Council Delays Vote on Hearing Officer

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Meridian, Miss. Mississippi's Attorney General issued an opinion March 7th regarding who should oversee and conduct hearings for Meridian's four ousted Civil Service Commissioners. The AG opinion also called for an independent "hearing officer" to lead the proceedings in front of Meridian Mayor Percy Bland and City Council members. Twelve days later, a hearing officer has not been appointed. A confirmation vote was on Tuesday's City Council agenda, but Council members complained they did not have enough information on the three attorneys' names Mayor Bland presented. Bland says two local attorneys recused themselves, including one he just found out about Monday. Bland says the Council will now have a few days to become familiar with the three attorneys before a vote on Friday. "I don't think they had time enough to review some of the names," said Bland. "We tried to communicate with two local attorneys that we thought would be great hearing officers. They chose not to do it, so we're going to move forward and they need to review the other three attorneys. "

But Meridian attorney Bill Ready, Jr., who represents five former Meridian police officers awaiting civil service hearings, says his frustration level is high. "Damn, here we go. This is exactly what I said was going to happen," Ready told Newscenter 11. "All of my clients are being handicapped because of this mess that the Mayor is pulling with the Civil Service Commissioners. The Council's decision to look into their backgrounds is a thing that I support. Certainly that needs to be done. It's the Mayor's delay that's causing the problem."

The Mayor's list includes Jackson attorneys Bobby Dallas and Bobby Sneed, and Forest attorney Constance Slaughter-Harvey. The Council members recessed until Friday morning at 8:30, when they plan to vote on the Mayor's appointment.