WorldCom fall ranks as top story of year

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 2, 2003

In a year of national corporate and religious scandals and thewar on terrorism, Brookhaven did not escape unscathed from nationalnews issues in 2002.

The year’s top local story, as voted by THE DAILY LEADER staff,was the collapse of WorldCom Inc., which got its start inBrookhaven more than 20 years ago as LDDS.

The staff followed the decline of the company from the beginningof the year when stock prices began to plummet as a result of weakinvestor trust and Securities and Exchange Commission probes.

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WorldCom, the second largest telecommunications giant in theworld, eventually disclosed billions of dollars of fraudulentaccounting practices and some key senior officials werearrested.

Brookhaven resident Bernard J. Ebbers, chief executive andpresident of the corporation, has not been implicated in thecrimes, but questions of how much he knew or should have known havebeen widely speculated. Ebbers resigned in April to be replaced byVice Chairman John Sidgmore. Sidgmore did not occupy the positionslong before he, too, stepped down. No members of the board at thetime of the fraudulent accounting practices remain.

WorldCom was only one of several large corporations to shakeinvestor trust, file bankruptcy or reveal fraudulent accountingpractices during the year.

The corporate scandals also placed second on the staff’s list oftop national stories.

Nearly toppling WorldCom’s collapse as the top local story,placing second on the staff list, was the murder of MarvinDurr.

Durr was found inside a burned car on June 18 on SouthWashington Street. He was the son of the Rev. and Mrs. Jerry Durr.Two Brookhaven men were quickly captured and charged with capitalmurder, car jacking, arson and conspiracy charges in the crime. Onehas pleaded guilty to some charges with others dropped in a pleabargain, while the other is still awaiting his day in court.

Mississippi was one of several states battling an outbreak ofWest Nile virus. Three Lincoln County residents were confirmed withthe virus from among the nearly 200 diagnosed with itstatewide.

Placing fourth on the local stories list was the planning andongoing construction of the Whitworth Fire Loop System. The ongoing$950,000 project involves the installation of larger water linesthroughout the downtown area to provide service to the WhitworthCollege campus, which will house the Mississippi School of theArts. In addition to better water service, city officials said fireprotection will also be improved.

Brookhaven’s proposed annexation of an area extending south ofHighway 84 to River Road Drive, north to above the Brignallcommunity, east to an area between Crooked Lane and Belt Line Driveand west to Katie Trail placed fifth on the list. Areas that wouldbe taken in are Brignall, Lakewood Village, the Oak Hill andMoreton Estates on Natchez Avenue, and Field Lark Lane to thenorthwest. Some citizens oppose the annexation.

There was a tie for sixth place between progress on the artsschool and the completion of the Lincoln County Regional PublicLibrary expansion.

The eighth story on the list also involved construction with thecompletion of renovations and the re-opening of Brookhaven HighSchool.

At ninth was the second and last crime story to make the top tenlist. A Philadelphia man and his wife rampaged through fourcounties, with the man firing an automatic weapon at lawenforcement officials, before killing themselves behind a home nearArm. A Pearl River Basin Narcotics Task Force agent was shot in thefoot and the Lawrence County Sheriff nearly killed during thepursuit. Also wounded was a 33-year-old nurse in Columbia.

The chase began in Wiggins where the man killed his ex-wife andher boyfriend. The man’s 5-year-old son, abducted from his motherin Wiggins, was in the vehicle during the chase, but was recoveredwithout injury.

The last story to make the list was coverage of the $3.8 millionLincoln County School District bond issue. The bond issue waspassed in September and plans are to begin construction early in2003 at each of the school’s campuses.

Other stories that received votes, but did not make the top ten,include the new Mississippi Highway Patrol substation and NationalGuard armory; the building of Kids Kingdom; the death of District 1Supervisor Cliff Givens; Betty Montgomery survives a mysteriousshooting; the death of Recreation Director Hansel King; LincolnCounty redistricting; cicadas come calling; Brookhaven solid wastemoney woes; education cuts; EPCO and Continental Carbonic locatehere; the death of Franklin County Advocate Publisher David Webb;and the firing and appeal process of Andrew Hickman with theBrookhaven School District.