It appears the new law that limits the use of interim appointments by Mayors created a volcanic eruption in Bay St. Louis only twelve days after it took effect. The Mayor appointed a friend to the position of building inspector on an interim basis - over six years ago. SB #2587 bars a municipality from paying the salary of an interim appointee after six months. Unfortunately for our building inspector, the bill did not include a grandfather clause. Thus any interim appointments who were serving for at least six months on July 1 suddenly found their pay checks cut off. However, the Mayor and the City Attorney had a few things to say about the new law. Things didn't go the way they planned as the city attorney found himself out of a job. Slabbed.org attended the meeting and reported on the whole fiasco on its blog and Twitter:
Those of you that followed the Slabbed Twitter feed last night were treated to some fireworks as I live blogged the City Council meeting. Outgoing City Attorney / Harrison County resident Donald Rafferty had a bit of a meltdown over the residency requirement now in effect for the City Attorney position as he repeatedly clashed with the City Council on Mayor Fillingame’s behalf. I thought Mayor Fillingame and Mr. Rafferty stooped particularly low when the newly enacted SB2587 and its applicability to Bay St Louis’ perpetually interim Chief Building Official Charles Oliver was discussed when both accused the Council of conducting a personal vendetta against Oliver, who has never been able to pass the basic test to gain certification as a Municipal Building Official.
More interesting to me was Mr. Rafferty terming the new state law a “knee jerk reaction” while essentially advising the Council to ignore it for now. Mr. Rafferty and the Mayor couched the new law as ambiguous predicting the Attorney General will interpret it in such a way as to make it effectively meaningless. What is clear is the intent of the law is to stop Mayors in Mayor-Council forms of government from placing their unqualified political cronies in crucial positions such as Police Chief, Fire Chief, Chief Building Official on a perpetually interim basis and stems from an epic battle between Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree and the Hattiesburg City Council which Mayor Dupree lost.1 Rest of article.
The new law states:
SECTION 1. (1) No person shall serve in an interim or hold-over capacity for longer than one hundred eighty (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.Slabbed tweeted the following messages from the meeting. See if the law is what the Mayor and his mouthpiece claim it is:
(2) If such position is not filled within one hundred eighty (180) days after the expiration of the term, no municipal funds may be expended to compensate any person serving in the position.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2016.
Mayor Fillingame now claims new state law SB2587 is not in effect for Bay St Louis. The idiocy is getting deep folks.
Mayor calls Council questioning unqualified building official "irresponsible"
Mayor Fillingame now claims the new law does not apply to Municipal Employees, forgets Hattiesburg Council winning on this issue in court.
Council now discussing new law (SB2587) which prohibits the endless use of interim appointments, a popular Mayor Fillingame tactic. (1/2)
Councilman Falgout reading the new law, which applies to Interim Bay Building Official Charles Oliver, a personal friend of the Mayor
Council now discussing hiring interim City Attorney. Both Trent Favre (Jones Walker) and Heather Ladner (Butler Snow) have offered to assist
The Seacoast Echo provided some more details:
A new state law has some city leaders questioning the legality of employment for Bay building department chief Charles Oliver, who has yet to be certified since taking over the department.
Mississippi Senate Bill 2587 became law on July 1. The law states that 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 certain positions on municipal boards.
Although Oliver has been employed by the city for years, since he was never actually certified, he is considered the city's "interim" building official. Falgout read aloud an inter-office memo that he penned and sent to the mayor regarding the issue. According to the memo, dated July 7, "When (SB 2587) takes effect July , 2016, anyone holding over since December 31, 2015, will have been holding over more than 180 days and may not be paid any more.
"Per last night's city council meeting, you were once again made aware of Senate Bill 2587 that was passed into law," Falgout said in the memo. "Any compensation given to Charles Oliver, Bay St. Louis building official interim, from July 1, 2016 ... is a direct violation of this law." “The only reason we are reading this into the record is because you haven't responded,” Falgout told Fillingame Tuesday. “So could we get your response now?”
“Didn't respond or didn't respond the way you wanted?” Fillingame asked. “I think everybody has been aware of SB 2587. Obviously, you're too impatient to wait for the AG's opinion on this.”
Fillingame said that he has already reached out to the AG's office and had gotten "clear indications" that the new law does not relate to municipal employees. “They're not even sure that it relates to department heads and those appointments," Fillingame said. "The bill was somewhat erroneously worded. I'm gonna tell you, Mr. Falgout, just like I've told you every time that you've asked, I don't think this applies to any of our municipal employees. I think that your inner office memo is inappropriate on every level. I think that you have obviously targeted an employee that is a very valuable employee to the city.”
Fillingame said Falgout's interpretation of SB 2587 was “very liberal” and “irresponsible,” accusing council members of targeting an employee for personal reasons. Rafferty agreed.
“It's not about the individual,” said Falgout, “it's about the pay. You're trying to make it about the individual, but it's about the pay! Just like it's about the DOJ money, just like it's about you moving money from one account to another.”
“I think we are breaking the law if we do not do something about this,” Boudin said. “We all got it and had plenty of time to seek an opinion."
Rafferty agreed that the new state law was a matter of opinion. He also agreed with Fillingame that Oliver had been targeted. He referred to the new law as as a “ knee-jerk reaction” and advised council to wait on an AG opinion before considering Oliver's termination.
“There's no way this law could reach back to Jan. 1," he said. "There's not one letter in there (SB 2587) that says this is retroactive for the last 180 days. My professional opinion, and it may not be as good as y'all's, is it takes effect July 1. That means that once the 180 days runs from July 1, then you would have a good argument on that, but to sit up here saying it reaches back to Jan. 1, that's nuts! That's crazy and you're doing it for one reason, because you're picking out an employee and you want him out!” The controversy continued after council tabled its decision about Oliver's employment. Rest of article.
Kingfish note: Mayors Johnny Dupree, Frank Melton, Chokwe Lumumba and especially Les Fillingane all appointed department heads on an interim basis whom they knew would face confirmation problems. Checks and balances can be such a nasty thing but are a fundamental part of representative government. It is also tempting for Mayors to find any means possible to avoid answering to anyone on anything. The city council apparently had enough of the foolishness and put an end to some of it.
Rafferty can argue all he wants BUT department heads are municipal employees. There are some department heads who are subject to confirmation votes by the city council. Thus the law applies to them as well.