Status of Bay building official, BWSD trustee in doubt
By Cassandra Favre
Mar 31, 2017, 18:44
Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday signed amendments to House Bill 51, putting the fate of two local officials – Bay-Waveland School Board Trustee Maurice Singleton and Bay St. Louis Building Official Charles Oliver – in question.
Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame and Singleton both said Friday they are waiting on an opinion from the Mississippi Attorney General about Singleton's ability to serve on the board.
His five-year term expired at the beginning of March and Fillingame had not yet recommended Singleton or anyone else to the city council for approval.
During the March school board meeting, Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government brought up that fact and Singleton sat out.
Fillingame did not bring the matter up at the city council's next meeting, so now – due to the state's so-called "lame-duck" rule – the council can't appoint anyone to the post until after municipal elections.
Last month, Fillingame said he believed that there is a 180-day grace period for school board appointments.
Fillingame on Friday referenced Miss. Code Ann. 21-15-41 that states "no person shall serve in an interim or hold-over capacity for longer than 180 days after the expiration of the term to which he or she was appointed in a position that is required by law to be filled by appointment of the governing body of a municipality, or by mayoral appointment with the advice and consent of the council or aldermen, including positions on boards, commissions or authorities."
The statute became effective on July 1, 2016.
Fillingame said he is confident the AG will return a favorable opinion.
According to the HB 51 amendments to Section 2: 21-15-41, which will not take effect until July 1, 2017, "If such position is not filled within 180 days after the expiration of the position's term, or within 180 days after the date of appointment if an interim appointment, the hold-over service of interim appointment shall terminate."
The amendment further states, "any action or vote taken by such person after the 180-day period shall be invalid and without effect. If a council or board of aldermen rejects, or otherwise fails to confirm, an individual submitted by the mayor for appointment, the mayor may not resubmit or reappoint the same individual for that position during the remainder of the mayor's current term in office."
The final amendment to HB 51 states, "It is the intent of the Legislature that the provisions of this section shall apply retroactively to all appointees serving in a hold-over or interim capacity on the effective date of this act and for such appointees, the 180 day limitation period shall commence to run on the effective date of this act."
Fillingame said Friday the amendments clarified last year's law, specifically as it relates to retroactive actions, and should have no bearing on Singleton's appointment.
In another matter, last year, the Bay St. Louis City Council questioned the validity of the city's building official, Charles Oliver's employment. Although Oliver has been employed by the city for years, since he was never actually certified by the state, council members consider him the city's "interim" building official.The council referenced Senate Bill 2587.
Councilman Lonnie Falgout said at a July 2016 council meeting that any compensation paid to Oliver after July 1, 2016 was a "direct violation of the law."
At a July 2016 council meeting, Fillingame said an AG opinion said that the new law did not relate to municipal employees.
Fillingame said Friday that Oliver is the "building official, not an interim and not in an appointed position. He is a city employee."
Fillingame said that department head positions such as city clerk, public works and police chief are appointed positions and require approval from council.
He added that the building department is "very stressed" with regards to the large number of building projects going on in the city. As a result, Fillingame said, he may soon be looking for authorization to expand building department staff.