BREAKING: City Council Withholds Pay | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

BREAKING: City Council Withholds Pay

The Jackson City Council voted Tuesday to freeze the pay for two high-ranking city employees, Assistant Chief Administration Officer Charles Melvin and Assistant Fire Chief Todd Chandler. The council voted 4-3 to amend the city's payroll and hold the pay to two employees that they say are employed illegally.

"We don't think these positions are legal, so we're taking steps to cut the council's legal liability," said Councilman Marshand Crisler.

Council President Ben Allen said he was confident in the council's decision, explaining that it was within the rights of the council "to write the checks."

City Council voted down Melvin as director of parks and recreation last month, citing the former Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent's lack of experience in directing a city department. The council also recently voted down Assistant Chief Todd Chandler as chief of the fire department.

Mayor Frank Melton thumbed his nose at the council's vote on both men--both close associates and political allies of the mayor--and installed them into high-paying positions where they continue to direct the departments council refused them for.

City ordinance demands that city departments be supervised by a director or deputy director. Some council members raised concerns about the same issue last year when Melton began installing retirees, all looking to preserve their pension payments by working as contracted employees, as department heads. For instance, Jayne Sergent is a contractual consultant, rather than a regular employee, for the city's Human and Cultural Services Department.

Melvin makes almost $80,000 and now runs parks and recreation from the Administration Department, while Chandler runs the fire department as assistant chief, making almost $83,000--about $20,000 more than Assistant Chief Vernon Hues, who is African American. The council knew of Chandler's re-installment for the last month, but members only learned about Melvin's re-assignment last week.

Melton said he was in no hurry to find a replacement for fire chief and openly declared that he had no intention of picking a more experienced nominee for parks and recreation.

Tuesday night, Melton, remarked: "We're going to fix this. These people are getting paid."

The council voted 4-to-3 to amend the payroll, with council members Leslie McLemore, Margaret Barrett Simon, Crisler and Allen voting in favor, and members Kenneth Stokes, Frank Bluntson and Charles Tillman voting against. The amended payroll then got a 5-to-2 vote in favor, with Bluntson siding with Allen and the others, though Bluntson's vote for the payroll may have been accidental. Bluntson appeared unsure after the vote, telling reporters that he had not voted in favor of the amended budget.

Stokes called the payroll amendment a personal attack against the mayor and said the city is setting itself up for a legal battle.

"If you say you're not going to pay an employee, then you're going to end up in court. I think the auditor's office told us years ago that the council can't just line-item remove people from the payroll. You can vote against the whole claims docket, or you can support it, but you can't pick on certain people on it," Strokes said.

City Attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans refused comment on the council's payroll decision. McLemore said he and the other council members are expecting and counting on a court date.

"We're trying to get some clarity on the issue of (headless departments and illegal city positions), and if it entails going to court, then it may very well involve that. Maybe we can set the predicate for future councils so the issue won't be so confusing anymore. If we go to court, then that's what we have to do," McLemore said, adding that this was not a personal attack on the mayor.

"This is nothing personal," he said. "This is about conducting the people's business."

Previous Comments

ID
128803
Comment

WAPT at 10: Melton takes sledgehammer to City Hall. :-P

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T19:15:27-06:00
ID
128804
Comment

Wow, the City Council is using its power. I guess we will soon hear the Mayor shout, "it's corruption at the highest levels."

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-05-22T19:19:50-06:00
ID
128805
Comment

This is the only leverage the Council has in a mayor/council system. I'm surprised it didn't come to this sooner. Oh well, game on.

Author
laughter
Date
2007-05-22T19:46:37-06:00
ID
128806
Comment

Wow! I just saw this story - way to go City Council!

Author
lucdix
Date
2007-05-22T20:47:56-06:00
ID
128807
Comment

Ok, is anyone as surprised as I am that Bluntson voted to hold the checks? Of course, Tillman and Stokes voted against withholding the checks.....but, Bluntson voting against anything that the Mayor dictates? What's really going on?

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-05-22T20:50:01-06:00
ID
128808
Comment

Hey, what about the vote of "No Confidence" for SORE by the council tonight!

Author
Fitz
Date
2007-05-22T21:14:15-06:00
ID
128809
Comment

Wait, Bluntson voted FOR holding the checks? There has to be some kind of hidden strategy here. How did all of the council members vote?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T21:27:00-06:00
ID
128810
Comment

Bluntson did not vote to withhold their salaries. The vote was four to three, if I'm not mistaken, with Allen, Barrett-Simon, Crisler and McLemore in the majority. They got out of there really late tonight, so wait for our full story tomorrow morning.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-05-22T21:42:12-06:00
ID
128811
Comment

the vote was 5-2, Allen, Barrett-Simon, Crisler, McLemore & Bluntson. yeah, strange. very strange....

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-22T21:47:17-06:00
ID
128812
Comment

and the council voted 4-3 in favor of the no-confidence vote. the usual suspects voted accordingly....

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-22T21:49:24-06:00
ID
128813
Comment

I'll be looking for it, Brian. I thought that was kind of weird since the council already has a four-party voting bloc that is trying to protect the government from anarchy. I was thinking that if Bluntson actually voted for it, it would have to be some sort of off-the-wall distraction that probably couldn't be explained until much later.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T21:49:55-06:00
ID
128814
Comment

city, did Bluntson give an explanation?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T21:50:42-06:00
ID
128815
Comment

Maybe Bluntson is getting worried about being held accountable for his role in all this tripe.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-05-22T21:51:33-06:00
ID
128816
Comment

no explanation, just an odd vote after Allen asked for a "re-vote" for clarification. he voted affirmative again. perhaps he was worried that a positive vote might not be "legal"

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-22T21:53:39-06:00
ID
128817
Comment

Maybe Bluntson is getting worried about being held accountable for his role in all this tripe. Donna, do you think his constituents may have contacted him about the salary issue?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T21:56:14-06:00
ID
128818
Comment

Bluntson voting against Frank? You mean he has a backbone after all? Quick, somebody call the Discovery Channel.

Author
golden eagle '97
Date
2007-05-22T21:56:55-06:00
ID
128819
Comment

no explanation, just an odd vote after Allen asked for a "re-vote" for clarification. he voted affirmative again. perhaps he was worried that a positive vote might not be "legal" So he voted in the affirmative twice? He didn't change this vote after the re-vote? Allen may have done the re-vote to check his hearing. :-)

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T21:58:18-06:00
ID
128820
Comment

erhaps he was worried that a positive vote might not be "legal" That's my guess. Remember, folks: It ain't over 'til it's over. It could be that Mr. Bluntson is starting to realize that. On the other hand, it could be a trick. Stay alert. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-05-22T21:58:48-06:00
ID
128821
Comment

Remember, folks: It ain't over 'til it's over. It could be that Mr. Bluntson is starting to realize that. On the other hand, it could be a trick. Stay alert. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it were a trick. At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if someone was trying to figure out a way to get in good with the voting bloc just long enough to find a way to discredit them.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T22:05:54-06:00
ID
128822
Comment

Hey, what about the vote of "No Confidence" for SORE by the council tonight! That was just symbolic, right?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-22T22:10:06-06:00
ID
128823
Comment

It would be interesting if Bluntson talks about this vote on his show on Sunday. Even if he does, I'll be out of town and won't be able to hear it.

Author
golden eagle '97
Date
2007-05-22T22:29:22-06:00
ID
128824
Comment

the no-confidence vote was just that - a no-confidence vote in the ones that voted for it. what about all the REAL issues affecting the city of jackson??? are the citizens of jackson really being represented by their respective council members? how many jacksonians truly care whether the city council is getting their way? intelligent minds can recognize that a certain four council members might as well beat their heads against a wall and achieve the same results as they are getting by beating up on the city attorney's office for issues over which the attorneys have absolutely no control. the city could have a green, first-year lawyer, or the seasoned veteran that's there now, and the council STILL wouldn't be able to have its own lawyer. the majority of the council (leads us to believe that it collectively) understands the democratic and political processes - the relevant four should CALL THEIR RESPECTIVE STATE SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES to change the state law. they are supposed to know that!! what a waste of taxpayers' $102,000 per year. [FYI, each council member receives $25K/yr, and the council president receives an additional $2K/yr for wielding a gavel and getting red-faced from time-to-time. see City Code Sec 2-36(b).]

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-22T22:31:58-06:00
ID
128825
Comment

"Allen may have done the re-vote to check his hearing. :-)" LOL - yeah, this is a super strange development - ya gotta wonder what's really going on

Author
lucdix
Date
2007-05-22T23:27:58-06:00
ID
128826
Comment

Maybe (like Allen) Bluntson was promised something by Melton and didn't come through. Remember when that happened Allen jumped back on the other side of the fence! Remember when Stokes started missing important meetings where his vote was sorely needed in favor of something King Melton wanted? I'm thinking Bluntson is acting out because of some conflict with Melton. I truly don't believe that his conscience is not talking to him. I do believe that it was Bluntson, Tillman and Stokes who voted to confirm Melvin/Chandler in the first place.

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-05-23T08:14:33-06:00
ID
128827
Comment

Don't get too comfortable thinking that Bluntson has awakened and now smells the coffee. He doesn't. His vote really didn't mean anything. The "Now fighting (4)" had the votes to hold the salaries with or without Bluntson's vote. Also, frank is out of town and will be gone for the rest of the week. The salaries are only being held for one (1) week. Just wait and see "What a Difference a Week Makes." These bed fellows are so entrenched with eachother that they would not dare do anything to rock the boat. Bluntson might have thought bout his liability; but, he thinks that frank hung the moon and will pay his cost if the council is fined.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-05-23T09:00:40-06:00
ID
128828
Comment

honey2me, I think that you are right. If you voted to confirm someone for a position, why in the heck would you vote not to pay them?

Author
justjess
Date
2007-05-23T09:03:10-06:00
ID
128829
Comment

OK cityofjacksonms, let's go over the inaccuracies in your statement. how many jacksonians truly care whether the city council is getting their way? That's a very strange way to describe the situation. We have two branches of government locked in a power struggle. One of those branches, the legislative, is insisting on its legal right to reject department heads. That's not City Council's willfullness, that's state law. If council rejects a department head, and then Melton makes that person an "administrator" of some kind who makes $80,000 and acts as the department head anyway, what would you have them do? We have checks and balances to ensure that no single branch of government exceeds its authority, and that is precisely what the mayor has done here. Calling that City Council insisting on "getting their way" does not pass the smell test. Then, there is your claim that the bloc of four are "beating up on the city attorney's office." You praise O'Reilly-Evans' virtues and then write that if someone less qualified was in that office, they still wouldn't serve City Council. the relevant four should CALL THEIR RESPECTIVE STATE SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES to change the state law. they are supposed to know that!! What they are supposed to know is that the city attorney serves the city, not the mayor. City Council is also O'Reilly-Evans' client, so why are they "beating their heads against a wall" in demanding that she fulfill her obligations? Council going to the Legislature is an extraordinary measure caused by this extraordinary politicization of city government by the Melton administration. Finally, you bemoan the fact that City Council, taken all together, brings home the stunning figure of $102,000 a year, though your math doesn't seem to make sense. If each council member makes $25,000, plus $2,000 for the prez, that's $177,000. Either way, the city is getting a bargain considering all the work the council does. You mean we get an entire City Council of dedicated public servants like Ben Allen, Marshand Crisler, Charles Tillman, Margaret Barrett-Simon, Kenneth Stokes, Leslie McLemore and--what the hell?--Frank Blunton for the same price that we get Charles Melvin and Carolyn Redd? Let's put them on the scales and determine where we're squandering money.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-05-23T09:05:33-06:00
ID
128830
Comment

By the way, we've almost got the story ready for you, and I stand corrected on the Bluntson matter. Strange, strange.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-05-23T09:06:22-06:00
ID
128831
Comment

what a waste of taxpayers' $102,000 per year. [FYI, each council member receives $25K/yr, and the council president receives an additional $2K/yr for wielding a gavel and getting red-faced from time-to-time. see City Code Sec 2-36(b).] So those four council members just wasted their *entire annual salary* because they had a vote of no confidence against SORE? Er....?

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2007-05-23T09:10:53-06:00
ID
128832
Comment

By the way, we've almost got the story ready for you, and I stand corrected on the Bluntson matter. Strange, strange. Yes, we are in our own local Twilight Zone. Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-23T09:14:28-06:00
ID
128833
Comment

So those four council members just wasted their *entire annual salary* because they had a vote of no confidence against SORE? Er....? Todd, is that your Scooby-Doo impression? :-P

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-05-23T09:16:32-06:00
ID
128834
Comment

cityofjacksonms, you can call SORE a "veteran attorney" and if you are speaking of years practing law, that is one thing; however, I know lawyers who have practiced much longer than SORE and continue to be poor lawyers. This is true for any profession: Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor and HORRIBLE. The thing that continues to alarm citizens of Jackson and the Council is that SORE's loyalty is totally to frank - not the law. Taxpayers are not funding her salary just to be an "AMEN and Go Get 'Em" frank machine. Those four councilmen who you said are receiving the same results are now at least trying to do something. They should be encouraced. SORE may not have the power or desire to change or do anything other than what melton dictates; however, this is a professional gamble for her and she could really get into some serious trouble. I've seen too many cases like this. PS. Just remember that money is important but, it is not everything!

