Supervisors in uproar over selecting attorney

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 10, 2004

[12/10/04]Supervisors are shopping for a new attorney, even though Randy Sherard, serving as the county’s counsel for 13 years, says he’d like to keep the job.

Angry words were part of Thursday’s informal meeting of the board when District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield accused District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders of triggering the process.

“Your campaign promise is the reason we are in this” situation, Mayfield said, indicating Flanders, who joined the five-member board in January as its only new member, had told supporters the county needed a different lawyer.

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Later, Mayfield said he had calmed down, but stood behind the statement. Flanders said it was not true. “I have not operated like that and I have no intention of starting,” he said.

Sherard was not present Thursday, but the board heard from several attorneys offering their services. Appearing were Ray Duncan, Paul Winfield, Kelly Loyacono and Ken Harper; and Blake Teller and Briggs Hopson representing their Vicksburg law firm; and Romel Cotton for his Jackson-based firm.

Apparently, they were contacted and asked to appear. Afterward, supervisors voted to advertise the job and accept any other applications until Wednesday.

Sherard, also a licensed engineer, was rehired in January on a 3-2 vote with Board President Charles Selmon of District 3 and Mayfield voting nay.

“I would like to continue to represent the board as I have for the past 13 years,” Sherard said when contacted later.

Flanders said the reason he favored interviews is that Sherard does not have the support of all five supervisors. Flanders, who voted for Sherard’s rehiring in one of his first acts as a board member, said he felt the board was forced into that selection because there was no other choice.

Under the agreement in place, the board pays Sherard a retainer of $1 a year and he bills the county at an hourly rate of $125. In 2003 when he was paid $100 per hour, Sherard was paid $54,000.

Discord also arose earlier in the year over a statute that indicates board attorneys should be paid a flat salary as county employees and may be paid hourly for other work. Supervisors and Sherard responded that they feel their arrangement is cost-efficient and meets the statute’s requirements.

Thursday, District 5 Supervisor Richard George told other supervisors he thought the process of phoning selected attorneys was flawed, so that’s when they decided to ask if others might be interested.

George and District 1 Supervisor David McDonald said they were not interested in changing attorneys and Mayfield said he had not made a decision one way or the other. Selmon was also mum.