Stirgus pulls out of school board race

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 6, 2002

[09/04/02]A Vicksburg banker who filed Friday to run for a school board seat has withdrawn because, if he were elected, his employer would be ineligible for school business.

James E. Stirgus Jr., 43, a branch manager for Trustmark, said Tuesday he learned from the state’s ethics chief that with him on the Vicksburg Warren School District board, Trustmark would have to end its banking relationships with the schools, or the district would have to give control of some of its financial decisions to the state.

“I didn’t want to take any fiscal responsibility from the local board,” he said. “It would hurt the school system and it would trickle down to the kids. I’ve got a lot of interest and concern in the school system.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The change leaves incumbent Pearline Williams seeking a third term with no opponent in District 3. School board members serve six years, and the deadline for qualifying, reported incorrectly in a Sunday story, is Oct. 5.

The VWSD was created in 1986, and a banker has previously served as a trustee and board president. However, school attorney M. James Chaney said Merchants Bank, which has become part of BancorpSouth, did not bid on school business when Howell N. “Hal” Gage, then its local CEO, was on the school board.

Scott Rankin of the Mississippi Ethics Commission said he had spoken with Stirgus and advised him of a state Supreme Court decision issued in the mid-1980s that he said helped define such potential conflicts of interest by law.

Rankin confirmed that if a school board member is associated with a bank, that bank “foregoes serving as a depository” or the state treasurer must be given responsibility for such common school-district tasks as opening bank accounts and deciding how and where school funds should be invested.

Terms on the VWSD board are staggered so there’s never an all-new board. This year is unusual because two seats are open.

To date, challenger Jan Daigre has filed to be on the District 4 ballot in Nov. 5 voting. Incumbent John Carlisle was also expected to file for that post.