Board nominees hang in limbo, await Senate confirmation

JACKSON – When the state Board of Health met earlier this month, Tupelo physician Ed Hill and Iuka physician-banker Kelly Segars were present, having been appointed to the panel earlier this year by Gov. Haley Barbour.
But neither Hill nor Segars actually participated in the meeting because, for a variety of reasons, they weren’t confirmed during the 2010 session by the Mississippi Senate.
And they weren’t alone.
The Senate never took up about 15 of the governor’s nominations to boards and commissions that govern and set policy for various segments of state government.
Because of the failure to act, it appears those nominees currently are not actually serving on the boards.
Liz Sharlot, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said Segars and Hill “attended the board meeting as invited guests. They did not participate” in voting or making motions, but they could express their opinions.
Under state law, people appointed while the Senate is out of session can serve until they are taken up when the Senate is in session. However, if they are not approved during the session, they cannot continue to serve.
Hob Bryan, D-Amory, who is chairman of the Public Health Committee that handles many of the people who were not confirmed, said the Senate did not receive the nominations in time from the governor’s office for the Senate staff to do the required background checks.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Hill. “I have been assured it will be worked out. …I am not blaming anyone. They apparently still want me to serve.”
Segars said during the final days of the 2010 session there were efforts to get to his confirmation. He said he received a phone call at 4 p.m. one day asking if he could be in Jackson at 8 a.m. the next day for a confirmation hearing. He could not make it.
“It is no big deal,” he said. “The Senate gets so busy during the session. People forget about some of the little things.”
Hill said he might have been out of town when Segars was called.
“The governor is very much interested in having both gentlemen on the board,” Barbour spokesman Dan Turner said. “We are working with the secretary of state to try to determine what we can do.”
The people who were not confirmed could be taken up during a special session or next year during the regular session. Whether a quirk in the law can be found to allow them to start serving now is not clear, though based on past rulings of attorneys general, that seems unlikely.
Others are in the same boat as Segars and Hill include Mac McDivitt of Amory for the Board of Pharmacy and Rick Elam of Oxford for the Board of Public Accountancy.
“We’re just operating one board member short, waiting to see if the governor reappoints him,” said Frank Gammill, executive director of the Pharmacy Board. “I think that is the process.”
The problem is if a board cannot meet because a quorum is not present. If a board is short members, that puts more pressure on the existing members to attend meetings.
After the 2010 session ended in April, another problem surfaced at the Board of Cosmetology, which licenses the state’s cosmetologists.
The terms of all five members had expired. Barbour appointed new members who apparently can serve until they come up for confirmation during the 2011 session.
“The Cosmetology Board is good to go,” Turner said.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 35-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal