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.