It started as a productive work session but ended up with shouting and accusations between Sheriff Charles Jones and Dist. 3 Supervisor Derrell Washington.
Supervisors met Wednesday, Feb. 3, in an informal work session to discuss road work, needs at the Coahoma County Justice Center and a report by the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department.
County Road Manager Otis Griffin presented the four-year road plan and Coahoma County Chief Investigator Nathan Hale gave a quick rundown of needs at the sheriff’s department.
But voices were raised and the discussion quickly broke down into a shouting match as Sheriff Jones chided the board for their inability to work together and address problems at the Justice Center.
The Coahoma County Justice Center, which houses the jail, Justice Court and the offices of the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department, was opened last month almost a year after it was initially scheduled to be finished and serious cost overruns.
Hale had told supervisors earlier in the meeting that deputies did not have access to warrants and information from Justice Court files between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. when Justice Court offices were closed. Hale said the city has a similar computer system for warrants and data and had after-hours access to that information, but Justice Court had not made the upgrade.
Hale said this information is critical for officer safety when they are on patrol and need information on someone they have pulled over at night to find out if they are a threat to the officer or wanted by the courts.
But it was Jones’ comments that he had never seen the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors so fractured along racial and political lines that silenced the board.
Jones talked for about 10 minutes and when he paused, Washington said he felt the issues between the board and the sheriff stemmed from a new policy where the board requires the sheriff to spread the names of all new hires at the sheriff department on board minutes.
Washington pointed out the State Audit Department had brought this policy failure to the board following a recent audit.
Jones countered that Washington was still angry at Jones for firing him from the Sheriff’s Department when he decided to run for supervisor.
Both men then began speaking at the same time and the discussion could be heard outside closed doors at the courthouse. Neither man was gaveled down by Board of Supervisors President Johnny Newson. Most supervisors remained silent.
Washington continued to press his point after Jones left the room.
Dist. 1 Supervisor Paul Pearson had told Hale earlier in the meeting that supervisors supported law enforcement and he was concerned about the safety of deputies. Dist. 2 Supervisor Pat Davis said after Jones left the room that issues at the Justice Center would have to be addressed and he too was concerned about officer safety. Newly elected Dist. 5 Supervisor Roosevelt Lee was silent during the meeting, but spoke with Washington after the board adjourned.