PRC 4-H agent terminated; group urges supervisors to speak out against termination

Published 12:37 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

The termination of Pearl River County 4-H Agent Meagan Scott on Dec. 10 by Mississippi State University Extension Service prompted protests from 4-H parents, members and members of a volunteer 4-H advisory board, shortly before the board of supervisors convened for their meeting on Wednesday.

The protesters gathered in front of the chancery court annex on Julia Street and carried signs, saying “Reinstate Meagan Scott” and “Right This Wrong.”

The advisory board is made up mostly of 4-H parents who volunteer to work for, and support, the local county 4-H.

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The Rev. Jimmy Richardson on Wednesday spoke to the board of supervisors and asked them to speak out on the matter, saying they had some input since they advertise to fill the position and contribute money to the Extension Service. Richardson is a vice president on the advisory board.

Supervisors, seemingly unsure how far their authority extended concerning the situation, told the group they would send a letter to the Extension Service, pointing out the “concerns” their constituents have over the termination and asking the service to communicate more with 4-H supporters over the issue.

Said supervisor board president J. Patrick Lee, “I think all the supervisors have gotten a lot of calls and emails over this issue. All have been positive in favor of Scott. Our attorney will have to look into this. It is complicated the way it is set up. I think the sense of the board is not to make any decision at this time, so the parties involved will have more time to talk to one another.”

About 20 4-H supporters protested outside the board of supervisors meeting room in front of the chancery court annex, shortly before supervisors opened their meeting. They then crowded into the meeting room to address supervisors.

The Wednesday protests followed a meeting on Saturday, supporting Scott. The Saturday meeting was held at the Oak Hill Pentecostal Church and about 35 supporters attended.

Eddie M.I. Smith, PRC Extension Service agent, was present at Wednesday’s board meeting and told Supervisor Anthony Hales, Sr., that extension officials at MSU were aware of the protests. Hales had urged supervisors to write a letter, saying they were “concerned” about the matter because they had received a large number of calls from constituents upset over the termination.

“I can assure you, that MSU officials know how they feel and are aware of this situation,” Smith told Hales.

Scott had been with the extension service here for nine years. No one gave any reason for her termination, her supporters said, and Richarson said that was one of the reason’s for the protest. He said she had done a good job of promoting and growing the local 4-H membership, which now numbers over 600 young people, and that no “clear reason” was given to the advisory board, or anyone, as to why she was terminated.

Smith said that Scott worked directly for the MSU Extension service, that she was terminated on Dec. 10, and that MSU attorneys had reviewed and signed off on the termination, he told the Picayune Item after the supervisors’ meeting was cleared in preparation for an executive session of the board.

At the end of a presentation to the board concerning the Pearl River County Jr. Livestock Show, Smith said he wanted to address the board in an executive session concerning personnel. However, he did not name any specific person about whom he wanted to talk to the board, and supervisors only by state law had to announce the discussion would be on personnel, and not name a person.

Said Richardson to the board: “We are here to display our disappointment over the firing of Meagan Scott. We know the supervisors don’t have any input into the firing, that it comes from Mississippi State, but as an advisory council for 4-H, our concern is that no one was given any type of clarification or explanation as to why she was terminated. Meagan has been very good for our program. Just this year she was named Agent of the Year and led our 4-H group into its largest growth period ever.”

Richardson described the termination as “outrageous,” “upsetting,” and a “grave injustice.”

Richardson asked the board of supervisors to “table any posting of that position until we get some clarification on why she was terminated. And we do understand that they don’t have to tell us anything. But we feel that for all the time and effort that has been put into the 4-H organization, that we should be told something.

“You have to ask yourself, if they would do this to an agent who has poured her heart out in an organization, what awaits the next one?” Richardson asked supervisors.

Hales asked board attorney Joe Montgomery, “Would it be possible to draft a letter, saying there was deep concern of citizens over what happened. . .and (supervisors) would like a better dialogue and communication between citizens and Mississippi State?”

Replied Montgomery, “Things are never as simple as they seem. I have some concerns about the wording of this form you are asked to adopt by the group. I am not sure whether it accurately describes your duties and responsibilities under the law. I would like to have time to look at the language and try to clarify it.”