Commission: No action on sergeant’s complaint

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2001

[9/13/2001]A Vicksburg police sergeant often in conflict with City Hall was denied a hearing on a 2-1 vote by the Civil Service Commission Wednesday because his complaint was outside their authority, the commission chairman said.

Sgt. Jimmy Sweet said he wanted action about a letter he received from the Mayor Laurence Leyens office, saying it called him “insubordinate.”

Leyens, who attended the meeting, later said the letter was a result of a meeting elected officials and Police Chief Mitchell Dent had with Sweet in which they discussed his job duties.

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Sweet, a 15-year veteran, was transferred to the Juvenile Division from Internal Affairs in July. His tenure includes multiple legal conflicts with the past two administrations. His promotion to sergeant came after a promotional exam controversy in which he initially refused to complete the test, saying it had more questions than he expected.

Leyens, who took office in July, said at the meeting that Sweet was not called insubordinate in the letter, but that if he did not do his job and become part of a team he would be considered insubordinate. He declined further comment.

Commission chairman Joe Graham said the letter was not a Civil Service matter.

“Under the law and under our rules, which are elongated under that law, unless you have suffered a loss of pay, removal or suspension, we don’t have jurisdiction of your complaint,” Graham said.

Sweet said he had never been proven to be insubordinate or charged with insubordination. He said the letter may cause problems for promotions or evaluations. Graham said that the city has every right to keep a personnel file and that if Sweet is ever denied a promotion or pay raise in the future, then he should ask for a hearing again.

Voting with the chairman was Commissioner Linda Sweezer and dissenting was Commissioner Clyde Harris.

In other business, the commission unanimously voted to reverse actions against former employees who failed to meet resident requirements. Fire Chief Kevin Westbrook and Police Chief Mitchell Dent have both favored the change, saying that their departments will receive more and better qualified applicants. The action follows the city’s removal of residency requirements for deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs of the police and fire departments to be residents of Vicksburg and for all civil service employees to move into the city within six months of being hired.

Also, the commission:

Unanimously voted to restore the civil service status of Lt. Janelle Lee and Frank Phelps. Lee and Phelps were formerly Vicksburg Police deputy chiefs and did not fall under civil service protection.

Unanimously accepted the resignation of civil service status from former Deputy Chief Wayne Scott and former Lt. Rose Shaifer. In August, Scott was transferred to the city’s Code Enforcement Division, and Shaifer was promoted to deputy chief.

The commission will meet again at 4 p.m. Oct. 10.