Time running out on Fordice’s College Board nominees
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – At least one of Gov. Kirk Fordice’s four nominees to the state College Board is “still hopeful” that the Mississippi Senate will have an opportunity to vote on his confirmation before the session ends this weekend.
“I am still hopeful and expectant that it will be worked out by Friday,” said John McCarty of Jackson, who is one of four white males Fordice nominated for the 12-member board.
While members of the Universities and Colleges Subcommittee, which has halted the nomination process, said last week that they do not plan to meet again this session, Sen. Johnnie Walls said Tuesday afternoon, “I am not ruling anything out.” The subcommittee must approve the four nominees before the full Senate can vote of them.
The Mississippi Legislature, which has been out of session since last week, will reconvene Friday to take care of a few pending matters to wrap up the 1996 session. Fordice is hoping one of those matters will be confirming his College Board nominees.
He called it “unconscionable” that the Senate would adjourn without acting on “these fine, unimpeachable people.”
The four men Fordice is referring to are McCarty, president of McCarty Enterprises; Hassell Franklin of Houston, president of Franklin Corporation; Tom McNeese, a Columbia attorney; and, Ralph Simmons of Laurel, a retired Sunbeam-Oster official.
In a memo released last week, the three black members of the five-person subcommittee said they agreed with Fordice that the four are “outstanding citizens of the state of Mississippi.” Walls, chairman of the subcommittee, said the members do not want to be placed in the situation of choosing some of the nominees and rejecting others.
But in the memo the subcommittee members said “their collective nominations by the governor exhibited an apparent lack of sensitivity for the need to demonstrate a state policy of inclusion of all segments of our diverse population.”
The subcommittee heard testimony from the four men March 27. They voted then to table the nominations until a later date.
In a news conference last week, Fordice called on Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who presides over the Senate, to intervene on behalf of his nominees. But Musgrove said the nominations are following the proper process and he will not try to force his will upon the Senate.
If the four were approved, the College Board would consist of eight white males, two black males and two white women.
Walls, D-Greenville, said white males make up 32 percent of the voting-age population, but have been 74 percent of Fordice’s nominees to various boards and commissions.
McCarty said qualifications, not race, should be the issue.
“I feel because of my qualifications and experience I would make a good College Board member,” said McCarty, whose family owned McCarty Farms chicken processors. “My entire family has been totally committed to higher education for all Mississippians.”
The other nominees could not be reached for comment.
Asked what the governor would do if the Senate does not act, Johnna Van, a Fordice spokeswoman said, “It all depends on what happens Friday.”
If no other action on the nominees is taken, the subcommittee members said Fordice will have to wait until the next legislative session or a special session to renominate them or to name someone else. The four outgoing members could remain on the board until then.