Attorney: No basis for removal of NASD board members

Published 12:10am Thursday, July 24, 2014

NATCHEZ — The Natchez city attorney has found “no basis” for the removal of the city’s three appointed members to the Natchez-Adams School Board.

Attorney Hyde Carby spent Wednesday researching legalities behind a claim Alderman Ricky Gray made during Tuesday night’s aldermen meeting. Gray said the appointees had violated state laws, pointing to one incident during the school year.

Gray’s concerns led to a motion, which passed 3-2, to remove David Troutman, Thelma Newsome and Benny Wright, pending review of the law by Carby.

Carby issued a memorandum Wednesday morning citing various opinions from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office stating the school board members could not be removed based on the information provided.

Gray’s concerns, which led to the city board’s motion, alleged school board members had not properly reported to the state department of education a November incident in which a student brought a screwdriver to school and threatened another student.

But, according to Carby’s research, under Mississippi law a city board can only remove a sitting school board member if the person has a felony conviction, has been found of unsound mind or has moved out of the school district.

Carby referenced two opinions from the state Attorney General’s Office on the matter.

Carby also referenced a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling from 1987 that frowns upon any attempt by the aldermen to get involved in the operations of the school board, saying such involvement is a violation of the state’s separation of powers.

Under Mississippi law, Carby said in his memo, the board of aldermen is part of the legislative branch of government, while the school board is part of the executive branch. The aldermen should make the law, while the school board enforces it, the court ruling says.

Carby said, based on the Attorney General’s opinions, the Supreme Court ruling and the information provided at Tuesday’s meeting, it was his opinion that there was “no basis for the removal of the city’s school board appointees.”

Gray said Wednesday there was nothing more he would do to remove the school board members.

“If that’s the law, that’s the law,” Gray said. “I don’t feel bad about what I did, because all of us have to be accountable for our actions.”

But Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill said Tuesday the entire basis of Gray’s motion was incorrect.

The particular incident Gray referenced did not need to be reported to the Mississippi Department of Education, Hill said.

“For us to be required to report to the state, it has to be a violent act and in this case, based on the administrative investigation, they didn’t find that to be the case,” Hill said. “I can assure you that there was no violation of state law.”

Hill said the November incident didn’t go before the school board because the student did not file for an appeal to the administration’s decision.

“In that case, or any case of that nature, it goes to a district hearing committee that we’re required to have, the hearing committee makes a decision and the parent can ask for an appeal,” Hill said. “In this case, it wasn’t appealed by the parent so it didn’t go any further.”

Gray said he still felt as if the school board members should ultimately be held responsible for all actions within the district.

“It seems to me like they don’t get held accountable for anything, but it’s the administrators, teachers and kids that do,” Gray said. “I’m doing what I think is best for this community and what I’m trying to do is find a way to solve our problems.”