Commissioners found in violation of meeting law

JACKSON – Transportation Commissioners Bill Minor and Wayne Brown have been found in violation of the state’s open meetings laws by the executive director of the Ethics Commission, but the issue is not over.
Minor, a Holly Springs Democrat representing the Northern District, said he objects to the preliminary conclusion reached by commission Executive Director Tom Hood and is requesting a hearing on the issue.
Minor said he does not believe he violated the state’s opening meetings law by attending a dinner at a Jackson restaurant in August with Brown, of the Southern District, and officials from Madison County where a proposed interchange on I-55 in Madison County was discussed.
Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, who opposes the interchange, was not at the dinner, which Minor said was set up by Madison County officials.
Hall filed the opening meetings complaint.
“Somebody will have to go a long way to convince me that if I am at dinner with Wayne Brown and somebody mentions highways that we are in violation of the law,” Minor said. “That is what happened here.
“…I want to go before the Ethics Commission so somebody can tell me the law so I can operate by the law.”
Hood ruled that because Brown and Minor, making up a quorum of the commission, attended a pre-arranged meeting where they “deliberated over matter within their jurisdiction, the dinner was not a chance meeting or purely social gthering. It was an illegal meeting.”
Under changes put in place in 2008, people accusing public officials of violating the open meetings law file a complaint with Hood, who makes a recommendation to the Ethics Commission. The commission can accept Hood’s recommendation or reach a different conclusion.
But the public official accused of violating the law or the person filing the complaint can refuse to accept the recommendation. Then a public hearing will be held where Hood will preside.
Minor’s hearing will be Oct. 26.
Hood’s recommendation to the Ethics Commission said the law was violated and the transportation commissioners should be enjoined from violating it again. The maximum penalty under the state’s law would have been a $100 fine levied against the Transportation Commission.
Before the change in law, the issue would be settled in a court of law. Either side can still appeal ruling of the Ethics Commission to the courts.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal