City of Vicksburg pulls interlocal agreement with Port Gibson

Published 6:26 pm Monday, April 25, 2022

A March 9 interlocal agreement allowing Vicksburg to assist Port Gibson get into the natural gas business was revoked after two Vicksburg water and gas employees left to go work for Port Gibson.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved pulling the agreement Monday.

But while a letter to Port Gibson Mayor Willie White mentions the hirings and states, “The city of Vicksburg entered into this agreement in good faith to assist the city of Port Gibson not to lose employees to the city of Port Gibson,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the men’s new employment was not the reason the agreement was revoked.

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“It had nothing to do with them hiring,” Flaggs said. “They (Port Gibson) have a right to hire who they want to hire, but we were in the process of working with him (White) on some very sensitive information — things like billing — to help him out of good faith.”

Flaggs said the timing of Port Gibson’s decision to hire the men was bad because Vicksburg officials were in negotiations with White.

White said Port Gibson did not offer jobs to the Vicksburg employees.

“They reached out to us,” he said. “One of the men was an operator; I guess he saw an opportunity to advance himself and make more money.”

White said there was nothing in the interlocal agreement that prevented Port Gibson from hiring the men.

“Everything was done professionally; they were viewed as potential employees and put in their two weeks’ notice and then Vicksburg decided to cancel the agreement,” he said.

White said the employees were aware of the interlocal agreement.

“We were approached; we did not entice or recruit,” White said. “We’re not in a position where we can turn anyone down at this point and we’re just hoping that Vicksburg would be understanding.”

Port Gibson, Flaggs said, “Didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that the timing was just so bad that it wasn’t in our best interest to continue assisting them when the employees are being hired.”

Flaggs said he did not terminate the interlocal agreement until the employees resigned.

“I didn’t want to go on speculation,” he said. “I think that it’s in both cities’ best interest that we not try to negotiate or try to work on an interlocal agreement and let them do what they do and let us do what we do, because too much sensitive information was being transferred.”

Port Gibson and Vicksburg signed the interlocal agreement in March after Port Gibson took over Mississippi River Gas, which had leased and operated the city-owned system for the past 40 years, and Port Gibson’s Board of Aldermen recently developed plans to take over the gas system.

Because Port Gibson did not have anyone experienced working with a gas distribution system, city officials looked for cities in the state that operated municipal gas systems. Vicksburg, White said, was the closest city and Port Gibson already has mutual assistance agreements with Vicksburg police and the fire departments.

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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