Warren County won’t interview before hiring board’s attorney

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

The selection process for a new attorney for the Warren County Board of Supervisors will continue without a formal interview process.

Paul Winfield, the board’s departing counsel, has just less than three weeks remaining before his resignation becomes effective, Dec. 31. He is an announced Vicksburg mayoral candidate.

Thursday, supervisors declined even to address a request from District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, who ran for mayor in 2005 but has said he will not be a candidate next year, to formalize the process for selecting an attorney.

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“It would be fair to take proposals or resumes,” Selmon said. “If the decision hasn’t been made, let’s talk about people.”

Selmon was part of a 3-2 majority who appointed Winfield in 2004 after a protracted disagreement over how the position is paid.

That vote displaced the tenured board attorney, Randy Sherard, whose compensation had been questioned by former District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders.

An attorney general’s opinion in 2004 upheld state law stating a county board has the permission to hire its attorney as an employee and be paid a supervisor’s salary. In Warren County, supervisors are paid $44,812 annually and they have not agreed that the state law applies here.

Winfield’s salary and that of his predecessor were paid hourly, same as fees paid for engineering work.

Winfield’s fees totaled $61,208 during fiscal year 2007-08, more than the $53,000 paid to Sherard during his final year. Caseloads have increased in several notable instances, however, and suits involving the county’s subdivision and floodplain ordinance, the Kings Point Ferry’s operating hours and property tax issues top the list of cases to be handed over to a successor.

Four years ago, the board heard presentations from lawyers from several firms in the weeks leading up to a decision.

Board President Richard George said that wasn’t likely to happen this time around. Also, he expressed confidence in the abilities of Sherard, who has continued to handle some matters for the county.

“It was a satisfactory experience and I wasn’t in favor of (changing attorneys) last time,” George said.

Sherard, also a licensed civil engineer, assisted the board in legal matters for 13 years before his replacement by Winfield. Selmon was joined by former supervisors Flanders and Michael Mayfield, then the District 2 supervisor, in opposing Sherard in consecutive votes on the appointment. The three formed the majority by which Winfield was then appointed.

For this year, when former District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale was returned to the board, the vote was unanimous to continue with Winfield as board attorney.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com.

On the agenda

Meeting Thursday, the Warren County Board of Supervisors:

* Discussed possible candidates for the vacant joint appointment to the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Betty Bullard, owner of the George Washington Ball House; commercial real estate broker and developer Shirley Waring; and Mississippi River Tours owner Ann Jones were mentioned as choices.

The seat on the 11-member tourism board will be vacant at year’s end following the resignation of Nelda Sampey, who cited family health reasons for leaving. The term ends in August 2010.

* Discussed how to fill the vacancy in the District 3 seat on the Warren County Election Commission.

The term ends Dec. 31 for the current board. Incumbent Patricia Reed did not seek another term. While state law allows the board to appoint someone to the position in advance of calling a special election, supervisors opted to consult with state officials first.