At least one member of a board that oversees a youth program in Coahoma County said he has no interest in serving as an advisor.
However, the five members of the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors, which funds the program, is nearly unanimous in their belief that the board should only serve as advisors and any final decisions should rest with them.
The Coahoma County Youth Outreach board has been in existence since 2012 and was given the task of putting a youth and enrichment program together for the community. The program has been located at the Expo Center in Clarksdale since 2014.
However, members of the board have recently questioned whether they serve simply as advisors to the county supervisors or have authority to make all decisions.
“The commission was tasked with creating this program and we’ve done what we’re supposed to. The marching orders should come from downtown,” said Oliver Clark, who chairs the CCYO board.
However, board member Al Jones, who was the chair when the program first started, said, “I don’t want to serve on an advisory committee.”
Both Clark and County Administrator Morgan Wood said there are liability issues at play. She said since the county government funds the CCYO program, it could be found liable if the CCYO board had more authority than an advisory committee if something went wrong.
Wood cited the organization’s bylaws where it says, “The Coahoma County Youth Outreach Project is hereby established to conduct, maintain, and plan a system of supervised recreation and enrichment programs in the County of Coahoma under the control of the Board of Supervisors.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Kendrick Travis, who serves as the director of the CCYO, questioned which board he reports to.
“Did you all talk to your representatives?” Travis asked. “The bylaws can be changed. The bylaws should be changed.”
Four of the five county supervisors believe the board serves merely as advisors. District 5 supervisor Will Young said he did not have enough information to say what the board’s role was.
“I appreciate what they have done and do,” Young said. “It’s a non-paying position. Whatever they’re doing, in my opinion, they’re doing it, it’s for the right reasons. They’re putting the kids’ interest at heart. It’s a thankless job.”
Board president Paul Pearson said the board started out as an advisory board from the get-go.
“We had an advisory board with a group of individuals before we ever even had the place. We had people on the advisory board helping us find a location and search to start this program. We didn’t even have a place at one point,” he said.
Pearson said the CCYO board could function independently in the future, but it is currently an advisory board.
District 4 representative Johnny Newson agreed.
“The CCYO board is basically a board that advises us to the needs of the organization, recreation department,” Newson said. “We make the final decision, whether it’s monetary, whether it’s termination or whatever. We give them the authority to actually implement programs and make sure the organization is running smoothly, but as far as actually terminating someone or making budgetary changes of that nature, that has to come before us.”
Newson said he appreciated what the CCYO board does and its suggestions are taken to heart.
“I don’t see where is the big confusion of what their duties are,” he said. “Maybe we need to spell it out and have a joint meeting about what it is at the same time so all of us will have an understanding as to what their duties are.”
District 3 representative Derrell Washington echoed the comments of his other supervisors.
“From my understanding, it’s an advisory board,” he said. “Anything that has come up on that board, it always has to be approved by the board of supervisors. Since I’ve been on the board, anything that has come up with the CCYO, the Board of Supervisors has the final say.”
District 2 representative Pat Davis said while he believes the CCYO board serves as an advisory board, he also encouraged discussion on the matter.
“I think any decisions on money have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors,” Davis said. “I am sure we could all talk. If there’s a misunderstanding, we need to get it straight.”
The members of the board, in addition to Jones and Clark, are Rosalyn Griffin, LaTonja Stone, Barbara Jakes, Roosevelt Greenwood, Chico White and Wilhelmenia Newson. Two seats from District 1, which would be appointed by Pearson, are currently vacant.
After discussion during Thursday’s meeting, the CCYO board adjourned until it received further direction on what its role is. Jones said he would attend the next Board of Supervisors meeting, which was held Wednesday afternoon, April 17.