Arnold balks at old board’s appointing of commissioner

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Warren County filled a vacancy on the port commission Monday and reappointed its chairman despite a voice of displeasure from incoming supervisor John Arnold.

Most county supervisors had settled on developer Robert Morrison III last week when no arguments were raised about replacing three-term commissioner Oren Bailess with Morrison, 56, one of the planners of Eastvillage subdivision off Lee Road and longtime businessman. The board also agreed verbally to keep chairman Johnny Moss.

However, District 1 Supervisor-elect Arnold used his requested time on Monday’s agenda to ask the board to refrain from appointing members to any other panels until after a new board is sworn into office Dec. 29.

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“My concern is the sitting board is now making decisions for the new board,” Arnold told supervisors, terming his appearance “a plea” as a citizen and a caveat about the timing of the appointments and not a statement against Morrison or Moss. Arnold, a Republican, was the lone challenger to take a seat in elections this year when he bested incumbent David McDonald with 55 percent of the vote in a primary runoff, then won nearly 72 percent versus two independents in the general election.

“I just don’t understand the timing of the sitting board making decisions for the incoming board,” Arnold said.

Later, a catch-all motion to place Morrison on the board and keep Moss passed with a bare 3-2 majority. District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon — not present at an informal meeting a week ago — said Arnold had a point.

“It may not be practical, but it makes sense,” Selmon said before the board voted. “I think if we do anything otherwise, we’re creating a cloud of dust. I don’t think Mr. Morrison would want to come in on a cloud of dust.”

District 2 Supervisor William Banks voted nay but offered no discussion. Morrison was not at the commission’s meeting later in the day, but is expected to cast his first votes when the panel meets Jan. 17.

Historically, supervisors have addressed the makeup of boards whose membership runs concurrently with their own in December before a change in county administrations, mainly for the purposes of state payroll. Seats on the port commission and the parks and recreation commission follow supervisors’ terms; on others, terms are staggered evenly, as with the Vicksburg Bridge Commission, or run irregularly, as the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Two additional members of the port board, which oversees and manages industrial development at the Port of Vicksburg and at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex, are appointed by the City of Vicksburg, A fifth member is appointed by the governor.

Appointments of commissioners John Ferguson and Rusty Hawkins were tabled Monday by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Commissioner Mike Cappaert was first appointed in January 2004.