Official: violated Open Meetings Act

Published 1:00 am Sunday, October 4, 2009

Northern District Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor says he’ll appeal a decision that found him and two other state officials in violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Mississippi Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood said he’s recommending that Minor, Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown and state Department of Transportation Director Butch Brown be ordered to stop engaging in activities that led to the violation.

The investigation came after Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall filed a complaint, accusing the other three of meeting at a Jackson restaurant Aug. 10 with Madison County officials to discuss an Interstate 55 interchange in his district.

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The controversy is the latest flare-up in a long-running feud at MDOT over Brown’s appointment as executive director. Minor and Wayne Brown support Butch Brown, but Hall opposed the appointment. Wayne Brown and Butch Brown are not related.

Hood’s recommendation was sent the commissioners and Brown. They have five days to appeal. Minor said he filed his appeal on Friday.

“Somebody invited me to dinner,” Minor said. “Can I just tell a fellow he can’t ask me anything?”

During the investigation, Minor told the commission that he and the others were asked if they could provide more than the $6 million in funding promised in the Reunion Parkway Interchange project, which is jointly funded by MDOT and Madison County.

“We told him no, that we did not have the money because we had just given $30 million to the Legislature for balancing the budget,” Minor told the commission.

Minor said in a telephone interview on Friday that the same response was given to the Madison officials during a commission meeting attended by Hall.

Minor said he wants clarity about the law.

“All three of us are invited to contractors meeting about once every three months, and we’ve sat there and talked about meetings. I’ve never seen the press in there, and Dick Hall has been there,” Minor said.

There’s no strong penalty that can be enforced under state law for violating the act, said Hood.

“The only penalty in the law is a $100 dollar and that has to be imposed on the public body. I don’t think it makes sense to fine the Public Transportation Commission,” Hood said Friday.