Council sets meeting to discuss alleged hostile work environment

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Meridian City Council members voted Tuesday to have an open meeting for city employees to speak out if they believe they have been working in a hostile environment.

The vote was three to two with Ward 1 Councilman George Thomas and Ward 3 Councilwoman Fannie Johnson voting 'no'.

This came about when the discussion of an investigation about CAO Richie McAlister was brought up.

Thomas said a public hearing is not the way to handle employee complaints.

"We have a system set up," Thomas said. "If employees have complaints, they have five available agencies they go to."

Ward 5 Councilman Weston Lindemann said he had met with city attorneys to draft a measure that would allow for the topic of a hostile work environment to be brought up in a special meeting.

At one point Lindemann seemed to argue with the city attorney about what had been discussed and suggested that the attorney didn’t know because he “wasn’t elected”.

The council discussed that the meeting be in a public hearing format so employees could come and speak on the record about their experiences. Lindemann said he believes employees will cooperate.

"I think we're going to hear a lot from employees who have experienced things that may or may not be legal," Lindemann said. "There's no telling what we're going to find out."

Mayor Percy Bland told the council that there are many avenues already in place for city employees to take if they feel mistreated. Bland said he hopes everyone who feels this way would come forward so he can address the issue and move past the “foolishness”.

"We have nothing in writing from anyone that it has happened so I told them to move forward; let's have this hearing," Mayor Bland said.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Kim Houston said if no one comes forward then the council can finally put the matter behind them and move on with the city’s daily business.

The special meeting has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 28, at Meridian City Hall.