by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher

There were two critical and lengthy Executive Sessions (ES) conducted at the March 15, 2022 Pass Christian Board of Alderman Meeting that lasted close to three hours.  On both matters, the Board voted unanimously to go into ES, which meant going behind closed doors to address personnel issues in the both the Pass Christian Code Department and the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

The matter involving the Civil Service Commission was based on a request from the CSC for the proposed removal of CSC Commissioner Halle Ricketts. The reason stated for this action was predicated on the lack of attendance at CSC meetings and for not properly fulfilling the duties of a CSC Commissioner (eg. conducting required entrance exams for fire and police departments).  This was not only reflected in the minutes from the February CSC meeting but was also noted in a letter from the CSC to City officials.

The minutes from the February 16, 2022 stated, “A motion was made by Commissioner Donald Moore, seconded by Adam Pace, to request that the Mayor and Board of Alderman remove and replace Commissioner Halle Ricketts inasmuch as he has failed to maintain contact with other members of the Commission, failed to attend the rescheduled meeting of February 16, 2022, failed to appear for testing training on February 2, 2022 as discussed at the last regular meeting and has very limited or little participation since his original appointment to the Commission.”

At the December 20, 2021 CSC meeting Ricketts expressed a myriad of concerns that the Pass Christian CSV wasn’t following state laws regarding how the commission should be run and the manner in which tests were given. He stated that he had documentation from the State of Mississippi as well as the Mississippi Municipal League that supported his concerns. Both Commissioners Pace and Moore took exception to Ricketts allegations since the Commission has been operating this way for many years with the blessing of City Attorney Malcolm Jones.

The Board entered into a closed session at around the one hour and twenty eight minute mark to determine the need to go into an ES. They immediately came back out and announced they were going into an ES.  During the course of another long ES, Civil Service Commissioner Donald Moore was invited into the meeting and then a short time later, CSC Commissioner Halle Ricketts was also invited into the closed door session, presumably to offer his side of the story.

At the two hour and forty nine minute mark, the Board came out of ES whereby Alderman Kenny Torgeson announced that “It is the consensus of the Board that no action was taken on this matter” and no explanation was given for this decision.  Since no action was taken, Commissioner Ricketts will remain on the Civil Service Commission.  As a direct result of this decision The Gazebo Gazette has learned that Commissioner Donald Moore resigned immediately  after the BOA meeting and Commissioner Adam Pace confirmed that he submited his resignation on Friday, March 18, 2022.  Commissioner Moore commented, “My resignation speaks for itself”.

This means that the CSC can no longer meet it’s mission because it doesn’t have enough members required to conduct business and also can’t certify  required entrance exams for firefighters and law enforcement officers.  This presents a huge problem for the City as it continues to struggle with maintaining a full compliment of employees in both departments.  The City will now have to recruit and train two new Commissioners before they can provide the required certification for entrance exams.

The other ES involved Community Development Director/Code Enforcement Tom Duffy’s employment status with the City.  Duffy recently submitted his resignation with his last day of work will be  March 25, 2022. At this time no one has been named to replace Duffy which leaves the City without the ability to conduct building inspections as well as code enforcement. This could lead to a work stoppage for those projects needing building inspections or other services offered by Duffy.

Apparently several options were discussed to keep Duffy with the City: 1.) retain him as a City employee but reduce his weekly work hours from 40 to 30 hours and give him a 10% pay raise or 2.) consider hiring Duffy as a consultant.  Although Duffy was invited into the ES, the Board eventually voted against both options by a vote of 2-3.  Alderman at Large Kenny Torgeson and Ward 1 Alderwoman Betty Sparkman voted yes to approve the first option and Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot, Ward 3 Alderman Kirk Kimball and Ward 4 Alderman Victor Pickich voted against the measure.

Mayor Jimmy Rafferty appeared frustrated with the lack of movement and asked the Board to go back into a closed session to further discuss the matter  The Board denied his request with Alderman Torgeson stating “I don’t want to go in closed session” and Alderwoman Charlot expressed the public’s concerns for the ever growing ES’s conducted by this Board. She commented, “Also the AG (Attorney General) said that they don’t like don’t like us constantly going into Executive Session because the public needs to know what’s going on.”

After the vote was taken and the motion to go into closed session failed, Mayor Rafferty retorted, “This is a joke”.  He then added, “We’ve already been two weeks without resumes. Put that in the record’.  He concluded by saying, “On March 26, call your Alderman if you want any coding.”

The position will be advertised again in hopes of finding a long term solution to this matter.

A Special Meeting has been called for Friday, March 18, 2022, at 6 p.m. to readdress this matter.