Aldermen to attempt override of mayor's school board veto

April 3, 2010 9:55:00 PM

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- The Starkville Board of Aldermen might not have the votes to override the mayor''s recent veto of Susan Tomlinson''s appointment to the Starkville School District board of trustees, but aldermen plan to try it anyway Tuesday night in City Hall.  


Aldermen appointed Tomlinson to fill the vacant school board seat on March 16, but Mayor Parker Wiseman issued a veto two days later, saying the school board should be representative of the students it serves. The school district is approximately 64 percent black, but Tomlinson, who is white, would make the school board 80 percent white.¬†Wiseman also said race should play a¬†role in the selection process, but it shouldn''t be the determining factor.  


Ward 2 Alderwoman Sandra Sistrunk on Friday said the Board of Aldermen most likely will attempt to override Wiseman''s veto at Tuesday''s meeting.  


"I have hopes that (the override) will pass, but I don''t think we''ll have enough (votes)," Sistrunk said.  


At least five aldermen must vote in favor of an override, City Attorney Chris Latimer said last week. Aldermen approved Tomlinson''s appointment to school board with a 5-2 vote, but one of the five aldermen in favor of her appointment, Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, said he plans to recuse himself from any school board appointment proceedings due to a potential conflict of interest.  


Dumas'' decision to recuse himself was based on a state Ethics Commission opinion which interprets state law as forbidding any alderman or mayor from appointing someone to a municipal separate school board if it results in a monetary benefit for himself, his relative or his business. Dumas'' wife, Hope, teaches third grade at Overstreet Elementary School in the Starkville School District.  


The Ethics Commission has advised aldermen and other public servants in Dumas'' position to recuse themselves from voting on appointments to the school board to avoid any appearance of impropriety.  


Without Dumas, only four aldermen who voted in favor of Tomlinson are left to attempt an override.  


Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn Sr. voted in favor of former Oktibbeha County School District Superintendent Dr. Walter Conley to fill the vacant SSD school board seat, but the motion failed. Perkins and Vaughn then voted against Tomlinson''s appointment. 


Vaughn on Friday, however, said he also plans to recuse himself from school board appointment proceedings. His daughter, Jessica Vaughn, is a teacher assistant at Sudduth Elementary School. 


Wiseman has suggested the Board of Aldermen restart the selection process.  


Contacted Friday, Tomlinson said she was "disappointed" Wiseman vetoed her appointment to the school board.  


"I was disappointed that he felt he had to veto my appointment," Tomlinson said. "I worked in the school district for 20 years trying to bridge race, and everything that I did was to try to strengthen the school system in Starkville and do what I can for the students. So I''m disappointed, to say the very least." 


When asked if she would reapply for the vacant seat if aldermen decide to begin a new selection process, Tomlinson said she wasn''t sure. 


"Well, I don''t really know," she said. "The veto basically says that because of diversity, I don''t need to apply again."