City Council holds off on awarding $15K to organizers of Jackson Black Rodeo

A scene from a previous Jackson Black Rodeo
A scene from a previous Jackson Black Rodeo(WLBT)
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 1:46 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson city leaders are holding off, at least for now, on a request to provide sponsors of the Jackson Black Rodeo with $15,000 for security.

Tuesday, the city council tabled a request from the Real Cowboy Association to provide $15,000 for security and other purposes for the upcoming Jackson Black Rodeo next month.

The measure was tabled after about 30 minutes of discussion and after an official with the Real Cowboy Association was questioned on how the money would be used.

The item will likely be brought up at the next regular council meeting, slated for June 21, once council members have more information.

The delay comes weeks after the annual event was abruptly canceled over promoters’ alleged refusal to provide security for tailgating and other gatherings outside the coliseum, and days after the rodeo was back on, with officials saying the additional security would be provided.

Security is an issue following the shooting at the Mississippi Mudbug Festival, which was held at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in late April. One person - the shooter - was killed and eight others were shot.

On Tuesday, council members wanted to make sure the $15,000 being requested by the association would, in fact, be used to keep rodeo-goers safe.

Jarriett Edwards, president of the Real Cowboy Association, said the money would be used for security, the safety of rodeo staff, room and board, and building costs.

He said all the money would come back to the city in terms of increased sales tax dollars related to patrons buying food and gas and leasing hotel rooms.

“Every dollar amount that is (provided) to the rodeo is immediately returned to the city,” Edwards said.

When pressed, Edwards said that the allocation would go toward “security first,” saying there would be 15 or 20 officers both inside and outside the coliseum during the event.

Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks said if the funds are going solely toward security, why not redirect them internally to pay for additional overtime for police officers.

He said during the Mississippi State Fair, the city typically enters into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the state to provide additional security at the fairgrounds, rather than allocating a lump sum to the event.

“If the state is requiring more (security)... then there are ways we can say, ‘OK, how much does it take, chief, to have extra personnel inside?’ and then we divert those moneys there,” Banks said, “unless you need this for more than just security.”

Banks also questioned what kind of security would be provided. “I don’t know if you’re going to hire Capitol Police, a security company or if these are going to be certified officers,” he said. “To be fiscally responsible with this, why can’t we look at doing an MOU between the State Capitol, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, and JPD... to pay (overtime for) certified offices there?”

The council attempted to amend the request to ensure funds would go toward security but was advised against it by the city’s legal department.

According to the order included on the council agenda, the funds could be used by the rodeo “for the purpose of advertising and bringing into favorable notice possibilities and opportunities in the city of Jackson.”

“In order for the city to be able to contribute this money, you can only... contribute money based on what statutes allow,” she said. “We do not have a statute that says you can contribute to the Real Cowboy Association to (provide) security.”

Council President Virgi Lindsay, meanwhile, was concerned when Edwards was unable to clarify whether the Real Cowboy Association was a nonprofit or an LLC.

“That gives me pause,” she said. “There’s a difference between a (nonprofit) and an LLC.”

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