The Jackson City Council met today to discuss a sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed against Mayor Tony Yarber and the city of Jackson. All city council members except Kenneth Stokes attended the meeting. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Marshand Crisler represented the Yarber administration. Some highlights of the meeting are:
*The administration opened the meeting by telling the council that it had to approve a 4-mill property tax increase or else the city would have to cut $350,000 from the budget. It then told the council that it could cut $300,000 from the fuel budget. However, the administration didn't tell the city council about the need for the tax increase or cuts until after the budget meeting that was held yesterday.
*Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester, Jr. opened the lawsuit discussion by asking how the city attorney's office could give it advice when the city attorney had an obvious conflict of interest. He said the city council needed to hire outside counsel to investigate the entire um, affair. Deputy City Attorney James Anderson kept advising the council that he would only discuss such matters in executive session. Those two words became a mantra, yea, even a philosophy, whenever Mr. Anderson spoke. Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said she had never seen a case rife with so many conflicts of interest.
*"A slap in the face" is how Ward 4 Councilman Dekeither Stamps described the absence of the Mayor and City Attorney Monica Joiner from the meeting. He said he was prepared to wait as long as needed until they appeared. Such action would give him an excuse to keep wearing the same shirt.
*Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote asked if there were other EEOC complaints that were filed against city employees. Mr. Anderson did not answer the question but instead said he would only respond in executive session. Mrs. Simon interrupted Mr. Anderson and expressed her shock "You mean you can't tell us if there are pending complaints?". Mr. Anderson repeatedly said he would only discuss such matters in executive session.
*Mr. Stamps asked if Mr. Crisler and other city employees attended the fund-raisers in Atlanta and New Orleans on the city time and dime. Mr. Crisler refused to answer these questions and Mr. Anderson again invoked the executive session catechism.
*Mr. Priester asked several times why the city council was not notified there were EEOC complaints even though one was filed nearly a year ago. He said they were apparently "compartmentalized" and that there is an active conflict of interest between the city attorney and the city attorney's office. He asked to see all EEOC complaints filed against the city since April 2014. He also said the legal department asked for an extra million dollars in its budget request so it could pay for lawsuits. The city is self-insured.
*The City Council wanted to see the city's written responses to any EEOC complaints and make them public yet Mr. Anderson strongly argued with this idea as he again said they should only be read in executive session. The city council voted to go into executive session. Mrs. Simon voted against doing so.
*The City Council determined there was a conflict of interest for the city attorney. Ms. Joiner agreed to recuse herself from both cases. The City Council will look for an outside legal counsel. The meeting is recessed until Friday at 4:00 PM. The City Council is will prepare a list of attorneys who could represent the city in these matters.
Meanwhile, Mayor Tony Yarber issued the following statement: