Fired city clerk remains on the job

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Philadelphia aldermen fired a municipal court clerk in August and the mayor’s verbal veto remains in dispute awaiting an Attorney General ruling.

The question of when does the time limit of a mayor’s veto actually begin and end was the subject of much discussion at their last meeting on Sept. 15.

Aldermen fired municipal court clerk Marilyn Jackson in a 3-2 vote at their Aug. 18 meeting and Mayor James A. Young said at the time he would veto the vote, although he never filed official paperwork within the required 10 days. Jackson remains on the job.

Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton made the motion and Ward 1 Alderman Joe Tullos seconded it. Ward 3 Ronnie Jenkins joined them in voting in favor of the motion. 

According to the minutes, aldermen voted to dismiss Jackson for improper handling of the office, effective immediately.

When Young brought up the veto at the Sept 1 meeting, he was told it was too late that he should have filed a written notice as required by law.           

The three alderman who voted to fire Jackson and City Attorney Robert Thomas believe the state law says the veto window begins at the time of the vote and the mayor has 10 days to veto in writing to the City Clerk.

The mayor and the two dissenting aldermen, Cassie Henson of Ward 4 and Alderman-at-Large Lee Roy Clemons, claim the time period begins when the minutes of the meeting are approved.

Mississippi statute recognizes Philadelphia’s Mayor-Board of Alderman form of municipal government (also known as the “weak mayor” form) in [MS. Code Ann. §21- 3-1, et seq.

Concerning vetoes, the law in question reads, “The mayor has power to veto any ordinance, resolution, or order adopted by the board of aldermen by returning the measure together with a written statement of his objections, within 10 days.”

Attorney Thomas brought several Attorney General opinions that have been issued on the matter, supporting the argument that the time limit starts at the time of the vote.

Adding to the confusion, the mayor actually vetoed the minutes of the Sept. 1 meeting believing that action would nullify the passing of the minutes of the Aug. 18 minutes, thus preventing the firing of the clerk.

“The mayor vetoed the minutes of the last meeting,” Thomas said. “You have a problem with that. The veto voided the minutes of the whole meeting. If we don’t do something, we are in trouble.”

Mayor Young argued while that might be so, he had given a verbal notice that he was going to veto the action to fire the clerk on Aug. 18. Thomas said that was not enough.

“All I can tell you is what the law says. There is no verbal veto in state law,” said Thomas. “The law says the veto will be in writing and given to the city clerk.”

Clemons said he had been reading the law, too, and argued the time limit began after the minutes were passed. He offered two Attorney General opinions supporting his argument.

“I have said earlier you can have 15 attorney general’s opinions and 14 people will have a different opinion,” Thomas said. “You can do whatever you want. I am telling you what I think the law is.

“You still haven’t addressed the one thing. He vetoed the minutes.”

Young said he was later told he could not veto the minutes once they were passed.

Young said he wanted to follow the law but he still wanted an Attorney General opinion of all of the different opinions for both sides that were presented, and which was right.

“I want to be on solid ground,” said Mayor Young said. “We asked the attorney to get one specifically for Philadelphia. We want them to take all of the opinions that we brought in, and decide which is right.

 “Then we move forward. It took on a life of its own. It is just a matter of us to get some understanding and move forward.”


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