Bay violated open meetings law
By Echo Staff
Oct 29, 2013, 19:27
The Mississippi Ethics Commission has ruled that the Bay St. Louis City Council violated the state's open meetings act when it entered into an executive session on Jan. 3, 2012 to discuss the performance of debris removal contractor Tommy Kidd.
Last Friday, the ethics commission issued a preliminary report to two respective complaints made by Bay St. Louis residents Jeff Harding and Otis Bounds.
The city will have the opportunity to appeal the commission's ruling if it chooses.
According to the commission report, Bounds, a local contractor, was critical of Kidd's work during the city council meeting on Jan. 3, 2012.
After a short discussion with the council, city attorney Donald Rafferty suggested the council discuss the matter in executive session, the report said.
At the end of the meeting, the council entered into an executive session for three issues. Kidd's job performance was one of the items and Kidd was invited into the executive session, the report said.
A week or two after the meeting, Harding and Bounds filed a complaint with the ethics commission.
In response to the complaint, Rafferty told the commission that the city entered into the executive session to discuss Kidd's job performance under Section 25-41-7 (4)(k) of the Mississippi code.
The ethics commission cited Mississippi Supreme Court case law which states the executive session privilege is only applicable when dealing with employees which are hired and fired by the board and not independent contractors.
"Tommy Kidd is an independent contractor and not an employee of the council," the ruling said. "Discussion regarding his job performance must be discussed in an open meeting and cannot be entertained in executive session."
Although the commission found that city leaders broke the law by entering into the executive session, the commission did not levy any penalty on Rafferty or the council.
Instead, the commission issued the city a warning and ordered that it refrain from further violations.
If the city does not object to the ethics commission's ruling, the preliminary report will be presented to the ethics commission on Nov. 6 for acceptance.
If the city objects, it will be entitled to a hearing on Dec. 10 in Jackson.
Rafferty did not respond to phone calls seeking comment by press time Tuesday.