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Approval still needed for changing charter

More than a month after it received the approval of the Attorney General and Gov. Phil Byant, Vicksburg’s amended city charter has yet to get final approval from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The changes are supposed to take effect when the new administration takes office July 1, but in order for that to happen, the revisions have to be entered into the board minutes, and that hasn’t been done. It’s something the incoming board can do, but Mayor George Flaggs Jr. would like to see revised document approved before the term of this board ends.

“It can be done by the next administration, but why should we wait? It doesn’t affect anybody serving now, so why should we wait on it? I’m not for kicking the can down the street. I’m not for that. I’m always for taking responsibility for my actions,” he said.

“It’s already been approved when we sent it to the governor; the resolution said it’s our intent to adopt that. All we’re doing is spreading it on our minutes; the law says you have to spread it on your minutes. That’s the only thing hanging it up. It doesn’t affect anyone serving right now; it won’t affect anyone’s election. Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today?”

But Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Willis Thompson don’t see the need to rush.

They want more time to review the changes, especially the provision that names the mayor as police commissioner and gives the mayor the authority, with the vote of one alderman, to select and appoint the police chief.

“I don’t have a problem with the mayor being the police commissioner, but I do have a problem when you have either of the three of us having sole authority over any department with no checks and balances,” Mayfield said. “I think that is a very dangerous precedent to set, and that’s not just the mayor, but the aldermen.

“I think you always have to be careful and have your checks and balances there, if for no other reason than to make sure everyone’s in the loop at the same time and knows what’s going on in each and very division or department. We haven’t been able to nail that down.”

“I initially voted for it,” Thompson said. “It’s just (when) the thing came back, there were some things that were different in there.”

One of those changes is the provision giving the mayor appointing authority over the police chief. A provision Thompson said was not in the version of the charter the board approved.

When he noticed an item of the charter had been changed, he said, “I thought we needed to wait and look at everything to make sure there wasn’t anything else in there that we didn’t agree with.”

Other than that, I’m in agreement with it. I helped write some of it, so it’s not I don’t want to I have some other concerns about it.”

Thompson said he had no problem with Flaggs being police commissioner “because the mayor has always been considered the police commissioner. I don’t have an issue making that appointment.”

He said he was involved with writing the provision about appointing the division heads and with the mayor and aldermen being over different departments.”

He said the board members have always split responsibility over the different departments “(but) no one ever acted on it.”

Thompson said he doesn’t see any need to rush approval of the revisions.

“I don’t see the rush on it. We could have done it then, or the next administration could do it. I just didn’t see what the big rush in doing it, because it’s not going to take effect until the next term, anyway.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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