Harris Remains Candidate

By: Lindsey Brown Email
By: Lindsey Brown Email

Meridian city councilman John Harris has accepted a full-time job in Columbus, Miss., as police chief at the Mississippi University for Women. He is also still a candidate for re-election this year.

But MUW hired him expecting that he would not seek another term.

A memo prepared by the legislative Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) Committee sheds more light into the details surrounding his employment as campus police chief.

According to that document, Perry Sansing, assistant to the MUW president Claudia Limbert, said MUW is under the assumption that Harris will not be a candidate for re-election, But as recently as Thursday night at the NAACP mayoral forum, Harris stood and was introduced as a council candidate.

Harris has been tight-lipped about the whole situation, saying only that he will commute to Columbus from Meridian. To hold office in Meridian, state law says Harris, or any candidate, must live in Meridian.

The university apparently agreed to let Harris finish out his term by allowing him to take leave when needed, but otherwise he was expected to reside in Columbus and be on call to perform his duties as police chief. Harris has signed a lease agreement for an on-campus apartment.

But despite this new information, opinions are varied on what Harris should do.

"I think it's great if he can hold down both jobs," said Robert Johnson of Meridian. "More power to him.

"If he's on the council board, suppose something comes up this evening and they call and they want him right now to come and then he's got to be wherever the job is supposed to be?' asked Loretha Curry of Meridian. "But he can just go and say, 'hey, they need me at the council board and I need to go'.

"It's going to be tough because every obstacle you take is going to be tough, but hey I think he can do it," said Mary McClelland of Ward 5.

According to the document, Harris began his job at MUW this past Monday. School officials are said to be aware of the conflicting facts surrounding the situation. Harris is running against Republican Bobby Smith.

Late Friday, Newscenter 11 received an e-mail from James Gardner, chairman of the Meridian Municipal Democratic Election Committee. It said the committee was informed about Harris’ career move shortly after he accepted the job at MUW, that he informed it that he would be a full-time salaried employee at MUW, but maintain his residency in Meridian.

“The Meridian Municipal Executive Committee for the Democratic Party supports Mr. Harris in his statement regarding this matter and will stand with him in the upcoming general election on June 02, 2009,” stated Gardner in the e-mail.

Newscenter 11 again sought comment from Harris Friday for this story. A message was left on voice mail but the call was not returned.

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  • by Jane Location: Meridian Ward 5 on Apr 27, 2009 at 12:01 PM
    Good thinking Anonymous: Harris has an apartment in the Old Union Hotel, a house that his wife lives in and now an apartment in Columbus. Guess he needs all the jobs he can get so he will try and milk Meridian for as long as he can.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 26, 2009 at 06:54 PM
    I can't believe that he's being allowed to run. He's going to have to live in Columbus for his job. Ward 5: Do you really want someone representing you who doesn't even live where you do? He's out of his mind if he thinks that he can be a city councilman and keep his job in Columbus. And to the Democratic official who compared this to a police officer living somewhere else while working for the MPD: Get a grip. This is nothing like that situation and your statement was the most idiotic statement I've ever read. But what should I expect... Democrats are quick to raise concerns of someone breaking the rules unless it's themselves. Hypocrites.
  • by Andy Location: Meridian on Apr 26, 2009 at 04:27 AM
    Harris showing his true self. Maybe he will not talk as he is afraid someone will ask him about his past due taxes on his home in Meridian. Public record at lauderdalecounty.org
  • by Anonymous on Apr 25, 2009 at 09:24 PM
    Johnny makes an excellent point. If the law says people who sign the petition for an independent candidate have to simply be registered voters from a municipality, why then is the election commission requiring registered voters from within Ward 5 only? And even if the city does have an attorney general's OPINION, it is still only that, an OPINION, and not the law. Government officials like to hide behind OPINIONS from attorneys general who may well have a BIAS. Should not the actual LAW carry the most weight?
  • by Johnny Location: Meridian on Apr 25, 2009 at 05:57 PM
    I think the person who should be upset by this farse is Walter Patton. It seems that John Harris is planning to live part time in Meridian yet he is eligible to run for office while Mr. Patton was disqualified because some of the signatures on his application did not come from Ward 5. I smell something fishy here.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 25, 2009 at 09:25 AM
    The last I remember John Harris saying anything about it was he is running for another term and will commute back and forth to his job at the W. But the university expects him to live in Columbus. What will he end up doing? I expect that job in Columbus pays a lot more money than the city council does. Where do you think he will spend his time? Here or there? I don't know why the W hasn't just fired him. He apparently lied to them. What kind of police chief is that?
  • by Lou on Apr 25, 2009 at 09:19 AM
    For anyone who still does not "get it": No one is denying Mr. Harris his right to seek or hold public office. No one is blasting him for working two jobs. Many people work two jobs. What is at stake here is possible violation of the law. The law requires Mr. Harris to live in Meridian if he holds public office in Meridian. He has accepted a full-time job 90 miles away with the employer understanding he will live in Columbus. If he lives in Columbus, he cannot be a councilman in Meridian---that's the law. If he lives in Meridian, he's violating his agreement with the Mississippi University for Women. On top of that, he won't speak to the media and explain himself. What kind of person is this?
  • by Ricky Location: Meridian on Apr 25, 2009 at 06:52 AM
    The comments below are way off course. Harris has an agreement with the school that he would not seek reelection to his current job in meridian. If he will not honor his agreement with the school then they should terminate his contract immediately, then you folks who are deceived can vote for him. But how can you support a man that will not honor his word and an agreement? Is that the type of individual character you want to represent you? I sure would not. The actions he is doing now is part of what is wrong with all levels of government.Politicians say one thing and then do as they please as the American people are not represented. I bet his silence to the media is because he is guilty as mentioned above and he is not wanting to get caught in a lie. You vote as you will but I would not support a man that will not honor a contract, what else would he not honor?
  • by James on Apr 24, 2009 at 09:22 PM
    I live in Ward 5 and I will vote for Mr. Harris on June 2, 2009. Mr. Harris can work in Russia and governed better than Bobby Ray Smith can living in the city of meridian! The media needs to back off of this election, the people of ward 5 are smart and we will choose our leader.Harris does not need to say anything to the media, they are not for Mr.Harris. Everytime I see Bobby Smith I get sick on my stomach.
  • by AMERICAN Location: AMERICA on Apr 24, 2009 at 08:55 PM
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