Groups Call for Henson, Smith to Resign

By: Rachel Alig Email
By: Rachel Alig Email

The Meridian-Lauderdale County chapter of the NAACP and the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion are calling for two city council members to resign.

The organizations protested at the Meridian City Council Tuesday night, prior to confirmation votes on a new police chief and fire chief.

At a Wednesday news conference, the groups called for the resignations of Ward 5's Bobby Smith and Barbara Henson of Ward 3.

"The committee is extremely disappointed with the votes cast by councilperson Barbara Henson, Ward 3, who had expressed a desire to delay the vote on the appointment of Lee Shelbourn, and from Bobby Smith, both of whom had expressed the importance of gathering further information on Shelbourn before their vote was cast," said Milton Johnson, president of the NAACP.

Smith and Henson, along with with Ward 1 councilman, Dr. George Thomas, all of whom are white, voted to confirm the mayor's appointment of Lee Shelbourn by Mayor Cheri Barry to be police chief. Ward 2's Mary Perry and Ward 4 councilman, Jesse Palmer, Sr., who are black, opposed the appointment.

The groups say they are not satisfied with Shelbourn, who is white. He is replacing the city's first black police chief, Benny Dubose, who was appointed by the previous mayor. Barry was elected in June.

The groups also say they are upset about what they call lack of diversity in Barry's appointments across the board.

"In addition we are very disappointed with Mayor Barry's lack of fulfillment of her campaign promise for diversity and inclusion," said Johnson.

The local NAACP and Committee for Diversity and Inclusion said they want to hold Mayor Barry responsible for the campaign she ran.

Both Shelbourn and new fire chief, Anthony Clayton, who is black, say race is not a factor for them.

"I see no race. Firefighting is firefighting. She picked me because she thought I was the best person," said Clayton.

"It's a moot point. I treat everyone firm, fair, and consistently," Shelbourn said.

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