2006: The Year That Was (Nuts) | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

2006: The Year That Was (Nuts)

As we survey the top local news from this past year, we have to take a deep breath and feel a measure of pride. Time after time over the last year, the Jackson Free Press broke crucial stories, beating the corporate media with only a fraction of the resources. Those times when we weren't first with a story, we provided the context and historical depth other media outlets lack.

Whether it was the city's secret ComStat figures showing a surge in crime, City Attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans' $45,000 bonus or the story of Melton's rampage on Ridgeway Street, the JFP led the way in 2006.

Jan. 2. Mayor Melton pulls up to Jackson Apartments on Maple Street in the "Frank Tank" (the Mobile Command Center), handing property owner Andrew Moore a closing notice.

Jan. 6. Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck astounds the Legislature by standing away from Gov. Haley Barbour and backing a cigarette tax.

Jan. 9. Melton fires 11-year lobbyists Winston and Strawn LLP to hire 28-year old newbie Marcus Ward. The council is furious, but powerless.

Jan. 23. Councilman Ben Allen begins a war with the county on its decision to impose a Motorola emergency communication system on the city. The council prefers its own M/A com system, which already has thousands of dollars invested in it. The bout stretches on for weeks.

Jan. 29. Melton goes on a morality raid with police and closes down Centerfolds, a strip club in downtown Jackson. Attorneys for the club vow to fight the closing.

Feb. 2. An indication of problems to come, rising fuel prices puts the squeeze on the fleet of Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin, who must ask supervisors to pony up another $58,750. Supervisors initially balk at his request.

Feb. 9. The JFP learns that Melton still has not filed for homestead exemption in the city that elected him mayor.

Feb. 10. Melton axes city budgets, eliminates overtime in all departments, but then begins filling openings with temporary workers who can skirt the city's stringent drug and background tests.

Feb. 25. The Mississippi Democratic Party files a suit limiting primary votes to party members. Democrats claim Republicans are crossing over to tamper with Democratic primaries.

March 2. Protesting a Senate bill to further limit abortion, Rep. Steve Holland plays some dangerous chess, turning the same bill it into a bill to outlaw abortion outright. The Democrat from Plantersville knows his bill will get voted down—and destroy the abortion limiting bill in the process—but incurs the wrath of the ACLU and women's groups in the process.

March 2. Acquitted gang member Vidal Sullivan is "arrested" by the mayor—who is not a cop. The "arrest" amounts to Sullivan sitting at home with his parents.

March 2. Lobbyists for nursing homes, with the help of Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, kill a bill that would have allowed Mississippi Medicaid money to be spent on home-care nursing, which is cheaper than institutionalization.

March 16. Gov. Barbour backs off a desire to push Attorney General Jim Hood out of the Sillers building after reporters begin snooping and discover that the move will cost state taxpayers millions of dollars.

March 23. The Mississippi Legislature clears the way for $2 million for King Edward renovation after the city of Jackson misplaces paperwork that would have provided the same.

March 28. Melton's lawyers ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to dismiss a successful lawsuit against him in Lauderdale County. The judge in that case struck Melton's defense after the mayor lied to him under oath. The petition fails.

April 6. The JFP reports that Hinds County D.A. Faye Peterson is filing a motion to drop murder charges against Albert "Batman" Donelson after she learns that former Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics head Frank Melton had given the witness in that case, Christopher Walker, promising the witness a job with the MBN. He also gave him cash, a credit card, a car and an apartment.

April. JFP interviews with Frank Melton and ride-alongs revealed the extent of his searches, weapon-toting and mentoring.

April 18. Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes calls for the election of a new council president when current president Marshand Crisler continues to voice concerns over the mayor's illegal nightclub closings and rabid secrecy. He later withdraws his motion.

May 2. Melton holds a press conference accusing the DA of corruption, vowing to investigate her—despite the lack of mayoral power to investigate the DA. Melton's young man-friend Christopher Walker accuses the DA of having sex with a now-deceased bond agent at the same press conference.

