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Dual offices pose issue after vote

Almost two weeks after citizens of Brookhaven cast their votes in the general election, the race for alderman in Ward One may still be in contention.

Alderman-elect Randy Belcher’s eligibility as an acting alderman is in question due to a separation of powers clause in Mississippi’s Constitution.

According to state law, as a deputy for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Belcher cannot simultaneously serve with “core powers” in two of the three branches of government, the alderman’s position being legislative and deputy’s position being executive.

In reference to a similar incident that occurred in another municipal election in 2001, the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Mississippi released an opinion on the matter.

“It is the opinion of this office that a deputy sheriff exercises power at the core of the executive branch, and an alderman exercises power at the core of the legislative branch. Therefore, for an individual to hold both offices would be a violation of sections one and two of the Mississippi Constitution which provide for separation of powers. Upon taking office as alderman, he would automatically vacate the office of deputy sheriff,” the document states.

When contacted regarding the matter, Belcher said he is currently working with Sheriff Steve Rushing, lawyers and the attorney general’s office to discern all of his options before making a decision as to how he will proceed.

“We are getting clarifications from all ends,” Belcher said in an interview Friday morning.

During the election, Belcher initially took the lead when faced with four other candidates for the position in the May 7 primary and went on to defeat incumbent Dorsey Cameron in the May 21 runoff.

According to documents from the City Clerk’s office, if Belcher foregoes his seat in city government, the sitting Board of Aldermen would have to fill the vacancy by calling a special election.

Should a special election be needed, the other previously qualified candidates would have the opportunity to run again.