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Council discussed alleged abuse

The natural gas line replacement project, city’s superfund site ownership and allegations of police officer misconduct were discussed during Tuesday’s Picayune City Council meeting.

Public Works Director Eric Morris informed the council that the natural gas line replacement project is about 25 percent complete. All of the borings are finished on Beech Street. 

None of the new lines have been activated.

The project is removing all of the cast iron natural gas lines and replacing them with lines made of a composite material.

Now that work at the superfund site is complete the Secretary of State has turned the property over to the city. Planning and Zoning Director Diane Miller said the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will continue to maintain the site until Sept. 30 of this year. After that time it will be the city’s responsibility. The superfund site is located in between Rosa Street and Palestine Road, and is where previous timber treatment companies operated. MDEQ cleaned the site of creosote contamination, or contained it in certain areas onsite. The site can’t be used for anything other than a green space.

Council member Larry Breland asked City Manager Jim Luke if he could have city staff start looking for grants to help pay for the maintenance of the superfund site.

Luke informed Breland that the tight budget means there would be no funds to provide the matches that most grants require, but he will have his staff keep an eye out for any 100 percent grants if they become available.

Morris said two contractors have been out to the superfund site to clean up the creosote poles left by the last operating business at the superfund site, Stone Treated Materials. However, the city is unable to move any of the remaining equipment, Miller said.

Breland then asked about the status of the investigation dealing with the alleged officer abuse and if the results of the police department’s internal investigation has been turned over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations.

Police Chief Bryan Dawsey said he is ready to turn those results over as soon as the MBI or FBI ask for them. It was his understanding that the council members concerned about the matter would request the two outside agencies look into the alleged misconduct. Council member Lynn Bogan Bumpers said it was her understanding the police department would contact those agencies. Dawsey said he contacted MBI to let them know that someone would be calling to request an investigation. Dawsey said if an outside agency requests those records, he will provide them.

Breland then asked about a second alleged incident that involved officer misconduct, but did not provide any details. Breland’s concern was that the misconduct could not be discussed in executive session. Breland did not provide any details about what the incident entailed. But wanted to know why the council could not discuss the matter with the city manager in executive session.

Luke asked city attorney Nathan Farmer to explain the law behind why it could not be discussed in executive session. Farmer told Breland that under Picayune’s city manager form of government, all city employees report to Luke, and any disciplinary action is approved by Luke. Farmer said this prevents the mayor and council from micromanaging the day-to-day operations of the city.

However, at any point in time the city manager can have a one on one discussion with a council member about the staff and their actions. But, if legal action is taken, the city council member who engaged in a discussion with the city manager could be called to testify in court.

The next city council meeting will be at 5 p.m. Sept. 2.