Sherard returns as county board attorney
Published 12:00 am Monday, January 5, 2009
Former board attorney Randy Sherard was rehired by Warren County supervisors today on a 3-2 vote — the same one-vote margin by which he was replaced in 2005.
“The process was not fair,” said District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon. “I think this is a bad choice,” Selmon said moments after his motion to appoint attorney Marcie Southerland was rejected, also 3-2.
Sherard, 62, replaces Paul Winfield, 34, who said he will run for mayor of Vicksburg this year and told supervisors in November he would not be available for reappointment. After the initial split vote when he was selected four years ago, Winfield had unanimously been hired in January 2008.
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Neither attorney was in the board room this morning when supervisors followed their annual practice of electing board officers and making key appointments. A secretary at Sherard’s Monroe Street office said he was not in the office this morning.
The swing vote in the attorney selection has been from District 4. After his fellow board members gave no heed to a state law that seems to describe how counties may hire full-time attorneys for board work, former District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders, who previously had voted for Sherard, changed his vote to Winfield.
The statute says board attorneys should be paid the same salary as a supervisor, or $44,812 annually. Sherard had been paid hourly and, after being hired, Winfield was, too.
Winfield’s fees totaled $61,208 during fiscal year 2007-08, more than the $53,000 paid to Sherard during the last of his previous 13 years as board attorney.
In 2007 elections, District 4 voters returned their former supervisor, Bill Lauderdale, to office. Although it was speculated that Sherard would be reappointed in 2008, Winfield was retained with supervisors citing ongoing litigation as the reason.
Today, the motion to hire Sherard was made by District 1 Supervisor David McDonald and he was joined by Lauderdale and District 5’s Richard George, who was unanimously elected board president for a seventh time in his 14 total years on the board.
Selmon and District 2 Supervisor William Banks, unanimously elected vice president, dissented strongly, citing what they said was a closed process — no interviews or considerations of other attorneys.
Banks also implied Sherard had interfered in county business. He cited a 2007 vote on legal services for a state-administered grant program for first-time homebuyers that went against Sherard, a decision that reportedly resulted in letters to the board and to the Mississippi Development Authority by Sherard. The bid was awarded to Winfield and Moran, of which Winfield was a partner at the time.
“How can we appoint someone like that?” Banks said. “I can’t find myself working with a person like that.”
Although Winfield was paid more than Sherard, it was also true that caseloads had increased during Winfield’s tenure, most notably suits involving the county’s subdivision and floodplain ordinance, the Kings Point Ferry’s operating hours and decided cases involving commercial property taxes. Winfield remains a fellow defendant with supervisors in one case that grew out of a private land dispute.
It was not immediately clear how the change in attorneys would affect the county’s legal strategy in the pending cases. Supervisors also hire other attorneys as needed.
No other appointments changed. ABMB Engineers Inc. was retained as the county’s engineering firm. John McKee was formally reappointed county engineer. County Administrator John Smith and Road Manager Richard Winans are expected to stay on in their current posts, but were not formally reappointed by the board.
The positions serve at the will and pleasure of supervisors, who have the power to replace occupants of each without notice. Though not considered during this morning’s vote, the post of emergency management director also falls into the same category. Director Gwen Coleman has served the office since 2006.
Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.