City still wrong in Jones hiring

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 25, 2006

Did anyone else notice the political spin last week at the Natchez City Hall?

Mississippi&8217;s Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by two citizens who were upset by the city&8217;s attempted re-hiring of a former police officer in 2004. The officer resigned and pleaded no contest after he was accused of offering a bribe to another officer. His criminal record was later expunged.

The court essentially upheld a lower court ruling that the lawsuit was aimed in the wrong direction because the city had no authority to hire a police officer in the first place. Only the Civil Service Commission can do that; hiring police is their job. The point of the Civil Service Commission system &8212; which has worked well for years and years &8212; is to remove politics from the process.

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The city&8217;s actions aimed squarely to circumvent that.

The courts ruled that since the city had no authority, the lawsuit didn&8217;t have much merit.

The city agreed to re-hire Willie B. Jones, against the advice of the city attorney who said it wasn&8217;t legal, but Jones was transferred to a position with the planning department soon after. The move quickly made the attempt to put a badge back on Jones a moot point.

A state board&8217;s revocation of Jones&8217; officer certification was, in part, the cause for his move to planning. But another part looked suspiciously like the city was covering its tracks.

Last week Mayor Phillip West said the Supreme Court&8217;s dismissal of the lawsuit proved the city&8217;s actions weren&8217;t in the wrong.

&8220;At least it establishes a precedent that it was consistent with the thinking of the board,&8221; West said.

Yes, the board&8217;s action was consistent &8212; consistent that three aldermen and the mayor (who broke the 3-3 tie) were determined to hire Jones regardless of the law.

Consistent? Yes.

Correct? Hardly.