Monday, November 25, 2019

Kingfish Wins at Ethics Commission

The Kingfish won a round at the Mississippi Ethics Commission last week.  Hearing Officer Sonia Shurden ruled the Pelahatchie Board of Aldermen violated the Open Meetings Act when it conducted its work sessions by "huddling" in a corner of the Board room, making it impossible for the audience to hear any discussion.

Board & City Officials huddle during July work session.

JJ filed an Open Meetings Act complaint against the Pelahatchie Board of Aldermen with the Mississippi Ethics Commission on July 2.    The Board held a "work session" that started an hour before the regular Board meeting Monday night.  However, the Aldermen and employees huddled in a small group in the corner of the Board room and spoke in lowered voices that were impossible for the audience to hear. The behavior continued for the duration of the work session.

When yours truly questioned the practice that night, the city attorney  said it was a work session so the Aldermen didn't have to make themselves heard to the audience.  He said anyone could walk up to the members and listen although space was extremely limited.  I walked up with a video camera but he warned me about "blocking" anyone's view.

The Board started holding work sessions in 2018.  The Aldermen and Alderwoman usually huddle in a corner, speak softly, and call city employees over for discussion as needed.  Microphones are not used, thus the audience is unable to hear what these elected representatives are doing.

One work session
 Mayor Ryshonda Beechem is usually absent from the work sessions.  However, she appeared at the March work session and chaired the meeting.   She required everyone to sit at their regular Board seats and use the microphones.  One would have though Sherman was marching through Atlanta again given the Board's reaction.  They raised holy hell about allowing the public to hear what they were doing.  She said several Pelahatchie citizens complained they were unable to hear the Aldermen.  They demanded to know who complained as they howled their outrage.  Don't take my word for it.  Watch for yourself.

The opinion cites the Mississippi Supreme Court from a 1989 case in support of the ruling:

Every member of every public board and commission in this state must bear in mind that the spirit of the Act that a citizen spectator, including any representative of the press,  has just as much right to attend the meeting and see and hear everything that is going on as has any member of the board or commission.
 "Work sessions conducted by the board are "meetings" as well. The Open Meetings Act "requires" the Board to "take all reasonable means within their power and resources to ensure all members of the public who attend are able to see and hear everything that is going on at an open public meeting."  The Board doesn't have to use microphones but if it uses them during the regular Board meeting, telling someone to just walk up to the huddle and listen is not going to cut the mustard.

Kingfish note: The reporters at the work sessions complained and grumbled about not being able to hear the discussions thanks to the Board's huddling.  Well, yours truly went by the Rankin County News and asked the publisher to join with me in filing a complaint.  Obviously, he refused to do so.  So much for public duty and all that jazz.  Coward.


Cynical Sam said...

Bravo! Great work!

Anonymous said...

well done

Anonymous said...

Just last Friday I commented to a friend that Pelahatchie had been mighty quiet for the last few months and it was about time for another bombshell to explode. Not that this is a bombshell, but it is nice to know that the PSO (Pelahatchie Soap Opera) is alive and well. Thanks for the good work KF.

Anonymous said...

Keep 'em honest Kingfish!

Anonymous said...

Perfect, that's good work KF.

TheClintonscantsuicideusall said...

KF, you need to come to Canton. Jerry's been bought off to stay quiet.

Anonymous said...

Rankin County News are a bunch of cowards. They spend more pages talking about High School Proms and elementary school children's science projects rather than anything serious happening in Rankin County.
God forbid they discuss the Guvnuhs private driveway or the back room dealings with lucre from Civil Asset Forfeiture.

NOTE:I've got an idea for a new regular JJ series... Clandestine photos of local evangelical preachers buying liquor and lottery tickets!

Anonymous said...

i hope she’s re-elected!

Rick Parry said...


(Gotsta hate when that happen!)

Anonymous said...

Make 'em do it right!

Anonymous said...

So, what did you win. What are the consequences?

Anonymous said...

Excellent work.

Anonymous said...

So after you went through all that, what was the result? What changes? What’s the punishment?

The Public Be Damned said...

Take a look at the MadCo Board meetings. Constantly visiting among themselves during discussions, covering their microphones, passing notes, texting each other and whispering among themselves out of public earshot. It's gotten so they can't remember which deals they promised each other the prior night on the telephone.

Anonymous said...

9:43 - I’m curious about your comment re: Lousteau.

I’ve been out of MS for 5 years now, but am intimately familiar with the mess in Canton & how Jerry always held their feet to the fire. What’s changed?

Anonymous said...

1:11 - It's very simple. He's stopped bitching entirely. Whatchu reckon caused that?

Anonymous said...

No single journalist nor media outlet has done more in the last decade to demand transparency in government than Kingfish and Jackson Jambalaya.

TheClintonscantsuicideusall said...

1:11. Has to do with his failing Radio Station and his not actually being around that much. He began towing the CMU lies in their favor a while back. Won't even comment on the current investigation, so they say, of the CPD Chiefs for Fraud. Word on the street says he was also threatened. Cannot confirm nor deny.

Rick Ward said...

Just noticed this story almost a week late. First I would like to say good for you Kingfish! I mean that sincerely, not at all sarcastically. But, this is just proof of my constant claim that the Ethics Commission is worthless and was designed to protect public officials. Action taken by them is consistent with that always taken...nothing. Look at the co conclusion on the report. They confirmed the board of aldermen violated the law. But what was the punishment? "Y'all don't do that no more, you hear?" Now why is that worthless? Think about the time and effort put in by Kingfish attending, witnessing and documenting the farce. Then attempt to involve local media. Then drafting and submitting the complaint. It was the received and reviewed by the "commission" director, assigned to an investigator, assigned to an attorney, presented to the commissioners. The city was notified and the director reported the findings. How much did that fiasco that lasted from July to late November cost the taxpayers? And what if the board had been required to pay a Mickey Mouse fine? Whose pocket would that have come from? Not the individual board members who violated the law. It would have been from city coffers which translates to tax dollars that also translates to our pockets, no theirs. Whoopi!

I would relate this to me "winning the lottery" during my first play last week. I bought $10 worth of scratch off tickets and wow, I won $2. I won just like Kingfish, but at what cost?

Anonymous said...

December 1, 2019 at 4:39 AM

You are sure up early to rant on the worthlessness of a state agency you clearly know nothing about. First, you realize that said state agency gets its enforcement authority from enacting legislation, and in case you don't know where legislation comes from, it is created by those fine folks down at the capitol that the voters of this great state put in office every 2 years. If you think the Ethics Commission needs more teeth, send your rant to your representative. Additionally, if you were to review the Commission's website you would notice that this is actually the first open meetings case brought on the City of Pelahatchie, at least as far as I could find - you want to hammer down on a first time offender even if the offense is not as egregious as say holding a secret back door meeting with a quorum of the board? Seems logical. and you would know, if you actually read the Open Meetings Act before spouting off, that any fines handed out by the Ethics Commission are to be paid in the offender's PERSONAL capacity. So your argument about it coming from City coffers is fake news. Thank God you weren't appointed to the Ethics Commission.

Rick Ward said...

Crawl out from under the cloak you hide behind, reveal your identity and contact me. Then I will respond to your ignorant comments. I don't hide behind anything. Rick Ward 601-665-6088,, Rick Ward on Facebook. I live at 83 Walker Lane Collins, MS 39428. I don't use screen names or argue with anybody who chooses to be Anonymous.

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