By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Incoming Tupelo City Council member Buddy Palmer can legally and ethically continue serving on the Tombigbee Electric Power Association board while serving in city government, the state Ethics Commission recently ruled.
Palmer, who will be sworn-in as Ward 6 councilman on Monday, asked for an official opinion from the state commission after defeating incumbent Jonny Davis. The power association pays a franchise fee to the city of Tupelo and charges the city for installation and maintenance of utility poles and other materials within Tombigbee’s service area in the city.
The commission decided Palmer faced no conflict of interest by serving both on the council and the Tombigbee EPA board. However, if the council discusses matters related to payments to the power association, Palmer must recuse himself. This means he must leave the meeting room before the matter is discussed and remain absent until any vote is complete.
“I really needed that verified from the Ethics Commission,” Palmer said. “You can have a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest, which is almost as bad.”
Tombigbee EPA had 5,677 residential, commercial and industrial customers within the Tupelo city limits as of March, Tupelo branch manager Bruce Williams said, the largest number among the 13 municipalities covered by the nonprofit company.
With more than 42,000 customers, the power association covers all of Lee County not in the coverage of Tupelo Water and Light, all of Itawamba County and parts of Monroe, Pontotoc, Union, Prentiss and Chickasaw counties.