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Lincoln County School Board looks into election timing

The attorney for the Lincoln County School Board said the Attorney General may not have approved his plan for board members to be appointed on staggered terms through 2025, but they didn’t object to it either.

Jim Keith with Adams and Reece in Ridgeland told the board at its monthly meeting Monday that the Attorney General’s office didn’t approve his proposal per se that would get public officials’ election cycle back on track.

“But they did not object to what we are doing,” he said.

In Keith’s plan, when a board member’s term expires, the board will appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the correct election date, he said. District 1 (Kay Coon) and District 2 (Johnny Hart) will be appointed from 2019-2023 and District 3 (Diane Gill) and District 4 (Ricky Welch) will be appointed from 2022-2025. The District 5 seat was appointed by the other four board members in January. It went to Joanna Posey, who will serve through 2021. Posey replaced her father-in-law, Michael Posey, on the board.

Michael Posey stepped down in January after fulfilling two six-year terms. At the time, Superintendent Mickey Myers said the board would accept applications to fill his seat until an election in November 2018. The District 5 election should have been held in 2014, but Michael Posey was elected the second time in 2010, and his term started in 2011.

His term expired at the end of 2016, but if an election was held for District 5 in November that year, that seat would have remained out of sync with the rest of the state.

According to the schedule from the Secretary of State’s office, elections for District 1 and 2 should have been held in 2016 and elections for Districts 3 and 4 should be held in 2018, Keith said.

He said Coon and Hart ran in 2012 for six-year terms. But to have an election in 2016 would not have allowed them to serve their full terms established by law.

“They would have only served a four-year term and by law they’re elected to a six-year term,” Keith said.

Keith said it’s not possible to hold elections for the seats to replace board members who have not served six years, just to get the schedule back on track.

“The law doesn’t work quite that way,” he said.

Keith told the board that he’s still convinced the problem began in the late ‘80s when districts went from at-large to single member districts.

“Were new terms created at that time?” he asked rhetorically. “(Circuit Clerk) Dustin (Bairfield) said his records don’t go back that far.”

Keith said his plan was accepted by the school board and it was “done with full dialog” with the AG’s office.

“Nobody is trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes,” he said.

He said questions have been raised about the proposal and he plans to meet with the AG’s office in the next few weeks to come up with a solution.

“Now we’re working to see if there’s a better and quicker way” while still following the law, he said.

Keith plans to give the board an update at the Dec. 18 meeting.

“Hopefully, we’ll make some more headway on that,” he said.