The Coahoma County Board of Supervisors elected new leadership this week in a confusing and clumsy way.
The first board meeting of the New Year traditionally has the county board select a president and vice president and then rehire department heads and continue contracts with vendors and contractors for the new year.
The board elected Dist. 4 Supervisor Johnny Newson as president and Dist. 2 Supervisor Pat Davis as vice president, but not before previous president and Dist. 1 supervisors Paul Pearson made the motion to continue leadership in its current state with Newson as vice president. Then Dist. 3 Supervisor Derrell Washington’s name was nominated but he declined the nomination.
Newson then nominated himself and on a 4-1 vote, with Pearson voting against it, was elected president.
But Pearson’s initial motion may not have followed proper parliamentary procedure.
Pearson initially got a second to his nomination but it was never called to a vote. This was pointed out and the roll call saw Pearson, Davis and newly elected Dist. 5 Supervisor Roosevelt Lee vote in favor of Pearson’s motion.
Newson then turned to Lee and asked him if he knew what he voted for. Newson then asked Lee if he wanted to change his vote. As the board and those gathered watched Lee reversed his vote and voted against Pearson’s motion. This was followed by Newson’s nomination and selection as president for the board.
Washington said he declined his nomination because he did not have the time to devote to the job of board president. Washington also said if Newson was qualified enough to be board vice president for a number of years he was qualified to be president.
In Mississippi the Board President only has power in the board chamber or meeting. State law says the board chooses from its members a president and vice president with the only presidential powers being to direct meetings and sign documents in the name of the county. The vice president substitutes when the president is absent.
Under the county unit system, the board is only charged by law to do five things:
• Adopt an annual budget
• Establish the annual property tax rate
• Set policies, goals and objective to direct the county's growth and development
• Adopt and provide for ordinances, rules and regulations as necessary for the general welfare of the county
• Carry out other responsibilities set forth by state, specifically hiring employees and the spending of county funds, in accordance with state statutes.
Coahoma County is under the unit system, a more centralized operation of county government, with a county administrator and road manager – both required by state law -- handling most of the day-to-day road and bridge operations. Under the beat system, supervisors manage the road work in their districts.
Hires and contracts
Also Monday, the board, at Newson’s direction, voted to appoint for 30-days county department heads.
Department heads are traditionally reappointed for a full year at the first meeting of each year.
Current Coahoma County department heads are:
Building/Grounds – Gary Ivy.
County Administrator – Morgan Wood.
County Engineer – Ken Weiland.
Emergency Management – Johnny Tarzi.
Fire Chief – Jerry Mills.
Justice Court Clerk – Darlean Lake.
Road Manager – Otis Griffin.
Youth Outreach Director – Kendric Travis.
Newson said he wanted to review each department head. On a motion by Newson and a second by Lee, the board voted 4-1, with Pearson voting against it, to review each department head and then vote on hiring over the next 30 days.
Board Attorney Tom Ross – who was contracted by the board for one year – advised supervisors every county employee serves at the pleasure of the board.
Newson then said he also wanted to review contracts and after heated discussion the board voted 5-0 to approve and ratify contracts for the next 30-days.
Attorney Ross said the county can’t pay vendors and contract personnel until they have signed contracts for supplies, equipment, services and personnel that are currently in force. He also said the new board can reject any contract voted on by the previous board.
Pearson said the county should approve those contracts and move on, not shutting down the county and delaying payment for the next 30-days.
County Administrator Morgan Wood pointed out she supplied supervisors with a list of contracts more than a month ago for their review in preparation for the new year.
The board could act on any of these measures at their next board meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15.
The Board of Supervisors is also responsible for appointing members to a number of boards and commissions that serve Coahoma County.
With an assessed value of $222,830,517 supervisors are paid $40,400 annually and are required to have a $50,000 surety bond to hold their position.