Selmon says dispatchers overstepped boundaries

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2004

[1/29/04]Charles Selmon said E-911 dispatchers should be told not to make public comments, referring to a letter to the editor signed by six and published in The Vicksburg Post Jan. 18.

“Any employee of E-911 should not be able to speak for E-911, especially through the newspaper,” the District 3 supervisor and president of the Warren County board told other members of the E-911 Commission Wednesday.

The dispatchers’ letter followed criticism from a convenience-store owner about response times. Ten days before the dispatchers’ letter appeared, Rodney Dillamar of South Street Shopette told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and a report on his statements appeared in the newspaper that operators had been slow to dispatch police to calls in the neighborhood around his store, at 1318 South St.

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Selmon called the dispatchers’ reply “totally out of character of this commission.

“When they put E-911 behind that, they’re also putting the city and county” behind it, he said, adding that such identification implies that the two governments condone what was said. “When you use E-911 as part of a title, you encompass a lot of other people.”

Commissioner David McDonald, District 1 supervisor, disagreed. “I didn’t think it was something from the E-911 commission,” he said. The letter’s authors merely informed readers they were dispatchers, McDonald said.

“You’ve got the right to say anything you want to as District 3 supervisor,” he said to Selmon. When Selmon speaks as president of the board, on the other hand, he is representing his board colleagues as well, McDonald said.

Commissioner Keith Rogers, chief of the Vicksburg Fire Department, said he agreed with Selmon.

“It needs to go through proper channels,” he said.

The letter was signed by Cindi Alkhatib, Missy Buchanan, Eddie Hollowell, Peggy Wright, Lisa Buchanan and April Comans.

Commission chairman Kelly Worthy, Warren County’s volunteer-firefighter coordinator, called Selmon’s comments “a personnel matter that we’re going to have to handle.”

“It’s a delicate matter because of First Amendment rights,” Worthy added.

The commission is composed of city and county representatives and manages the dispatch center created to use Caller ID and other technology 15 years ago. All fire, police, rescue, ambulance and many other emergencies are handled by dispatch center staff.

The letter explained how calls are handled and stated that dispatchers never delay a response.

Part of the commission meeting was closed to handle an unspecified personnel matter. Commissioner L.W. “Bump” Callaway III, county emergency management director, said later that the board took no action during the session.

In other matters Wednesday, the E-911 board:

Welcomed McDonald as its new representative from the board of supervisors. He replaced former District 4 supervisor Bill Lauderdale, who was defeated for re-election in November.

Heard Commissioner Laurence Leyens, the Vicksburg mayor, call for “a new day” in city-county relations and comment on a discussion officials the two governments have begun on a mutual-aid agreement. The agreement would allow city firefighters to respond to county locations outside the city limits when necessary. Leyens urged the fire department to create detailed plans for potential emergencies at such places as factories and schools.

Recommended names for two short spur roads. One, parallel to U.S. 61 North north of Riley Road, would be called Debrah Drive. The other, parallel to East Avenue west of Olive Street in Vicksburg, would be called Crenshaw Avenue.