Council May Investigate Melton | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Council May Investigate Melton

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In front of a packed City Council chamber, with citizens spilling into the hallway, Council President Ben Allen announced that he will now support an investigation of Mayor Frank Melton's alleged illegal actions, if by 4:30 p.m. this Friday, professional investigators have not "wrapped up" their probes. If that is case, Allen said, he would call for a Council-led investigation of Melton that would begin the following Monday. Melton's alleged rampage through a Ridgeway Street duplex was first reported by the JFP on Sept. 1.

Allen said he will ask that every council member be sworn in; the meetings will be open to the public unless they involve personnel or litigious issues. There will be a gag order making it illegal for anyone participating in a closed session to discuss what happens in the closed sessions. He told Chief City Administrator Robert Walker that if there was a session on Monday, he anticipates that city legal would be subpoenaed first, followed that afternoon by members of the Jackson Police Department. On Wednesday, they would subpoena members of the administration.

Allen's announcement came in a contentious City Council session lasting three hours. Melton did not attend.

The motion for an investigation was brought by Margaret Barrett-Simon, Leslie McLemore and Marshand Crisler. Councilman Frank Bluntson, a devoted friend and defender of Melton from ward 4, objected.

Allen proposed that council members be given five minutes each to explain their positions, but Councilman Kenneth Stokes objected to any discussion of the matter because it had not received unanimous consent.

"I think it's only right that we discuss this matter out of courtesy to all of the people here," Allen said. He proposed that council suspend the rules in order to discuss the matter, and this measure was passed 4-3, with Allen voting with Barrett-Simon, McLemore and Crisler. O-Reilly-Evans said a supermajority of five votes was necessary to suspend the rules.

"With all due respect, that's your opinion," Crisler said pointedly.

"We discuss things not on the agenda all the time," McLemore concurred.

Stokes attempted to bring an emergency item on his proposed ordinance for the abatement of crack houses. Barrett-Simon objected. "I think the timing is very inappropriate," she said.

"For a member of this council to oppose abatement of crack houses, I don't understand that," Stokes said.

"I speak as someone who has lots of experience with shutting down crack houses," Crisler said. "But there's a way to do it. You need expertise in the field. When I've shut down crack houses, they've been shut down legally. By the book. You can't just point at a house and say it's a crack house."

"We have to fight these dope boys by any means necessary," Stokes retorted. "The mayor used a sledgehammer. I would have used a bulldozer. Anybody that can't look at a house and tell it's a crack house is a damn fool."

Bluntson said that he did not think there was any point in discussing the matter because there was nothing council could do about it anyway. He then rattled off a long list of crime victims. "Why doesn't anybody hold a news conference about them?" he asked.

Several comments from council members were met by applause or jeers from the audience, prompting Allen to post two police officers in the chambers. Allen used his gavel and warned the public that he would clear the chamber if he thought it necessary.

"Investigative power is one of the most important powers this council has," Barrett-Simon said. "It has never been abused. It has never been used, not once in my 21 years on council, so you can see that I take it very seriously. ... Not only is an investigation our right, it is our duty."

"If this mayor had been white and done this," McLemore said, "he would have been run out of office, not yesterday but last month. ... I don't care if we have 20 investigations. We cannot stick our heads in the sand, which is what we've been doing."

It was at this point that Allen announced his support for an investigation, "if certain criteria are met." Allen later clarified several points to the JFP. He would not support an investigation if other investigative bodies had brought felony charges against Melton or exonerated him by Friday. He also said that he would seek legal advice from the county because the city's legal department would be subpoenaed in any council investigation. Those legal advisers from the county would help the council determine when to enter executive session on "personnel or litigious issues."

Members of the public who had signed up for comment were then given an opportunity to speak.

Brent Cox, who is with the ACLU but spoke on his own behalf only, challenged Allen and the council to bring transparency to their investigation. "People in these neighborhoods have told me that they are buying guns for protection, not from criminals but from the mayor. These are not alleged drug dealers but people who have lived there for 30 years. ... It's not enough to get to the bottom of things. City Council needs to restore the faith of people in their government. They see you as secretive."

Stokes challenged Cox and questioned the veracity of his claim about people buying guns. "You're telling me that these people support the crack dealers?" Stokes asked.

Cox accused Stokes of positing a false dichotomy. When Stokes cut Cox off, McLemore interrupted Stokes. "This is not a debate. You are not allowed to debate him," McLemore told Stokes. Allen pounded the gavel, asking Stokes to be silent and Cox to return to his seat.

Henry Fuller, 21, said he was a resident of Ward 4. "I am very upset with my elected officials right now," Fuller said. "I've seen young African-American men grabbed by their throats and thrown down stairs by private security and some police officers. ... We are not thugs. We are not imbeciles. We are not criminals. Some of us are more qualified to be elected officials than some of you. And you're going to see that in the next election."

Previous Comments

ID
66832
Comment

Brian, great reporting! I attended the council meeting and became particularly interesteed in the White gentleman from California who identified himself as a "Minister of Medicine." He went on to say that 70% of the houses that frank melton had yellow tape on could be rehabed. Let me know if you have his name and how to contact him. He asked for community support in his efforts.

Author
justjess
Date
2006-09-14T11:37:14-06:00
ID
66833
Comment

Melton probe finished, Hinds sherriff says

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-09-14T11:47:44-06:00
ID
66834
Comment

Frank resigns. Recio and Wright are fired, realized they are desperately in love with one another and move to Massachusetts. Frank creams himself.

Author
Lori G
Date
2006-09-14T12:36:15-06:00
ID
66835
Comment

Crap. Wrong thread.

Author
Lori G
Date
2006-09-14T12:36:40-06:00
ID
66836
Comment

Frank has cancelled his 3pm press conference for today....I wonder why?

Author
seanbp
Date
2006-09-14T13:42:05-06:00
ID
66837
Comment

Henry Fuller, 21, said he was a resident of Ward 4. “I am very upset with my elected officials right now,” Fuller said. “I’ve seen young African-American men grabbed by their throats and thrown down stairs by private security and some police officers. ... We are not thugs. We are not imbeciles. We are not criminals. Some of us are more qualified to be elected officials than some of you. And you’re going to see that in the next election.” If not sooner, $DEITY willing.

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2006-09-14T14:06:48-06:00
ID
66838
Comment

Hey, JustJess, That Minister of Medicine surely did talk about his wealth a whole bunch. If he is not a con artist I welcome him to Jackson and his money. Just got a few red flags coming up in my brain as I watched the rerun last night. Tread carefully.

Author
ChrisCavanaugh
Date
2006-09-14T14:25:36-06:00

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