Vaughn fails to recuse himself for school board vote

February 19, 2014 10:22:45 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn failed to recuse himself from Tuesday's Starkville School District Board of Trustees appointment despite having a family member employed by the district. 


Vaughn, along with Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, supported Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn's motion to strike the interviews of school board President Eddie Myles and Juliette Weaver-Reese for Myles' expiring seat. Vaughn also joined the two aldermen to defeat Ward 3 Alderman David Little's request to interview Weaver-Reese before appointment was approved later in the meeting. 


Aldermen approved Weaver-Reese's appointment with a 5-0 vote after tending to other business. Again, Vaughn cast a vote in the matter, while Maynard and Walker recused themselves. 


Vaughn confirmed to The Dispatch his daughter works for the school system, but said he voted because she does not live with him. Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker recused himself from the vote -- his wife is tied to SSD -- as did Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard. Maynard's son works for the district but does not live with him, the Ward 5 representative said following the meeting. 


City minutes show Vaughn recused himself in many school board appointments since 2010. That year, Vaughn seconded Perkins' motion to appoint Walter Conley to the school board. The vote failed 4-2, with Perkins and Vaughn casting the only "Yea" votes. Former Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk's motion to appoint Susan Tomlinson would be approved 5-2, with Vaughn and Perkins opposing the matter. 


Mayor Parker Wiseman would go on to veto the matter, and Lee Brand, who currently sits on the school board, was appointed in May 2010 with a 4-0 vote. Sistrunk abstained from voting in the matter. 


The Dispatch reported then that Vaughn and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas recused themselves from the interview and appointment process because they both have immediate family members who work in the school district and were advised by the Miss. Ethics Commission to withdraw from the proceedings to avoid any appearance of impropriety.  


Weaver-Reese was nominated by Sistrunk for an expiring board seat in 2011, but her appointment was defeated in a 3-2 vote. Eric Heiselt was then appointed to the board in a 4-1 decision. 


Dumas and Vaughn did not participate in either votes. Both aldermen also recused themselves for the board's unanimous 2012 appointment of school board member Jenny Turner. 


Last year, Keith Coble retained his elected seat after a challenger failed to emerge. Coble's seat is the only current elected seat, which is decided by residents who live within SSD's boundaries but outside of the city limits. 


In January, Vaughn took exception to months of public criticism directed at him and fellow aldermen by lashing out and describing such statements as a "disgrace in the sight of God." 


"You elected all seven of us to serve, but you're so disgraceful and so unfaithful (to the city)," he said last month. "It's always something bad that this board is doing. It's a shame on you all. It's a disgrace in the sight of God."

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch