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Hinds Co. supervisors’ meeting devolves into argument over mowers, tractors

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 4:35 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More fireworks erupted at a Hinds County Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday, this time, with District 2 Supervisor David Archie accusing fellow board member Bobcat McGowan of using public works equipment for his own gain.

The meeting was called Thursday to discuss claims and to approve emergency repairs to a bridge on Springridge Road.

Archie questioned why the meeting was called, saying the repairs could have been discussed at a future regular meeting.

Archie also tore into District 5 Supervisor McGowan, claiming he’s received numerous calls and complaints that the supervisor is using county-owned tractors, lawnmowers, and other county equipment on the side.

“I’ve been told that Supervisor McGowan has been a part of having Hinds County equipment either at his place of business or his home,” he said. “It’s our understanding he has keys to our public works department down in Raymond, as well as keys to the public works department in Utica. He’s running the public works department like he’s in charge.”

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Archie said there are pictures showing McGowan “on weekends, going into... our Raymond barn, as well as our Utica barn and using our county equipment,” he said.

The supervisor did not provide pictures, saying he wanted the media to look into the matter first.

District 5 Supervisor Bobcat McGowan
District 5 Supervisor Bobcat McGowan(Hinds County Board of Supervisors)

For his part, McGowan denied the accusations, saying Archie is angry because he no longer has three votes on the board. Currently, the board is split 3-2 on many votes, with Supervisors Credell Calhoun, Vern Gavin, and McGowan making the majority.

“I have a business of my own. If I want a tractor, I can buy me a damn tractor,” McGowan said via teleconference. “You understand that? I don’t need anybody else’s equipment. I buy what I want to buy. We use the county equipment to do county work with.”

Archie, Calhoun, and Gavin attended Thursday’s meeting in person, while McGowan attended via teleconference. District 1 Supervisor Robert Graham was absent.

McGowan urged supervisors to put the allegations aside and move forward with the county business.

“This meeting should be about what we (have) on the agenda. This is not on the agenda today,” he said. “Mr. Credell, let’s get on with the meeting.”

Archie continued his barrage for several minutes, adding that several pieces of equipment were missing, including mowers and at least one tractor, and that McGowan has his own set of keys to the public works facilities in Raymond and Utica.

He also claimed the sheriff’s department had attempted to look for the tractor but was unable to find it.

Sheriff Tyree Jones was not aware of a missing tractor or of any efforts of his department to look for one.

“I have not seen a report on any missing equipment from public works. If a report is generated and presented to us, we will investigate the matter,” he said in a text.

Public Works Director Charles Sims also told the board he also was unaware of Archie’s allegations, and that he’s never seen McGowan remove equipment from the public works facilities.

“He must be coming in after hours, because I haven’t seen him come in using no equipment, getting any equipment or anything of that nature,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sims added that all of the county’s mowers were accounted for.

“They zero-turns stay broken down. They don’t even cut in District 5, or in, really, District 2. They cut Highway 18, Highway 80, around the chancery court building, Henley-Young... parks... that’s all our zero-turns are used for,” he said.

As for the tractors, Sims says the one used in District 5 is currently at “central repair,” while the others are at one of the county barns and are accounted for. “There’s no tractor that’s ever been at his (McGowan’s) office (or) anything that I know of.”

Archie dismissed Sims’ claims, saying he didn’t want to get fired. “Our public works director is just completely afraid of him because he’s got three votes to fire him,” he said. “He had three votes to bring him and, at the moment, three votes to perhaps get rid of Charles Sims.”

McGowan, who was unable to do an on-camera interview, said WLBT could come to his house any time to see what kind of equipment he does own.

“What use would I have to take public works’ mowers? I have mowers. Any time you want to come and look at the mowers I do have, walk down there,” he said. “I have no use for taking public works equipment.”

Archie also had questions about Ivon Johnson, one of McGowan’s special projects officers. The supervisor said Johnson was “missing” and that he hadn’t seen him at work in two years.

He also called out the fact that Johnson is a convicted felon, having been sentenced for accepting a bribe under the late District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.

McGowan, who is related to Johnson by marriage, said Johnson typically is involved in projects in his district and is often not seen downtown as a result.

As for Johnson’s previous conviction, McGowan said people should be given second chances.

“It says ‘who is without sin cast the first stone,’” he said. “We set out day-by-day to try to tear somebody down. It’s unethical. If we don’t give somebody a chance who is going to give him a chance?”

“I’m trying to help the people, not hurt the people. That’s what this is about.”

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