Director Brown’s arrest a disgrace to MDOT

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

The arrest of Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Larry L. “Butch” Brown is a big deal, despite the fact the PR department of the Beau Rivage has described the incident as a “misunderstanding.”

By his description, Brown, who served as mayor of Natchez from 1992 until 2000, was playing a “penny machine” in the casino about 3:45 a.m. on July 23 when he nodded off.

There’s a fine line between “nodding off” and “passing out.” Brown conceded drinks at dinner and accepting “whatever they give out” from casino cocktail servers. He doesn’t concede being drunk, but he sure looks pretty bedraggled in the booking photo shot by Biloxi police after they took him off the hands of casino security.

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It’s easy to understand why casino officials have soft-pedaled the situation. Brown, rising president of the national association of people who have his job in other states, is bringing the group’s convention to the Beau Rivage. Biloxi police, however, haven’t knuckled under and have charged Brown with public intoxication. He has a hearing set for October.

There is not a person in state government who has more control over more money than Brown. Appointed by the three elected highway officials, he manages planning, construction, bids and follow-up on the spending of billions of taxpayer dollars. That’s not the kind of guy one would expect to be “nodding off” at a slot machine at close to 4 in the morning.

When he spoke last week at the Neshoba County Fair, Central District Commissioner Dick Hall, who has long pointed out Brown’s shortcomings, held up a copy of Brown’s arrest record. Hall called MDOT leadership “dysfunctional” and asked, “Is this all we expect nowadays? Is this the new standard for public service?”

Brown, however, has the solid support of Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown and Northern District Commissioner Bill Minor, who rebuffed Hall’s suggestion that the director at least be suspended.

Hall said he hopes Butch Brown gets professional help, but doesn’t believe there is help available for the other commissioners.

“You can’t fix stupid,” Hall said.