Council still divided on appointments

Published 9:11 am Thursday, March 17, 2016

Members of the Picayune City Council were again divided on the issue of how board appointments should be made.
What started out as a routine meeting, ended with heated discussion about Councilor Larry Breland’s proposed ordinance to create a rotating basis for appointment of board members.
At the end of the meeting, Breland’s matter came up, listed as “adoption of an ordinance which assigns to each councilperson a specific nomination to fill a vacancy or make an appointment to each committee created by the city of Picayune on a rotating basis.”
Breland and Councilor Lynn Bogan Bumpers made a motion to approve the ordinance, which brought it up for discussion. During the discussion, each councilor took a moment to say why they supported or opposed the proposed ordinance. Councilor Wayne Gouguet said he would rather leave the appointments as they are, based on experience, as opposed to where someone lives.
Bumpers responded to Gouguet’s opinion with, “Do you think I would sit someone on the board who’s not qualified?”
Jan Miller Stevens said she had concerns with the proposed ordinance because she did not want to feel responsible for appointing just anyone because it was her turn and there may be a more qualified person in another precinct.
Bumpers said the level of someone’s education should not be a prerequisite, saying, “You can have educated fools out here.”
She then continued to ask why the rest of the council was opposed to approving the matter, asking the council to “Let’s get real today, and be real.”
Councilor Tammy Valente said she felt unsure of the current wording in the proposed ordinance, adding that Picayune is a democracy and to enact appointments by rotation is not the right thing to do.
Councilor Larry Breland alleged that the other councilors saying that appointments should be made based on qualifications was a scapegoat.
“What y’all are doing is eliminating the minority position on these boards and that’s not right,” Breland said.
His allegations included that the council was utilizing a segregated system to prevent appointments from Breland and Bumpers’ districts to the city’s boards.
“If you keep doing this the way that you’re doing this something bad is going to happen. And that’s not a threat,” Breland said.
Valente then asked why Breland and Bumpers did not present two known qualified candidates to be appointed on the Housing Authority Board, who both reside in their respective districts.
Breland said “It’s now so gracious of y’all to give us that appointment. You’re going to give us the crumb off the bread.”
After the heated discussion, the council took a vote, with Bumpers and Breland voting for the ordinance, and Gouguet, Stevens and Valente voting against. Mayor Ed Pinero was absent from Tuesday’s meeting due to a family matter.
After the discussion, Rev. Brian Dees stood up to ask about the recent removal of one member from the Housing Authority. City Attorney Nathan Farmer advised Dees to submit a Freedom of Information Act request with the housing authority board, since the council has no authority other than making the initial appointment.
Dees then asked Gouguet what kind of experience he had prior to taking office. Gouguet said his constituents elected him to the city council.
“So they must have thought I was qualified,” Gouguet said.
Dees added that Gouguet must have earned some experience after being elected while serving on the council.
In other business the council:
— Approved the sale of parcel 617-111-001-03-064-00 for the highest bid of $6,501.
— Approved applying for a Walmart community grant, which could range from $1,000 to $2,500, for the use of creating information on healthy eating habits for children playing organized sports at Friendship Park.
The next council meeting will be April 5 at 5 p.m. in the council chambers.

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