemplary manner.
A graduate of Starkville High School, Spruill served in the Navy and commercial sector as a pilot before becoming mayor of Addison, Texas. The town would eventually name a local park in her honor. She also holds a master's degree in public policy and a juris doctorate (law degree). Her Starkville business, Spruill Property Management, owns numerous locations throughout the city.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch