Mayor defends closed meeting on weather alert

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2000

WESSON — The right to discuss certain matters in executivesession appears to have been abused by the Wesson Town Boardrecently.

At a meeting on July 6, during an executive session called todiscuss matters “related to personnel,” the town board voted not torenew a $1,000-a-year service for a weather monitor system that iskept at the police station.

Also, in violation of Mississippi law, the board failed to statethe decision that was made in executive session after returning tothe open meeting. Mayor David McGee, though, said that failure wasunintentional.

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Going into executive session to discuss a piece of equipment isnot considered a legitimate reason for executive session, accordingto state law.

Governing bodies may go into closed session to discuss”personnel matters relating to job performance or the character,professional competence, or physical or mental health of a personholding a specific position.”

McGee said that the reason for an executive session about theweather monitor system was legitimate because the board needed todiscuss personnel using the equipment.

“We had to discuss what authority the police had,” he said.

According to a 1989 Supreme Court decision, “any action by theboard” should “be considered in an open meeting and therebyrequiring notice, access to the public…”

Some Wesson residents are not only mad about the way the boardmade the decision away from the public’s eye, but also about whythe decision was made, according to Mayor Pro-tem Lura Greer, whosaid she has fielded several complaints on the matter.

Many residents believe the matter should have been made public,so they could have had some say in the decision, which will affectthe residents in the town during severe weather, Greer said. Someresidents have even went as far as to say they would fight to keepthe equipment.

“Different people have told me they would get the money togetherand pay for it,” Greer said.

McGee did not comment on whether or not that could be apossibility in allowing the town to keep the system, which he seesas a waste of town money. He said an alert system is alreadyavailable.

“The county has a civil defense, and their radar system ismonitored 24 hours a day, so any time there’s severe weather, theyalert us,” said McGee.

McGee explained how the county’s system, which is located inHazlehurst, is all the town needed to be prepared for inclementweather. When severe weather is spotted in Copiah County, officialsat the civil defense office are supposed to immediately callauthorities in the areas that will be affected by the weather.

McGee said that system works very well for Wesson because thepolice usually find out about severe weather a few minutes after itis indicated in the area.

The police then can get the message out to Wesson residents byusing a siren, which is near the town hall. McGee believes thismethod of alerting residents is quick enough and is much moreaffordable for the town.

“It would be wonderful to have the system, but you just can’tbuy everything that you want,” he said about the$1,000-a-year-service.

He also stated concern about the town having unexpected costs.The $1,000 could go toward something else, such as a new water wellif the old one goes out, McGee said.

“You have to save for tomorrow, and we don’t know when the otherwell will go out,” said McGee, referring to the recent failure ofone of Wesson’s two wells.

McGee fears that the second well, which was put in about thesame time as the first well, will fail soon. If that happens, thetown will need to have a large sum of money saved to pay for such acatastrophe.