Hinds Co. Sheriff to Supervisors: Disrupt a meeting, face arrest
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones says he’s begging the board of supervisors to set aside their disagreements over the presidency and conduct county business.
Of course, if those pleas aren’t heard, he’s not ruling out removing, detaining, or arresting those supervisors who refuse.
Wednesday, Jones sent a letter to the board saying that any disputes over board president or vice-president “should be resolved by the courts,” and that in the interim, says that Supervisor Credell Calhoun will remain in the president’s chair.
“Any member of citizen interfering with the ability of the president of the board to run the meeting in an appropriate manner will be removed, detained, and possibly arrested,” he said.
Jones said the letter isn’t an ultimatum, and that he doesn’t care who is board president. Rather, the letter is a plea for peace, so county business can be conducted.
At the heart of the matter is the presidency of the board of supervisors.
District 3 Supervisor Credell Calhoun claims he was elected to serve the remainder of the four-year term.
District 2 Supervisor David Archie, meanwhile, says he’s the rightful president and assumed the role on January 1.
Archie, who sat in the president’s seat at all meetings this year, said in a statement that the sheriff doesn’t have the authority to determine who is in the position.
“The Hinds County Sheriff, nor the Hinds County board attorney have determining authority to say who is president,” he wrote. “The matter is making its way through the courts and until such time as there is a ruling to the contrary, I will remain president.”
Archie has appealed the board’s decision to remove him as vice-president in Hinds County Circuit Court. He also appealed the case to the chancery court, but a chancery judge said the matter should be handled in the circuit.
Jones says he does have the authority and spoke with his own attorney, as well as Board of Supervisors attorney Tony Gaylor, before sending the letter.
“According to the opinion that I received from him and based on the law that he stated, he stated that Supervisor Credell Calhoun was still the president, and Supervisor Vern Gavin was the vice-president,” he said.
Jones declined to share copies of his correspondence with Gaylor and did not give the name of his private counsel.
The sheriff did not cite which statute allows him to say who was board president but said that under Mississippi Code Section 97-35-13, which discusses breach of peace.
“It specifically talks about... loud and offensive talk, making threats, attempting to intimidate or any other conduct which could cause a breach of peace,” he said. “Disturbance or breach of the peace is a misdemeanor crime.”
“It also clearly states... clearly supports the sheriff in exercising discretion as a law enforcement officer in maintaining peace. So, it’s your discretion as it relates to maintaining the peace for the safety of the people, the safety of the building as well.”
Acting Sheriff Marshand Crisler arrested Archie in September after the elected official became disruptive and used foul language at that meeting.
Jones said he doesn’t want to arrest anybody but wants the meetings to be conducted in a peaceful manner.
“I am not bias to the situation that’s going on,” he said. “And I don’t want to be in a position where I feel like I have to take action based on being in agreement with one or the other. To be honest with you, the issue that we’re currently facing with the board of supervisors has nothing to do with the sheriff, the sheriff’s office.”
On January 4, the recently elected sheriff cleared the boardroom after protests from Archie prevented the meeting from going forward.
The meeting was a continuation of a January 3 meeting where Archie and Calhoun again bickered over who was president.
The arguments, protests and delayed meetings have become the norm, rather than the exception for the county, something Jones mentioned in his one-page correspondence.
“The issue has become so contentious that it has interfered with the county’s ability to have a meeting without chaos,” he wrote. “While I have no desire to be involved in any political fights or bickering amongst the board... I am constitutionally obligated to keep order and peace.”
Supervisors voted to remove Archie as vice-president in September. The vote meant that Archie would not ascend to the presidency come January 1.
Under previous board rules, the board elected a president and vice-president/president-elect at the first meeting of the four-year term.
Those individuals serve until the following year when at the first meeting the president rotates off and the vice-president moves up.
Archie says both votes were illegal under Robert’s Rules of Order, and that it required a two-thirds vote to remove him from office and a two-thirds vote to change the organizational charter. A two-thirds majority would be four supervisors.
The vote to remove Archie was 3-2, while the vote to amend the rules to elect president and vice-president was approved on a 3-1 vote. The latter vote occurred after Archie stepped out of the meeting at the behest of Jones.
Calhoun, though, says Robert’s Rules of Order was followed, and that only three votes were needed because public notice had been given prior to the votes.
“We voted to give notice, and then we came back and voted,” he said. “And the notice was that we will go back to state law. And you can call our attorney because that’s who we’re relying on.”
Gaylor has yet to respond to our request for comment.
“We think we’re on sound ground as far as the board is concerned,” Calhoun added. “The board, once it makes a decision, then the only people that can turn that over would be the courts. And if the court... says we can’t do that, I’m willing to abide by what the court says.”
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