Teal leaves city job sooner than expected

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TEAL

TEAL

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Outgoing director of Tupelo’s Department of Development Services, BJ Teal, has left City Hall.

As of Tuesday, city planner Pat Falkner assumed duties as interim director for the city department, Mayor Jason Shelton said.

Last week, Teal confirmed her resignation and said she would work through this week and then use leave time until formally ending employment with the city on Nov. 18.

Discussing her resignation with the Daily Journal on Thursday, Teal said she had a difference of philosophy with Shelton and was discouraged by his intentions not to proceed with neighborhood redevelopment efforts similar to the current West Jackson Street project that involves using city tax dollars to purchase real estate and sell it to private developers. Teal also said she didn’t feel that she had city support.

Former Mayor Ed Neelly hired Teal in 2008 as special assistant to the mayor for planning development and was nominated as department head by former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. as director of Development Services. She was renominated by Shelton earlier this month for the position that pays $74,675.

Shelton has said he favors city redevelopment efforts limited to tax credits and abatement incentives. In his campaign for mayor earlier this year, Shelton criticized the Department of Development Services, saying it should be friendlier to the public, particularly in code enforcement.

In discussing Teal’s replacement, Shelton said he wanted to add a focus on economic development to the position.

Shelton said Teal’s public comments last week had no role in her leaving work at the city sooner than planned. “Not in my opinion,” he said.

He would not discuss whether the decision to change Teal’s last day at City Hall was his alone or was discussed with her.

“What was discussed pertaining to personnel is not something subject to being quoted in the newspaper,” Shelton said.

Teal has declined to comment further.

The Daily Journal filed public records requests on Monday for text messages and emails between Shelton and Teal from Oct. 23 until Saturday. City Clerk Kim Hanna, the official custodian of public records for the city, said Tuesday she did not have access to Shelton’s text messages since he made them from his personal cellphone.

However, Leonard Van Slyke, a Jackson-based attorney who advises the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information, said Shelton’s text messages should be treated as public information.

“If he’s doing the public’s business on the phone, the texts should be public,” Van Slyke said.

The number for the personal cellphone Shelton uses to text, email and call is listed on city of Tupelo letterhead with contact information for other city elected officials.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com

  • msr38801

    There would be less need for neighborhood “redevelopment” if the current city codes were enforced instead of letting neighborhoods become rundown to the extent a part of West Jackson Street was due to lack of enforcement. It seems that Code Enforcement is only interested in rental property inspections where a fee is involved, or picking up political signs during elections.

    • FrereJocques

      This is a humorous comment, in a way. Because the city has TRIED code enforcement, and every time they do, there is a huge stink raised about how Big Bad Government is trying to come in and run peoples’ lives and telling them how they must live. It seems that nothing rankles individuals here more than the local popo coming to tell you to clean up your yard, mow the grass, get that car sitting on concrete blocks out of your front yard, etc. etc..

      This problem is as old as local Governments themselves. You want property values maintained, but you want the freedom to do as you want with your own property. With freedom comes responsibility. That lesson has not yet been learned by, nor is it being taught to, the General Populace.

  • DoubleTalk

    I have a slightly different point of view. The problem is government created along with others trying to use government to profit.
    1st, if you want to live in a controlled neighborhood, buy/build in one such as a covenant neighborhood. That aside, lets go back some years to the start. Here comes government that says you have to sell/rent to anyone. Then along come entitlements to help anyone move in the neighborhoods without anything of their own at risk. Next comes the irrational rise in property values that couldn’t be substantiated in reality eventually leading to the housing fall. And of course Realtors leveraged more sells by telling folks get out now because the neighborhood is declining. Some even sought neighborhoods to place a suggested decline.
    Now government likes increasing property values as it determines and feeds their never ending thirst for tax money. Privately I have had several property appraisers tell me if they appraised property in the manner the government does……they would loose their license..

    For the West Jackson example, I would submit private developers could have on their own gone in, bought up property and redeveloped it without taxpayer funding. They can do the same in other areas.
    Last I would say some have also fallen on hard times and are lucky to make the mortgage payments hoping for better days. Some work from can to can’t just to do it. While some would view it as if you can’t afford it, you should move. I see it as either (1) If you don’t like it, be a good neighbor and offer to help them improve it (2) It will become a bargin buy at some time in the future.

    No doubt folks don’t like others telling them what to do with what they are paying for. No doubt their are slum lords. Yet there are those whose home is dear to them, yet not to others.

    Code enforcement should be for extreme things, not chipped paint, shrubs and the like. Heck I saw one neighborhod that a guy sold tractors and trailers in his front yard for years. Did not decrease values. Yet he became a vocal code supporter after retirement. Another pulled a tractor in their yard recently. Go figure.