School board appointment change made outside of open session

Published 3:16 pm Thursday, March 7, 2013

Two members of the Picayune city council made a change to their nomination to the Picayune Separate Municipal school board outside of a formal meeting.

At the last council meeting, held on Feb. 19, council member Lynn Bogan Bumpers nominated Sheena Antione to the position occupied by school board member Ray Scott, which expired on March 2. During that meeting council member Wayne Gouguet nominated Scott, who is a certified CPA with a background in school audits, to keep the seat.

Since the council could not agree on which nominee would fill the seat, the council chose to send both nominations to the governor’s office. However Antione withdrew her nomination prior to the nominees’ names being sent to Jackson, forcing the council members to find an alternative. According to documentation acquired by the Picayune Item, Bumpers submitted a letter to City Manager Jim Luke on Feb. 25, changing the nomination to Frank Ford.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

City Attorney Nathan Farmer confirmed the nomination change to Ford was made outside of a formal meeting. State law says the change should have been made during a recessed or special call meeting. However, the information was sent up to the governor’s office anyway so he could settle the dispute.

Farmer said after the information was sent to the governor’s office, it was sent back to the council with no action taken by the governor’s office. The reason given was that emergency circumstances were not found, so the governor’s office declined to take up the matter, Farmer said. The governor’s office did not find it to be an emergency circumstance because the remaining members of the board would still provide a quorum and therefore the board could operate even with the seat that had been occupied by Scott vacant.

On Tuesday, the council took the matter up again, with Gouguet and council member Jason Todd Lane voting for Scott again, and Bumpers and Breland nominating and voting for Ford. As they did during the Feb. 19, meeting, Mayor Ed Pinero Jr. and council member Larry Watkins recused themselves from the matter because they have spouses who work for the school district, leading to a split two to two vote on both appointments.

Farmer said during Tuesday’s meeting that, if for whatever reason, Scott or Ford back out, then another nomination must be made during a recessed or special call meeting. Farmer confirmed that a recessed or special call meeting did not occur when Bumpers and Breland changed their nomination from Antione to Ford. However, the fact that the governor’s office did not take action on the council’s request made that point moot, Farmer said.

Gouguet spoke to why he chose Scott during Tuesday’s meeting. Gouguet said Scott is one of the few school board members that called for goals and standards to be placed on the district’s superintendent, Dean Shaw. However, that vote failed 3-2, with only school board member Jimmy Hancock siding with Scott. School board members Frank Feeley, Patti Stewart and Edward Stubbs voted the motion down.

“It’s hard for me to move off the reappointment of Ray Scott,” Gouguet said.

Breland also spoke, but offered no information supporting his decision to nominate Ford. The only points Breland made during his comments was that one person is not to blame for the performance of the school district, and that the council needs to work together.

Since, for a second time in open session, the council could not agree on whom to appoint and the council members agree that emergency circumstances apply, Farmer said the two nominees will be sent to the governor’s office once more for action. If the governor’s office declines to make the decision, then the council will seek an opinion from the Attorney General’s office.

In other business, the council again appointed Steven McDonald to the cemetery board, and added Walter Bogan, Henrieta Brewer and Derek Turnage to the board to fill expired positions. All nominations passed on unanimous votes.

At the end of the meeting, city resident Charlie Johns asked the council to take action against people going out in public wearing pajamas, including to places such as Wal-Mart. A vote was not held concerning Johns’ suggestion. The council will meet again on March 19, at 5 p.m.