Meridian, Miss. Tensions were high during Thursday night's special city council meeting.
Council members were quick to grill Mayor Percy Bland and his administration over the decision to remove four Civil Service commissioners from their positions. Council members say they should have received written notification beforehand.
"We'd like answers," Council President George Thomas stressed. "We'd like it in writing. We'd like to know who has been fired, who has been dismissed. Are they dismissed or are they not dismissed? Who has the authority? Can the city attorney give us a definite answer?"
Thomas says as far as he knows, the four Civil Service Commissioners have been removed from their positions and not suspended. However, Mayor Percy Bland says the commissioners have not officially been relieved of their duties.
"There is a hearing Monday," Mayor Bland explained. "They are still in the position of Civil Service Commission officers. But they do have a hearing on Monday."
Council President Thomas says since the commissioners have been relieved of their duties, that makes conducting Civil Service business nearly impossible. Therefore, the council voted unanimously to freeze all hiring and firings in the city until further notice.
"So once the Civil Service Commission is back in full force, we'll waive this," Thomas said.
Mayor Bland and the council are also disputing who will be in charge of Monday's special hearing for the commissioners. City Attorney Michael Goggans says relevant statutes give the mayor the appointing power and therefore, the mayor can rule at Monday's hearing. However, council members say according to an attorney general's opinion, a Mayor-Council form of government gives the council the appointing power.
"Unless we receive different information from the attorney general's office, we will conduct the hearing," Thomas maintained.
"Our city attorney for both the city and the mayor stated clearly in his letter that the appointing authority of the city is the mayor," Mayor Bland reiterates.
The city council says if it cannot get the answers it needs from the city's attorney, then the council will hire another attorney to work with the council in order to clarify some of these issues.