Ross reinstates electric superintendent

March 12, 2010 11:52:00 AM

Jason Browne - jbrowne@cdispatch.com

 

WEST POINT -- West Point Mayor Scott Ross knew about the Board of Selectmen''s special Wednesday meeting to fire electric superintendent Shasta Plunkett, but knowing and receiving official notice are separate matters. 

 

Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman claims Ross received an email informing him of the meeting at 11:45 a.m. 

 

Ross doesn''t deny he received the email, but maintains the first "proper" written notice he received was an email received at 4:45 p.m. from City Clerk Lela Jack. The meeting was held at 5:30. 

 

"Being aware of the meeting and being properly noticed are altogether different things," said Ross. "They can either do it right or not." 

 

Section 21-3-21 of Mississippi Law dealing with special meetings states: "The notice must state the time of meeting and distinctly specify the subject matters of business to be acted upon. Notice of the meeting shall be given to the members of the board, including the mayor, ... at least three (3) hours before the time fixed for the meeting." 

 

Jack says an email sent to Ross at 11:28 a.m. did not specify a reason for the meeting. A subsequent email sent at 4:42 p.m. listed the cause as "personnel matters." 

 

Regardless whether the meeting was legal or not, Ross vetoed the board''s action and Plunkett was reinstated at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. The board would need four votes to overturn Ross'' veto. 

 

Plunkett says he didn''t lose any productive time at work and that the whole episode merely caused him stress. 

 

Pittman maintains the mayor had proper notice of the meeting and City Attorney Orlando Richmond wouldn''t have attended if he felt the meeting was improper. Richmond said Thursday he had no means of determining whether Ross had received proper notice. 

 

While Pittman remains silent on the reasons for Plunkett''s firing, he says his and Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins'' inclusion on a recent list of delinquent utility bills had nothing to do with the board''s decision. 

 

Pittman who receives electric service through 4-County Electric says he was past due on a water bill and paid his bill before the disconnect date. 

 

"It ain''t the first time. Everybody''s late sometimes," said Pittman. "I''ve got the list of the ones that they actually cut off and my name wasn''t on there. I paid my bill before I got cut off." 

 

Collins declined comment. 

 

Ross issued a written statement Thursday claiming Pittman, Collins and Ward 2 Selectman Homer Cannon had "repeatedly failed to recognize and accept the statutory duties (and limitations) of their office and consistently ignored the City''s personnel policy. State law specifically prohibits board members from attempting to exercise executive authority which is reserved to the Mayor and delegated to the Chief Administrative Officer." 

 

Pittman says the selectman often take matters into their own hands for the same reason he believes Ross didn''t attend the special meeting. 

 

"He''s never around. And when people have issues, they come to us because he''s never in his office. He''s always out of town on city business and other business. He''s out of town right now," said Pittman. 

 

In addition to serving as mayor of West Point, Ross also maintains a law practice and serves as the president of the State Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. 

 

Ross says the appropriate channel for citizen complaints or concerns when he isn''t available is to contact City Administrator Randy Jones. 

 

"Nintey-nine percent of the time if someone came to me I would pass it off to (Jones) anyway, whether a street issue or a water leak," said Ross.