Transportation commissioners won’t fight ethics finding

JACKSON – Two state transportation commissioners will not object to a preliminary ruling by Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood that they violated the open meetings law.
Hood said late Wednesday that Commissioners Bill Minor of the Northern District and Wayne Brown of the Southern District withdrew their objection to his decision.
Last week, when Hood’s recommendation was released, the commissioners said they intended to object.
But Minor said Wednesday, “Let them do whatever they are going to do. I just want to get it over with.”
The finding concerned the commissioners’ presence at an August dinner in Jackson in which they met with officials from Madison County and discussed an interchange project.
The third commissioner, Dick Hall, was not at the meeting and filed the complaint with the commission.
Hood will present his recommendation to the Ethics Commission, likely Friday. Had the transportation commissioners not withdrawn their objection, a hearing would have been held before the Ethics Commission made a final decision.
Hood will recommend to the commission that the transportation commissioners broke the law and that they 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 – not the individual members.
The Ethics Commission can accept Hood’s recommendation, reject it or amend it.
The complaint was filed against Minor and Brown by Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall.
While he said he wanted to put the incident behind him, Minor said he plans to ask the Ethics Commission for clarification on the open meetings law.
“I don’t think we did anything wrong,” Minor said. “I was invited to a dinner. They asked a question about the interchange, and we told them we did not have any more money for it.”
The rest of the dinner, he said, was small talk.
He said road contractors routinely invite all three transportation commissioners to lunch or dinner where often business is discussed.
“If we’re breaking the law, I want to know what the law is,” Minor said.
Hood said the dinner was a violation because it was not a chance meeting or social gathering, but a pre-arranged meeting where they “deliberated over matters within their jurisdiction.”

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal