Commissioners look callous in firing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The headline of the Friday, Feb. 11, edition of The Natchez Democrat read “Brown doesn’t reply, MDOT fires.” The article laid out what was apparently the culmination of the ongoing feud between MDOT Executive Director (and former Natchez Mayor) Larry L. “Butch” Brown and MDOT Central District Highway Commissioner Dick Hall.

After previous attempts to oust Brown from his post as executive director of MDOT had failed, Commissioner Hall seized the opportunity to move against Brown, approximately one hour after the swearing in of new Northern District Commissioner Mike Target, according to news reports. The two votes of Hall and Target carried the motion to remove Brown, over the single dissenting vote of Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown.

Obviously, if you read the article like I did, where Hall and Target come off looking callous, is the manner in which they handled the matter. A letter of resignation was faxed to Mr. Brown on Tuesday for his signature, with the caveat that if it was not received by the close of business the following day, Brown would be fired. This letter was faxed to Brown while he was in Houston, Texas, for treatment of a re-occurrence of his previously treated prostate cancer, at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

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I don’t believe that Hall and Target could have come off looking more callous, not to mention petty, if they had tried. I mean, might they have waited until Brown at least returned home from his medical treatments? And why was it so necessary that this had to be the first order of business after Mr. Target’s swearing in?

The feud between Brown and Hall has been going for quite some time, even before Brown’s arrest on the Gulf Coast last year. The only recent comments that I have heard from Hall for Brown’s ouster is that morale at MDOT is very low under Brown’s leadership, and that he has “been an embarrassment” to the department.

I will say that there seems to be no middle ground for Brown’s detractors or his supporters. They either love him or hate him. But whatever you may think of Butch Brown, his tenure at MDOT has been good for Natchez. Just look around town, at recent, as well as ongoing current highway projects. For those, I would like to be the first to say, “Thanks, Butch.”

To Central District Highway Commissioner Hall I will simply say, you apparently won this battle. You should be ashamed of yourself for the manner in which you handled the matter. I do not know whether or not you have won this war. But if I were a betting man, I would wager that we have not heard the last of Larry L. “Butch” Brown!

Chuck Fields

Natchez resident