Author
justjess
Date
2007-05-23T09:21:39-06:00
ID
128835
Comment

I am so glad to see the council actually doing something that might ensure that Melton will be 'forced' to look for a REAL fire chief for this department! I have said it once, and will again....I have nothing against Mr. Chandler, and have heard repeatedly that he is a really nice person, however, when he was not confirmed as the Fire Chief, the job of looking for the BEST POSSIBLE FIRE CHIEF FOR OUR CAPITAL CITY should have begun. I hate that Mr. Chandler's money is being withheld, simply because I am sure he has bills to pay and a family, or at least someone relying on his income, but that is what happens to the people who trust in Frank. That is the real epic within the story-line of Frank Melton......the people who stand beside him, with him, and support him, are the ones that usually receive the 'punishment' rather than the one who is really responsible. Granted, Chandler could have told Frank that he would rather go back to his regular duties when he was not confirmed, but would Frank have even listened? NO! Frank should at least post the opening for Fire Chief on the regular executive Fire searches so that this dept. does not continue to dwindle down to that of a volunteer dept. From what I have heard, they have had a record number of firefighters and administrative/clerical personnel who have either retired or resigned since Dec. 2006. The most serious questions to home owners is, "Where does that leave us, and the city?"

Author
Katie D
Date
2007-05-23T10:06:16-06:00
ID
128836
Comment

"Bluntson said Melton has launched a national search for candidates to head Parks and Recreation and the Fire Department." The above was quoted from the CL's version of this story on their web-site. I would love to know exactly WHERE Melton is doing this national search for a fire chief. The most respected and common locals for Fire Chief searches are: www.firehouse.com, www.firechief.com, and www.iafc.org Is it just an oversight that these 3 locations are NOT displaying the opening in Jackson? Or better yet, one of the most common and well-respected national search companies thru-out the U.S. that is used for locating executives to fill openings such as City Managers, Fire Chief, Police Chiefs, Dir. of Public Safety, etc, etc. is the ParGroup. They list & locate qualified persons to fill the executive positions from the East to the West Coasts in some of the largest cities in our country, down to towns with populations of well less than 100,000. Is it again a coincidence that Jackson is not listed with them either? I received this information on these most noted, and respected locals for these type of positions from my cousin who is married to a Dir. of Public Safety in a city that is equal in population to that of Jackson. Her husband advised that if someone was really looking to find the best qualified candidate that that these would be the places to expect they would be listing with. So again, the question is, "WHERE is Melton doing this great, national search for the right Fire Chief?" If I recall correctly in an interview following the non-confirmation of Chandler, Melton was quoted as saying, (para-phrase) that "The next fire chief would probably be Hispanic!" I don't recall where I saw this statement so I para-phrased. So, the question is: "Is he advertising in Mexico exclusively?" (making a very bad joke!) I would think, and did at the time I either heard/read that comment from Melton that ALL races other than Hispanic should have been up in arms! Is Melton indicating that there are NO qualified Black, White, or Asian's qualified to effectively run the Jackson Fire Dept.? I would think if you focus on one specific ethnicity to hire for a position of this magnitude you might ONCE AGAIN be in violation of the law. But then again, I'm sure he just made the comment out of anger, and would never violate the law and refuse to choose a Fire Chief from qualified candidates of other ethnicities/races. (gagging myself here)

Author
Katie D
Date
2007-05-23T10:28:22-06:00
ID
128837
Comment

Fixing a couple of Katie's links: www.firehouse.com www.firechief.com You put commas in the links that shouldn't be there.

Author
golden eagle '97
Date
2007-05-23T10:42:42-06:00
ID
128838
Comment

Katie D. has it right on.... We must all support the Stalward Four on the Council. They MUST use every tool available to them. Also, every home and business should be interested in how the Fire Department effects insurance rates not to mention life and property. Thanks Council.

Author
ChrisCavanaugh
Date
2007-05-23T11:21:47-06:00
ID
128839
Comment

So again, the question is, "WHERE is Melton doing this great, national search for the right Fire Chief?" Katie D Actually, there was this guy over at MBN with Frank, and he was a smoker like Frank. Frank noticed that this guy always used matches to light his cigarettes. Alas, a perfect candidate to lead Frank's Fire Department! ;-)

