Warren County Supervisors respond to controversial open letter

Published 3:00 pm Sunday, August 27, 2023

Following an open letter sent via a county email address by District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson, the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ officers say they are committed to working together to serve the county.

In her letter, Jackson accused board members of “unfettered” spending for pet projects after she said one of her funding requests was nixed by District 2 Supervisor William Banks.

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.

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Banks said, on his part, that he simply said he would not vote to increase funding to the two churches, which both have community outreach programs.

“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.”

Banks also denied accusations of bullying Jackson.

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

In most cases, local and private legislation needs a unanimous vote in order to be entertained at the state level. Banks stating he was not in favor of voting for increasing the churches’ funding put the request at risk.

Still, Board President and District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield said she maintains the overarching goal to serve the county without raising costs to the taxpayer.

“It’s a shame if our board’s priorities of serving the entire county without raising tax millage is unacceptable to some, but I’ll continue to help improve our quality of life in Warren County with my fullest energy and enthusiasm,” Barfield said.

Barfield also addressed a comment Jackson directed at her in an email, saying Barfield had proposed a “chain gang” in the county.

“During 2020, when the Board of Supervisors supported a number of free food giveaways, I noted participants of the city’s community service division working hard to serve others,” Barfield said. “I spoke with several who said they appreciated the ability to apply service hours to work off debts they couldn’t afford to pay.

“I suggested Warren County explore such a program to address the problem of litter on county roads,” she added. “Supervisor Jackson immediately equated the potential program to chain gangs, so I respectfully said I would not bring this option up further, and I haven’t mentioned it since then. However, I vow to continue seeking resources such as grants to support the needs and potential improvements in Warren County without raising resident taxes.”

Board Vice President, District 4 Supervisor Dr. Jeff Holland, said the board’s effectiveness over the last almost-four years speaks for itself.

“This board is working very hard,” he said. “The majority elements of this board work hard for the betterment of this county. Every member of the board has a right to speak their minds as they see fit. The plurality of the board speaks for itself.”

Holland was named director of the Thad Cochran Mississippi Center for Information and Technology (MCITy) in February of this year.

In her letter, Jackson stated, “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.”

Holland refuted the implication that money going to Hinds was automatically destined to benefit MCITy, as well as claims that he had knowledge of how that money would be spent.

“Funding allocated to Hinds goes to many things; MCITy was mentioned as something (Hinds) wants to support,” Holland said. “How much funding is used for that, I don’t know.”

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