Jackson accuses Warren County supervisors of ‘unfettered’ funding for pet projects

Published 2:06 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

District 3 Warren County Supervisor Shawn Jackson issued an open letter to fellow supervisors and approximately 200 other recipients on Monday, detailing what she said are concerns over budget talks in the county, allocations of funds and efforts to besmirch her character.

In the letter, sent using her county email address, Jackson expressed concerns about the county’s funding of projects and said two recent requests she made for county funding were rejected before coming to a vote.

“There are a tremendous amount of organizations, interests and projects that are getting unfettered amounts of budget dollars, stemming primarily and seemingly inclined to be run by two supervisors (Jeff Holland and Kelle Barfield),” she wrote in the email. “However, the paltry requests from myself, representing District 3, are met with no support.”

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The requests in question, Jackson wrote, were to increase “local/private for two churches in the community from a ridiculously low $13K and $18K to $50K.” Those two churches are Traveler’s Rest Baptist Church and Triumphant Baptist Church, and the funding increase would be from $18,000 and $13,000, respectively, to $50,000 each.

She also cited multiple county projects, many of which are not funded by local and private legislation and instead were funded through grants and alternative methods of procuring state and federal funding, which she said was symptomatic of a “level of disrespect” and entitlement of some board members over others.

“There were decisions to give Hinds Community College an increase in money/millage that would increase the amount of money MCITy (Supervisor Holland’s pet project for which he gets paid) receives, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Jackson wrote. “Let’s not discuss how money has flowed to this port project and how certain people have benefitted without any insight to (the) public. Supervisor Banks, nor anyone else said one word about the millions plus dollars to fix the old courthouse wall that seems to be run exclusively by Supervisor Barfield with an open checkbook.”

District 4 Supervisor Dr. Jeff Holland was named director of the Thad Cochran Mississippi Center for Information and Technology (MCITy) in February of this year. The MCITy project has been funded through various methods at the local and state level, not including local and private legislation. MCITy was funded through a combination of new market tax credits, historic tax credits and state funds.

The Port of Vicksburg expansion project off of U.S. 61 South has been funded through various grants and state allocations, including $4,948,086 for wetlands mitigation in February and a portion of the state’s $1.3 billion in transportation capacity project funding.

Repairs to the Old Courthouse Wall, a portion of which collapsed in 2020, are estimated to cost $3.5 million. In 2022, $650,000 was obtained for the project through the state legislature and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. In 2023, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann announced an additional $2 million in state funding was allocated to repair the wall. The funding was set aside over two legislative sessions, with the Legislature acknowledging the historic significance of the project.

Jackson said in her letter that the other board members continually work against her, reminding her that a majority is a “3-2 vote.”

“Supervisors, Herring, Holland and Barfield, while you may be enjoying this and condoning the public opposition to my small requests and advocacy, business is business,” Jackson wrote. “The people, organizations and parts of town you advocate for are not the ones paying all the tax dollars, and therefore, you should not continue to think that you are entitled to 100% of everything. You are held just as accountable by this community, even if you pit Supervisor William Banks against me.”

She also accused District 2 Supervisor William Banks of bullying, something Banks said is categorically untrue.

“Everything in (the email) is about a tale, because you’ve never heard me speak anything about anyone,” Banks said. “The only thing I suggested is we were not going to give Traveler’s Rest more money. (County Inventory Control Clerk) Dexter Jones was in the room and he is my witness.

“I never accused her of anything,” Banks added. “She’s trying to banish the board because she did not get what she wanted. It’s not true.”

Jackson said Thursday she did not have further comment beyond what was said in her open letter. To read the full letter, click here.