UPDATE: Interim supervisor named for North Lee; another board director resigns

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

UPDATE: North Lee County Water Association employee Daniel Vaughan will serve as the utility’s interim supervisor after the forced resignation of his predecessor, Dan Durham.

Vaughan’s name was floated by the board at its meeting Wednesday and confirmed as the supervisor Thursday. He apparently has worked only a short time for the utility but has prior experience.

Also Thursday, newly appointed interim board director Perry Whitaker stepped down. In a resignation letter provided late that day, Whitaker said he wasn’t able to commit the time necessary to successfully fulfill the duties of the position.

Whitaker had been appointed, along with other water customers, two days earlier to fill the slots several longtime directors who resigned during a tense board meeting. It’s unclear if his position will be immediately filled or left open until an election.

Currently, just five board directors remain.

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UPDATE: Dan Durham has resigned as North Lee County Water Association Supervisor. The board of directors will try to have a meeting today to select an interim supervisor.

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TUPELO – North Lee County Water Association Supervisor Dan Durham, who faces allegations of corruption from past and present employees, must resign today or be fired by an interim board of directors.
Durham confirmed Wednesday was his last day but didn’t yet know what he would do. He said his personal attorney relayed the ultimatum to him from the board’s attorney, Bill Beasley.
Beasley said he couldn’t comment on that but expected to have a statement about Durham “within a fairly short period of time.”
The attorney had spent several hours Wednesday with board members, many of whom were hastily appointed the previous evening after five predecessors abruptly resigned. Another longtime director, Lamar Hunter, stepped down Wednesday morning. His slot won’t immediately be filled.
Current members are: Mitchell Scruggs, president; Bruce Parker, vice president, Perry Whitaker, secretary/treasurer; Wayne Fitzner, Terry Anderson and Nancy Frideres.
Scruggs, Parker and Fitzner are from the original board. The others were newly appointed, including Parker, who had initially resigned but was reappointed by popular vote.
All will serve until association customers can vote for new directors in an election to be held within 30 days. Current directors can run again but aren’t necessarily ensured a seat.
In addition to Beasley, the group met with Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, and representatives from the Department of Health and the Mississippi Rural Water Association.
“The primary purpose of the meeting was to deal with concerns about the quality of the water,” said Beasley, who is acting as the board’s spokesman.
Beasley said the board adopted a new boil water policy to alert the media and the health department. Customers also will be able to sign up for telephone and email notifications by calling the office.
And directors enlisted the services of the PSC, MSRWA and health department to collect and test water from throughout the district and from customers who have lodged specific complaints.
Collections will take place today, Presley said.
In the meantime, results are pending on water samples already gathered by the health department after recent claims the association’s own collection procedures were compromised.
It’s among numerous accusations made by past and present association workers, who first revealed their experiences to the Daily Journal. Among the allegations are that water employees work side jobs for Durham while on the clock and that many of those jobs occur on Scruggs’ property.
Employees also claim water samples are taken from one location instead of from throughout the district as required, that they use the same tools for water work as they do for sewer work, and that Durham’s grandson gets paid but rarely – if ever – shows up to work.
Scruggs and Durham both denied the accusations.
Beasley, who has launched his own investigation into the matter, briefed board members on the investigation’s progress but declined comment to the media.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com

Boil Water Alerts
North Lee County Water Association customers now can sign up to receive boil water alerts by phone and email. Call the office at (662) 869-1223.