May. 11. The JFP acquires ComStat figures and is the first to report a crime surge, with major crime up 16.4 percent over 2005. Carjackings rose a whopping 123.5 percent.

May 23. The Jackson City Council votes 6-0 on a revised city budget that taps into its budget reserves by $1.4 million

May 30. Jackson County Chancery Court Judge Jaye Bradley caves under the glare of Gov. Haley Barbour and reverses her own December 2000 decision earmarking and annual $20 million to the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi's—making that organization's smoking-cessation programs vulnerable to Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist.

June 1. Murrah High School makes Newsweek's Best High School List.

June 15. Melton laughs off warnings from Attorney General Jim Hood that he "will be prosecuted" if he continues his unlawful searches of vehicles.

June 22. Hinds County DA Faye Peterson says she's at her wit's end trying to finance two new judges coming into the county to help with the caseload. She lobbies, unsuccessfully, for supervisors to help finance the extra case workers required to work with the judges.

July 5. City Council votes in Ward 1 Councilman Ben Allen as the new council president—compromise candidate between factions.

July 15. Abortion rights proponents and those against them clash in Jackson when supporters on both sides march through Jackson. The anti camp is looking to close the state's last abortion clinic.

July 25. Michael Chapman, who is under Melton's protective custody, allegedly steals a car and vanishes.

Aug. 15. Melton threatens to fire five Jackson firefighters who spoke out in the JFP against schedule shortfalls and equipment shortages. When it becomes clear that national firefighter union leaders are willing to bury the city in lawyers, Melton changes his mind.

Aug. 26. Melton and some young menדlawn crewԗallegedly beat a manager of the Upper Level Club. Attorney Sharon Gipson, who is representing the club, accuses mayor of "terrorist acts," and vows to file suit. The same night of this incident, Melton and young men, including 16-year-old Michael Taylor, allegedly destroy a home on Ridgeway Street with sledgehammers. The JFP broke the story online.

Sept. 15. Council votes to raise taxes increase fines, even as the mayor's office budget jumps 41 percent.

Sept. 15. Hinds County DA Faye Peterson indicts Melton and his city-financed bodyguards with five felony counts for the Ridgeway demolition. AG Jim Hood also charges Melton with firearms violations.

Oct. 5. JFP reports that the state of Mississippi has dropped 55,000 children off Medicaid.

Oct. 19. Developers announce that the endangered multi-million-dollar development beside 1 Jackson Place will continue under the new name of The Pinnacle.

Oct. 26. Former tobacco lobbyist Haley Barbour puts the lockdown on money going to the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, essentially killing it.

Nov. 2. The JFP broke news that $113,000-a-year City Attorney Sara O'Reilly-Evans cans collect an extra $45,000 for her work on the $65 million Convention Center bond proposal, along with other bond payoffs. Members say they didn't realize her employment agreement allows for the extra enrichment.

Nov. 13. After years of delay, construction work finally begins on the historical Farish Street Entertainment District.

Nov. 15. Melton pleads no contest to the AG's felony count and gets a reduced charge on the felony count and a guilty to two misdemeanors for gun law violations in Hinds County Circuit Court. He gets a six-month suspended sentence on each count, one year probation and is fined a total of $1,500.

Nov. 18. The JFP breaks the news that Michael Taylor, Melton's alleged cohort in the Ridgeway Street fiasco, gets arrested for carjacking a woman in Jackson.

Dec. 12. WAPT reports that young Melton roomie, Jeremy Bibbs, gets busted at Copiah-Lincoln Community College for having a gun in his dorm room.

Dec. 13. City Administration Director Peyton Prospere and city grant writer Lisa Lucus jump ship.

Dec. 14. JFP reports first that the city must come up with an extra $200,000 for demolishing the Town Creek Apartments thanks to the mayor's shirking of federal procedures in his haste to tear them down.

Dec. 15. LeFleur Lakes developer John McGowan says his decades'-old plan to flood the Pearl River into a lake is dead if the Airport Parkway Commission moves on with its plan to build a new bridge over the river. The new bridge has already made significant progress, however, and will likely proceed.

Comment on 2006 news at jacksonfreepress.com

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