New city board approves 14 positions, with divided votes

Published 2:34 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2021

In the nearly-four-hour-long first meeting of the newly-elected members of the City of Brookhaven Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, the board approved the appointment of 14 positions — including city clerk and fire chief — and tabled appointments for city attorney, judge and prosecutor.

Members of the new board are Democrat James Magee Jr., Ward 1; Democrat Shannon Moore, Ward 2; Democrat Charles Caston Sr. Ward 3; Republican Jeff Henning, Ward 4; Republican Fletcher Grice, Ward 5; Democrat Andre’ Spiller, Ward 6; and Republican Don Underwood, alderman-at-large. Moore and Grice are the only incumbents.

Before starting the process, Mayor Joe Cox asked the board if they would like to vote on appointments as a group or individually.

“One at a time, Mr. Mayor,” said Spiller.

 

Appointments for city offices

First up on the slate were key positions of city attorney, city judge and city prosecutor. The mayor recommended the appointments of the following:

  • Brad Boerner as city attorney. City attorney is an annual appointment. Boerner is the current city judge. Joe Fernald retired as city attorney effective June 30.
  • Greg Malta as city judge. City judge has traditionally been a four-year appointment. Malta is the current city prosecutor.
  • Shelley Harrigill as city prosecutor. City prosecutor has traditionally been a four-year appointment. Harrigill is a private attorney and formerly Ward 6 alderwoman.

The board voted 3-4 against the appointment of Boerner as city attorney — Henning, Grice and Underwood voting for; Magee, Moore, Caston and Spiller voting against.

The board then voted 3-4 against the appointment of Malta as city judge — again with Henning, Grice and Underwood voting for; Magee, Moore, Caston and Spiller voting against.

Prior to calling for a vote on city prosecutor, Cox asked regarding city judge, “Would y’all consider a year?”

“When you say ‘y’all’ …” Caston responded.

“Those of you who voted against,” Cox said.

Moore suggested tabling a vote on all three until the board could meet and talk with each candidate interested in the positions.

Attorney Brady Kellems, who attended the meeting to provide legal assistance as needed, suggested keeping the current judge and prosecutor in the interim until the board made appointments.

The board asked Kellems to serve as interim city attorney for that same period.

Chief Collins urged the board not to delay in completing the appointments, saying the positions were vital to the local justice system.

The board will meet again July 20 and will hear from candidates interested in the positions of city attorney, city judge and city prosecutor.

 

Fire chief

Acting Fire Chief Jeff Ainsworth has served in the head fire fighting position since his approval by the City Board in April. He replaced former Brookhaven Fire Department Chief Tony Weeks who retired effective June 30.

Ainsworth was presented Tuesday night for a four-year appointment.

In response to the call for a vote, Henning, Grice and Underwood voted to make the appointment. Magee, Moore, Caston and Spiller voted against.

Cox asked the aldermen if they would like to consider a two-year or one-year appointment.

“I would like to know who all applied for the position,” Moore said, also asking who took part in the interview process. “It seems like the board should have been involved in the interview process if we are the ones who are going to be working with the person.”

Cox said he, former chief Weeks and City Clerk Samantha Melancon had conducted the interviews. In addition to Ainsworth, Justin Bullock and Mark Porter had applied, as well as two others — one who withdrew his application and one who did not show up for an interview.

Cox said the selection process primarily was based on resume’ and experience. Ainsworth was the best candidate, Cox said, and had been recommended for the position by fellow fire fighters.

The mayor called for a vote on a two-year appointment, which was defeated again by a 3-4 vote. A call for a one-year appointment passed, with a 3-3 vote, Magee abstaining.

“Motion carries,” Cox said.

 

Additional appointments by the Board of Aldermen were:

  • Jason Barrett as city public defender, reappointed for a one-year term, 7-0.
  • Samantha Melancon as city clerk , reappointed for a four-year term, 3-3. Henning, Grice and Underwood voted for; Moore, Caston and Spiller voted against; Magee abstained. The vote passed.
  • Beverly Williams Howard, Ron Donegan and Martha Arrington as city election commissioners, reappointed for four-year terms with a 7-0 vote.
  • Keith Lewis as public works director, reappointed for a four-year term, 6-1. Caston voted no. “I know Keith, but I got a problem. My stuff isn’t being picked up,” Caston said. The alderman specified debris, limbs and a dismantled wooden ramp. Lewis said he would talk with Caston afterward about what needed to be done.
  • David Fearn as building inspector, reappointed for a one-year term, 5-0. Moore and Spiller abstained from the vote. “I’d like to see some other candidates,” Moore said.
  • Larry Sampson as street department supervisor, reappointed for a four-year term, 7-0.
  • Kris Xifos as water department supervisor, reappointed for a four-year term, 6-0. Caston abstained.
  • Sampson and Xifos as solid waste department co-supervisors, no vote taken on reappointments for four-year terms. The board instead voted 7-0 to do away with the title of solid waste department. Both supervisors assumed additional duties within the last term that would have fallen under “solid waste,” with each man receiving a $3/hour raise. The board was in agreement that each man understands his duties and the additional title of co-supervisors causes unnecessary confusion over those responsibilities.
  • Wayne Williams as cemetery supervisor, reappointed for a four-year term, 7-0.
  • James Laird as purchasing supervisor, reappointed for a four-year term, 3-2. Magee and Moore voted against.
  • John Coleman as airport supervisor, reappointed for a four-year term, 7-0. When asked to explain his duties, Coleman said it was a “one-man operation,” where he maintains the facilities, fuel station, grass cutting and lighting, and serves as greeter and courtesy driver when needed.
  • James Magee Jr. as Tourism Board member, reappointed for a four-year term, 6-0. Magee recused himself for the vote.

 

In other business, aldermen approved the following without opposition:

  • The hiring of Kelcey Davison of Brookhaven as a non-certified police officer at $28,084.80 annually, pending drug test and physical. Davison, 21, said he entered the military until he was old enough to apply to be a policeman. After an honorable discharge, he applied to BPD and plans to attend the police academy. Chief Kenneth Collins said five officers are currently attending the academy.
  • The resignation of BPD officer Padrian Miller effective June 9. Miller moved to another city to take a job there, Collins said.
  • City Court Clerk Jennifer Farmer received a one-year anniversary pay increase of $1 per hour to $13.44 hourly.
  • The appointment of the firm of Lowery, Payn & Leggett as city auditor.
  • To advertise request for proposals for the operation of the City of Brookhaven Transfer Station.
  • To advertise city assets in BHS Gridiron annual magazine, full-page ad for $200.
  • Beer permit for The Crouton, 103 S. Railroad Ave.
  • Lower quote from Linton Glass to remove and replace windows at Fire Station No. 3, for a total of $11,606.20. The other bid received was $12,782.63 from Brookhaven Glass Company. The project will be paid from CARES funds revised into the BFD Station Maintenance budget.
  • National Rail Safety Week Proclamation to encourage all citizens to recognize the important of rail safety.
  • To allow all police department personnel to attend the Virtual Academy School at a cost of $35 per person.
  • Off-road diesel bid of $2.42 9/10 from James Case Oil.
  • Petty cash funds as of June 30, required by State Auditor — $300 in City Clerk’s Office; $250 in BPD; $100 in City Court; $100 in Airport office; $500 in Water/Administration Office; $50 in Solid Waste office.
  • June 2021 salaried payrolls and transfer of funds to cover general, $427,200.67; water/sewer, $18,600.61; and solid waste, $780.73.
  • June 2021 weekly payrolls and transfer of funds to cover general, $56,488.07; water/sewer, $31,526.46; and solid waste, $20,645.30.