Board censures Thompson
A storm brewing in county administration has resulted in a letter of reprimand placed in the file of a county employee.
Supervisors came out of executive session last Wednesday, Sept. 30, to announce action taken. Attorney Melvin Miller said the board had:
• voted to issue a letter of reprimand to a county employee;
• received a letter from Board attorney David Tisdell resigning his post;
• approved employing Melvin Miller as Board attorney on an interim basis.
District 2 supervisor Cedric Burnett said after the meeting that the employee that was reprimanded was county administrator Michael Thompson and that the Board had also voted to place Thompson on a three-day unpaid suspension.
On Monday, county comptroller Adrian McKay made a complaint against Thompson with the Tunica Police Department. Thompson, who was out of the office until Tuesday, October 6, has been charged with disturbing the peace. A court date of Monday, October 19, has been set to hear the matter in municipal court.
McKay had previously submitted a written account to the TPD concerning an alleged incident on August 27, 2015. McKay wrote, “This is my formal complaint against Mr. Michael Thompson (Tunica County Administrator) concerning workplace intimidation, violence and harassment.” McKay alleges that during an internal meeting in which other staff members were present, Thompson directed obscenities at McKay and approached him in what he felt was a “threatening” manner. McKay’s written account said he intended to file a grievance with the county’s Human Resources director Hylon Oliver.
McKay also quoted Tunica County’s workplace policy: “Tunica County is committed to maintaining a safe, healthy work environment where employees and visitors are free from the threat of workplace violence. No employee shall engage in any act, on county property, while performing work-related duties or involving persons related to county employment, that threatens the safety or affects the health, life, or well-being of any employee, visitor or citizens or results in damage to county property....”
Thompson did not attend Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. During the reading of the minutes from four September Board meetings, Burnett asked for a correction to the minutes of September 30.
“The action was to,” Burnett began. “...an employee was suspended for three days. The minutes need to show that.”
Interim Board attorney Melvin Miller said, “The letter of reprimand reflects the suspension.”
Chancery Clerk Rechelle Siggers then said that the minutes were only reflecting what was announced on September 30.
“What was announced was completely different from what the action was,” Burnett countered. “(The employee) was suspended without pay, and the minutes don’t reflect that....The Board is supposed to announce all decisions (from Executive Session)...to reflect what was actually voted on.”
Board president James Dunn agreed, saying, “The minutes should reflect the vote.”
The minutes were subsequently approved with the addition of the language about the suspension on a 3-2 vote, Henry Nickson and McKinley Daley voting no.
After an executive session near the end of Monday’s meeting, Miller announced that the Board had voted to formally place the comptroller under the direct supervision of the county administrator.
When questioned about this action, Burnett said he wasn’t clear about the reason for the Board’s action Monday.
“If we see there’s a problem with those two, they should be separated in my opinion,” Burnett said Tuesday.
In other business on October 5, supervisors:
• approved granting Entergy the right of way to put up a light pole at the south end of the old Pillowtex building in the Industrial Park. A recycling company is leasing the building and is ready to start up, Chamber CEO Lyn Arnold told the Board last month.
• discussed at length a pending request from the county Healthcare Authority to re-employ Gene Osborn for two to three days per month to assist the two clinic managers with compliance issues and negotiations with Methodist Hospital to bring specialists and other services to the county’s clinic in the resort area. Managers Barbara Conway and Penny Harrison have appeared before the Board with the same request on a number of occasions, without supervisors taking any action on the request. Dunn called for a motion to approve the request, but no supervisor offered a motion.
• directed attorney Miller to draft a resolution for an interlocal agreement between the town and the county to allow Tax Assessor/Collector Norma Anderson to begin collecting municipal taxes. The town Board of Aldermen had previously approved a resolution to request that Anderson collect newly-enacted town property taxes.
• approved a request from Human Resources to post a new position for a cultural arts coordinator in the Parks and Recreation Department. Supervisors also agreed to pay six arena employees who were recently moved from part time to full time status at an hourly rate of $10.
• did not act on a request by Road Manager Joe Hawkins to allow Lehman-Roberts to overlay Blue Devil Drive while the company is working on a state aid project on Limerick Road. Hawkins called Blue Devil Drive, which circles the Tunica Academy campus, “one of the worst roads in Tunica County” and said he was concerned for the safety of children who attend the school. Dunn called for a motion to approve Hawkins’s request, but no motion was forthcoming.
• recessed until Thursday, October 15, at 5 p.m.
In two meetings last week, the Board:
• approved the Fiscal Year 2016 budget and tax levy (on September 28);
• re-appointed Dr. Joe Canada to the North Tunica County Fire Protection Commission and Robert Smith to the Airport Commission, but left vacant a position on the Tunica County Utility District board. Dunn asked to appoint Earl Hendricks, but the motion died for lack of a second. However, on September 30, supervisors approved Hendricks’s appointment.
• agreed to post two jobs at the county clinics;
• approving the hiring of Doris Spight as administrative assistant in the Road Department on September 30;
• approved end of the year amendments to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
Justice race clouds Nov. 3 vote
With the November general election just weeks away, Justice Court Judge candidates Jacqueline Dishmon-Boykin and Louise Linzy hope a hearing today (Friday) will resolve lingering issues from the August primary.
After Dishmon-Boykin prevailed in August, with 739 votes to Linzy’s 704, Linzy – the incumbent judge for the Southern District – filed a petition to contest the Democratic primary. Acting as her own attorney, Linzy filed the case in Tunica County Circuit Court on August 24. The regular Circuit judges for Tunica County subsequently recused themselves, and special judge James D. Bell of Jackson was appointed on September 8 to hear the case.
Stop in the name of a cure
Commander Cedric Davis of the Tunica County Sheriff’s Office “arrests” Larry Pratt, Vice President at First Security Bank, during “Arrest for the Cure” on October 5.
Conservator hits the ground running
It’s not business as usual for Tunica County schools.
Since taking charge of the local public school district on July 13, conservator Dr. Margie Pulley has acted quickly to turn around the faltering district.
Calling the task “a huge challenge” in an update last week at the Tunica Rotary Club, Dr. Pulley is acting as both superintendent and school board, after the State of Mississippi took over the district and its five schools last summer.
Dr. Pulley said her immediate task was to prepare for the opening of school in August. She had faculty and administrative positions to fill, but now, over two months into the year, there are no vacancies and teachers are in the classrooms, teaching in their fields, Pulley said. This week, the first evaluations – nine weeks tests – are underway, and those leading the district will soon know how students are progressing.
Dr. Pulley already knows where her teachers are in the process, since she has administered the first assessments. These assessments revealed whether teachers are actually teaching the curriculum and following pacing guides. Then she and her district level staff will be able to make data-driven decisions, she said.
“I’m pleased in some areas,” Dr. Pulley said. “I anticipate a difference in the scores.”
Harassment cited in SO shake-up
A shake-up in the Tunica County Sheriff’s Department has been the subject of much speculation, but few facts have emerged since.
Late last week, Memphis television news began reporting that Commander Eugene Bridges, former head of the department’s Internal Affairs Division, had been fired. Sexual harassment of a female deputy was alleged, and the department released a statement on September 23.
“Tunica County Sheriff’s Office does not condone any activities concerning sexual harassment nor workplace harassment. Tunica County Sheriff’s Office has a policy on harassment that is strictly enforced. Also, mandatory sexual harassment and workplace harassment in-service training has been provided to every member of the Tunica County Sheriff’s Office. When a complaint is made, an investigation becomes active. Tunica County Sheriff’s Office will not confirm or deny any information because of an active investigation. Several employees are being investigated at this time,” the full statement reads.
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