Commissioner: Counterparts broke meetings law

JACKSON – Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, who often has feuded with his counterparts, has accused them of breaking the open meetings law.
Hall said Northern District Commissioner Bill Minor, Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown and Transportation Department Executive Director Larry “Butch” Brown met at a Jackson restaurant on Aug. 10 with Madison County officials to discuss what is known as the Reunion interchange planned for I-55 in Madison County.
“How do you work with somebody you can’t trust?” asked Hall, who filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission last week. “Obviously, it was a pre-arranged meeting to discuss a project in my district, and I was excluded from the meeting….There is a reason for having the opening meetings law.”
Minor said he was invited to a dinner, and he did not know who would be there.
“We had no meeting,” Minor said. “No meeting was called….I went to a dinner.”
The controversy is the latest flare-up in a long-running feud at the Department of Transportation over Butch Brown’s appointment as executive director. Minor and Wayne Brown support Butch Brown, but Hall opposes the appointment.
Tom Hood, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the two commissioners and Butch Brown have 14 days to file a response if they so choose.
Then the commission can either dismiss the complaint or try to mediate a solution. The issue still could end up in court if one of the parties is not happy with the Ethics Commission resolution.
Minor said he plans to file a response with the Ethics Commission and said, “If they want to meet, I will meet with them because I did nothing wrong.”
Tim Johnson, a member of the Madison County Board of Supervisors, was at the Aug. 10 dinner along with Jackson attorney Ed Brunini Jr. and Madison County engineer Rudy Warnock.
Brunini represents St. Dominic Hospital, which is interested in building at the planned interchange. Warnock ran unsuccessfully against Hall in 2007 for the Central District post.
Hall has opposed the Reunion interchange, saying there were other priorities in Madison County. The other two commissioners support it.
At the dinner, Johnson said, “We were talking about Reunion, and Dick has made it clear he is against the project.”
Minor said the Madison County officials asked the commissioners to consider providing a larger state match for the project.
“We told them we didn’t have more money to give. That was it,” Minor said.
Hall said, “The fact they don’t agree with me on the project is not the point. The complaint is about the meeting.”

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal