Clarksdale salary increases will be maintained and will be paid
The salary increase for the Mayor of Clarksdale, the Council of Commissioners and all city employees will be maintained.
On a racially-based 3-2 vote, the mayor’s council and commissioners decided not to change a massive pay raise they voted for in the June 14 executive session, less than a week after their re-election June 8.
The motion to change the vote on the salary increase was introduced by Ward 2 Commissioner Ken Murphey and seconded by Ward 1 Commissioner Bo Plunk. Ward 3 Commissioner Willie Turner and Ward 4 Commissioner Ed Seals voted against the amendment, prompting Mayor Chuck Espy to vote.
A petition of over 600 names was presented by former mayor John Mayo ahead of the vote. Mayo said the increases for city officers and employees will total $ 416,400 per year and constitute an undue tax burden on a community that is already experiencing declining population, declining property values and businesses in the city. declining retail that provide sales taxes to the city.
The meeting was accused of racial accusations of defeated economic development projects, previous increases in white mayors going unchallenged and poll numbers alleging white people were ready to defeat Mayor Chuck Espy.
The mayor and the council of commissioners then voted to grant themselves annual increases of $ 36,000 and $ 20,000 respectively.
The mayor’s annual compensation will increase from $ 86,421 to $ 122,421.92. The annual remuneration of a commissioner will increase from $ 26,650 to $ 46,650. The mayor and the commissioners also have expense accounts.
The June 14 vote sparked outcry from a community who believes the money could be better spent on law enforcement, street repairs and infrastructure and worries about the long-term tax burden after the disappearance of this board.
Monday’s meeting saw more than 89 people fill the Town Hall boardroom, with Mayo speaking out against the increases and presenting a petition with 600 names and Kerry Alexander and Mary Frances Dear-Moton’s expressing in their favor.
Espy has repeatedly repeated the public comments, even announcing that anyone identified as making the remarks will be removed by police.
Alexander said the community’s concern was based on race, pointing to the recent election where Espy was re-elected by the Black Quarters vote. He added that this smear campaign also accuses Espy of not living in Clarksdale and not sending his children to schools in Clarksdale.
Alexander also said that the $ 165,000 salary of chamber manager Jon Levingston, the $ 160,000 salary of the director of Clarksdale utilities and the $ 150,000 salary of former county administrator Hugh Jack Stubb were all greater than Espy’s raise, but they were white. Alexander also pointed out that when Daniel Vassel, who is black, became a county administrator, he was paid $ 90,000.
Alexander added that former white mayors Bill Luckett and Richard Webster have also increased their salaries – not as much as Espy – but there has been no cry from the white community.
Dear-Moton pointed out that her mother was a civil rights activist and said it was time for Clarksdale to work together. She also said her ex-husband was a commissioner and worked long hours at work. Dear-Moton said the salary should be the same as county supervisors across the state who are paid around $ 40,000 per year.
Mayo said it’s not about race, it’s about money.
Mayo said the increases for the mayor and commissioner, increases for the department head and more than 100 city employees would total $ 416,400, which gives a breakdown of those numbers.
“Can any of you tell us where this money is coming from?” What’s your plan? “Mayo asked.” Or, do you plan to use the pandemic money and send the problem to the next council when you leave and enjoy a comfortable retirement on the backs of the Clarksdale taxpayers? ”
Mayo said his petition campaign aimed to collect 500 names and gathered 600 with at least 200 from the black community. He urged city officials to do the right thing for the future of Clarksdale.
After public comments, Plunk railed against Mayo, threatened to resign, said he would not run again and being 100% disabled he would not get the raise. Plunk swore and was shot by Espy.
Murphey and Turner made no comment. Seals said the board was legal in everything they did.
Espy spoke for the next 10 minutes about how he was thwarted by the white community by bringing a grocery store, hotel, water park, and housing development to Clarksdale. He said emails in the possession of Room Manager Levingston and Engineer Terry Smith supported some of these claims.
He alleged embezzlement by previous mayors.
Espy said he saved the city millions of dollars by renegotiating municipal insurance, reducing overtime and the number of police officers and working with Levingston, he created more than 300 jobs in the community.
Espy highlighted the concern of the white community that the city and county is now run by African Americans. He said 98% of those who voted for him were black.
Murphey was moved when he introduced the budget amendment motion.
Having already voted for the salary increases in June, the process required the board to vote first to change the salary increase and then take the next step which would have been to set the new salary amount. As the amendment failed, there was no vote on further salary increases.
Salary increases will begin this month.
In other cases:
• Mary Caradine of the Carnegie Public Library came to the Board of Trustees with a quote of $ 300,000 for the library roof repairs. Espy asked Caradine to get another quote.
• Andrea Johnson wanted to use the city auditorium for free for Seniors Day on August 21 and said last year’s event at the city auditorium was a great success. Plunk stressed that the city cannot legally waive fees for any public building, and Espy asked the commissions to pay the fees out of their own pocket.
• Plunk said he wanted to install speed bumps in his department and sought advice from the city attorney on how to proceed to make it both legal and safe.
• The city voted to pay the following bills: Anne Clark $ 350; Humber Rivers $ 200; Sanford Johnson $ 200; Chuck Espy mileage $ 495.60; Cornerstone $ 2,250.
• City Clerk Cathy Clark has recognized the bonds required for the Mayor, Commissioners, City Clerk and Chief of Police.
• The council voted to appoint the following commissioners as mayor pro tempore or vice-mayor for the next four years: 2021-2022, commissioner Seals; 2022-2023 Commissioner Plunk; 2023-24 Commissioner Murphey; 2024-25 Commissioner Turner.
• The city voted to approve a resolution appointing Espy as the Mississippi Municipal League’s voting delegate and appointed Commissioner Seals as an alternate. They are heading to the Gulf Coast for this meeting next week.
• The city accepted the retirement of police officer Jesse Barnes and allowed him to buy his service weapon for $ 1.
• The city hired Curtis Lynom as a patrol officer for the police department.
• The city fired Nicholas Turner, Sherita Morgan, Jeffrey Killion and Joe Reynolds as part-time police officers.
• The commissioner has approved leave for a firefighter.
• The commissioner was informed that the town was looking to sell the old fire truck to EEP, Inc. The town was told by its lawyer that there was a process to be followed to sell the town’s surplus assets.