Caresse Jackman

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Board Members Hiring & Firing Without Cause

NORTHEAST, Miss. (WCBI)- It’s a common sight to see at many board meetings. A crowded room, full of residents, angry over a personnel decision. Sometimes, in some towns, city employees are let go and elected leaders refuse to say why.

Jack Marshall served as the Mayor of Tupelo for 12 years. During his years in office, his city council switched from a council manger city government to mayor council.

“We had aldermen-mayor form of government. And it was a constant fight, for a lack of a better term.I remember very clearly one day an aldermen walking into my office and saying ‘we have enough votes to fire the police chief. Well that’s not any way to run an organization. Whether it’s a city, county or anything. A city is a business. It’s identical, except you have checks and balances in government,” said Marshall.

There are two main forms of city government in Mississippi: mayor council and council manager. Council manager is known as the “weak mayor” form of government. For cities like Starkville, that means the power to appoint or fire a city official lies mainly in the hands of the aldermen. Mississippi is also an “at will” state.

“At will employment says that a person serves ‘at will’ of the governing authority. Starkville, for example, is a co-chartered municipality and it says that a person holds their position at the will of the governing authorities, which is the board of aldermen and the mayor,” said Marty Wiseman, Director of the Stennis Institute of Government at MSU.

The will of the aldermen may be to let an employee go, without giving a reason. Area residents, like Alex Hart and Tommy Coleman disagree with the law.

“You’re taking away from their families, food on their table, clothes on their backs. It’s not a good thing,” said Hart.

” I don’t agree with that. I think you should have a reason for letting a person go. You shouldn’t just fire a person for no reason at all,” said Coleman.

Marshall says city officials should morally do the right thing.

“If a person is going to lose their job, they deserve to know why. The decision to fire that person is going to follow them the rest of their life, looking for the next job or whatever. So they need to know. That’s just common decency,” said Marshall.

According to Marty Wiseman, 250 out of 297 towns in the state have “weak mayor” forms of government and they typically work better in smaller cities.