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July 6, 2017 10:41:39 AM
Starkville is now looking for a new person to lead its sanitation department after aldermen unanimously voted to fire Emma Gandy Wednesday.
Gandy was the only department head not brought back to his or her position for the start of the term, as the board unanimously voted to continue employing 13 others in appointed, at-will positions.
While Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins' motion to relieve Gandy of her duties cited "a track record of consistent poor job performance," aldermen declined to comment any further on the personnel move after the meeting.
Aldermen gave Gandy until 11 a.m. today to clean out her office.
Gandy has served as sanitation director since 2012. Her salary was $56,675.
Calvin Ware will lead the department on an interim basis, and aldermen set July 25 as the deadline for applicants to submit their resumes to the city.
After the meeting, Gandy said she "knew something was coming" and believed some aldermen were not pleased that she filed a discrimination claim against the city through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after she was suspended without pay in April.
Officials on background confirmed the EEOC filing but offered no comment on the matter. It is believed the claim against the city is still pending.
Gandy offered no other comments on the board's decision.
The former Starkville Sanitation and Environmental Services director was suspended without pay for 10 days in 2013 and then placed on six months probation, which included a job performance review administered by then-Mayor Parker Wiseman.
That move came after aldermen met behind closed doors to hear a grievance from sanitation employee William Bell. The executive session yielded a motion to remove all evidence of a disciplinary action from his employment file.
In 2014, aldermen again met in executive session to discuss a personnel issue involving Gandy and Ware. No action was taken in that meeting.
The board voted 5-2 in April to suspend Gandy without pay for five business days. Also in that meeting, aldermen rejected sanitation employee Courtney Ross' April 10 resignation letter and terminated his employment, then voted 5-2 to tender a potential criminal case against Ross to District Attorney Scott Colom's office.
Although details about the incident involving Ross never surfaced, Perkins made multiple allusions about potential wrongdoing and lack of city rules governing purchase controls. Perkins would go on to instruct human resources director Navarrete Ashford to develop a new policy regarding purchasing.
City seeks RFPS for legal services
While aldermen extended board attorney Chris Latimer's contract Wednesday, the board also showed a willingness to entertain offers for new counsel.
Approved with the day's consent agenda, an item from Ward 3 Alderman David Little opens up a request for proposals process that could replace the Mitchell, McNutt and Sams attorney.
Latimer's current contract extends only until the board reviews proposals and approves a new contract. If Latimer wishes to continue his role as board attorney, he must also submit a proposal.
The deadline for proposals is July 25.
"(It's) good business practice. We do it for other items," Little told The Dispatch. "We are pleased with Latimer's services. I pay defense counsel bills daily, and I know we are getting a fair rate. Can someone possibly be cheaper? Maybe, but cheaper is not always better. Chris does an admirable job for the city and has institutional knowledge that can't be quantified. We are not bound to take the lowest bid for these services as they are professional services."
Latimer's contract, as approved by the previous board of aldermen, set a $125 per-hour fee for services capped at $100,000 annually unless additional expenditures are approved by the board. A $55 per-hour rate for paralegal assistance was also included in the contract and count toward the annual cap.
Latimer also collects additional fees for legal counsel on bond issuances and other debt instruments, including 1 percent of a bond issuance up to $3 million and 0.5 percent of any bond issuance over $3 million.
A vendor report outlining payments to Mitchell, McNutt and Sams from Oct. 1, 2013, to Tuesday shows the city has paid the firm $617,456.73 since the start of Fiscal Year 2013-14.
Aldermen first appointed Latimer as board attorney in 2009.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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