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-05-23T12:13:52-06:00
ID
128840
Comment

amazing - ignorance & one-sidedness abounds. Brian, let me get one thing straight. i would never promote any course of illegal action for the mayor, city attorney, council members, or anyone else. please don't think that i support the stupid and selfish antics of the mayor. aside from how his actions affect the council members, consider how everyone else in the mayor's chain of command has to suffer because of the mayor's rash decisions. think of all the city employees who have to (attempt to) deliver the same level of services as they did before the city's public works & planning departments were gutted of staff. think of all the relatively good people who are leaving, or probably considering leaving, the city because it's just too crazy of a work, and living, environment. then, try to imagine all the OTHER decisions, actions, opinions, suggestions, etc., that the city attorney & staff probably have to deal with on a DAILY basis - not merely those between 8:00 to 5:00, M thru F - to keep up with the mayor, departments, council members, lawsuits, workers' comp claims, citizen complaints, fondren & belhaven, and the occasional and slight inaccuracies of the press. wow...how would you do it? (oh, i know how. you'd start a blog about it and get input from the usual others pecking well-thoughtout suggestions on their keyboards.) and my math was correct earlier - i was dealing with the four who have pigeon-holed this city into focusing on 1% of the issues affecting the whole. the four should have voted to amend the payroll docket, as they did last night, long ago. why keep fighting about it? use the power available and make a dang statement! i commend them for that. what i don't commmend them for is taking as long as they did to do it. [shifting topics slightly] i challenge you to find this out - just out of curiousity, of course: try to discover an estimate of dollars that the city will receive in taxes and fees from Parkway's new Two Jackson Place/Pinnacle building project in downtown. since there has been a recent spike in ad valorem tax exemptions granted by the city council, i would really like to know what to expect, and you should too. ;-)

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-23T12:30:42-06:00
ID
128841
Comment

oh yeah...i did NOT "bemoan" anything; i merely "stated." :-)

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-23T12:32:55-06:00
ID
128842
Comment

Golden Eagle....thank you for the corrections! I still have 8th grade English teachers to thank for instilling in me to use the comma's in seperation of different 'things' - :o) I do appreciate it, as now others can click on the links and see for themselves that these sites do not show a position opening for Fire Chief for Jackson, MS. However, they WILL see that open positions thru-out the country ARE listed there! Pikersam......kewl, if that is all it takes to get a job on the administration level of the city of Jackson, MS......I have something in common with Frank too! I have a dog! Woo-Hoo, does this mean that I can now be the new Parks & Recreation Director.....or hey, better yet - I'll apply for the position of Fire Chief (the one not posted) and maybe I can get that since I 'know' firefighters and my son is a military firefighter! HEY - that will do it. My son is a firefighter in the U.S. Military.....that means I am more than qualified to be the new Fire Chief! Yeah - I need that 80+ salary since I am still paying off college for myself and kid.

Author
Katie D
Date
2007-05-23T12:51:25-06:00
ID
128843
Comment

Cityofjacksonms, I hope you're not making the absurd suggestion that the fact the city attorney has, you know, stuff to do is adequate excuse for her to ignore her legal responsibilities, if that's what she's done. I also hope you're not making the truly "ignorant" argument that if I can't do the city attorney's job, I have no right to talk about her performance. I am a journalist, and so investigating public officials is my job, or at least part of my job. I think we do our jobs rather well here at the Free Press, if it's not immodest of me to say so. As for this: (oh, i know how. you'd start a blog about it and get input from the usual others pecking well-thoughtout suggestions on their keyboards.) If it needs to be stated, I would not run the city legal department by starting a blog. Of course, you're just being nasty. Keep in mind that I am also a moderator of this site, because that is part of my job. What do you do, CityofJack? I hope you're not taking time away from your job to blog here, since you have such contempt for it.

Author
Brian Johnson
Date
2007-05-23T13:06:08-06:00
ID
128844
Comment

I'm with you Brian. I only play devil's advocate from time-to-time. No ill intentions here. And I have a law degree, with licenses to practice law in a few different courts. I'm on my lunch break - which is about to end - so you won't read of me again 'til later. But really though, please think about using your investigating-public-officials skills to look into the ad valorem tax expemtions issue. Every time the city council grants one of those, that is potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars that the city, and the county, will never see for 7 to 10 years!

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-23T13:18:21-06:00
ID
128845
Comment

Good point on the ad valorem tax exemptions, cityofjacksonms. We hear all the time about state properties in Jackson that are not taxed and that the Legislature needs to pony up to help fill Jackson's coffers. It would be interesting to see the disparity in exemptions.

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-05-23T15:23:20-06:00
ID
128846
Comment

I sincerely promise to look into it, cityofjacksonms.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-05-23T18:58:09-06:00
ID
128847
Comment

Ok, thanks Brian. (late response, but a response nonetheless.) :-)

Author
cityofjacksonms
Date
2007-05-24T22:02:16-06:00

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