January 7, 2015 4:34:51 PM
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman slammed aldermen Wednesday for removing LGBT-friendly policies without public debate and began the process vetoing the board's action.
Five aldermen repealed the city's equality resolution - a non-discrimination policy that included language protecting lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender employees - and ended its plus-one insurance option available to workers' same-sex partners after three hours of closed-door deliberations.
Wiseman vowed to veto the actions, but the 5-2 breakdown will overturn his order if an override vote is called.
Even though a majority of aldermen took the matter into executive session on the grounds of potential litigation, the mayor said the public was owed open and transparent discussions.
Wiseman said the aldermen who brought the measure forward Tuesday did not give any reasoning for their action in executive session.
"I do not think it's good government to have that discussion in executive session when the result of it is rolling back a non-discrimination statement. The public is owed an explanation as to why elected leaders feel that statement should be rolled back," he said.
Aldermen previously approved the non-discrimination language in January 2013, making Starkville the first Mississippi city to extend such protections.
"There's no question in my mind that this sends the worst possible message to the outside world about our community," Wiseman said of its repeal. "My biggest worry right now is the message it sends in our city and to our workforce. It says members of the LGBT community are not worthy of discrimination protections."
City attorney Chris Latimer advised staff to not disclose how individual aldermen voted Tuesday. It is assumed, however, that the same two aldermen who fought for the plus-one insurance extension - Ward 4's Jason Walker and Ward 5's Scott Maynard - again voted to keep the policies on the books Tuesday as they confirmed their stances on the issue have not changed.
It is believed Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn joined the coalition of aldermen against the two policies - Ben Carver, David Little, Roy A. Perkins and Henry Vaughn - after she first abstained from and then walked out of City Hall during past votes concerning the plus-one insurance tier.
Wynn's City Hall exit in September allowed the plus-one insurance policy to continue as an option for employees' same-sex partners.
Starkville will operate with its old non-discrimination policy that is present in city handbooks, Wiseman said, but that document does not provide protections to LGBT employees.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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