WEST POINT — West Point selectmen are remaining silent on the reasons surrounding former interim Electric Department Superintendent Shasta Plunkett”s firing. But business rolls on at the electric department.
After voting 4-1 to fire Plunkett Thursday, the board voted unanimously to hire Dwight Prisock as electric department superintendent.
Prisock, an electrical engineer from Starkville, has more than 35 years experience working as a consultant and systems planner for companies in Texas and Georgia. He co-owns an engineering firm, Control Process Systems, in Dallas and served as a consultant for Babcock and Wilcox in West Point from 1999-2003.
Currently living in Marietta, Ga., Prisock learned of the superintendent job opening from articles on The Dispatch”s website. He”s living with his mother in Starkville until he can move his wife, Rita, a West Point native, and his belongings to the area.
Prisock has already begun working at the electrical department and says he”s familiar with all his responsibilities.
“I should not need any training,” he said.
West Point Chief Administrative Officer Randy Jones, who also serves as Water and Light Department general manager, said Mayor Scott Ross and the board members handled the interview process and hiring.
“I wasn”t privy to any of the conversations,” said Jones. “This is one of those deals where the board did the interviews and came with the recommendation and hired (Prisock). I wasn”t really part of the process.”
Prisock, who will earn $60,000 per year as electric department superintendent, submitted one of three resumes for the job. Plunkett”s was one of the others.
Confidence in new hire
Members of the board expressed confidence in Prisock”s experience.
“He appears to have the qualifications,” said Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins.
“A whole variety of things contributed to his hiring,” said Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman regarding Prisock”s selection. “He”s well-rounded in the field.”
Both selectmen declined to comment on the reasons behind the board”s decision to fire Plunkett. But Collins did say Thursday”s decision wasn”t personal.
“We just went in a different direction. I don”t have anything bad to say about (Plunkett). Everything is based on the need of the community,” he said.
Pittman has stated in the past that Plunkett was a disruptive presence at the electric department.
“Too many things have happened. He”s not a people person at all. There have been too many run-ins, too many complaints from customers. He”s got too much baggage,” said Pittman in February after the board named Plunkett interim superintendent.
Accusation of intimidation
Pittman, Plunkett”s most outspoken opponent on the board, filed a complaint with the West Point Police Department Friday claiming Wayne Plunkett, Shasta Plunkett”s father, attempted to intimidate him following Thursday”s meeting. West Point interim Police Chief Bobby Lane said the complaint alleges harassment of a public official. Lane specifies Wayne Plunkett stood “real close behind” Pittman on the elevator at City Hall after the meeting and used his cellular phone to take pictures of Pittman in his truck, including shots of Pittman”s license plate.
“It was obvious what he was trying to do,” said Pittman. “But it didn”t work.”
No charges filed
Pittman expressed no plans to file charges, but he wanted to have the initial episode on record.
Lane said an officer was dispatched to speak with Wayne Plunkett and notify him of the complaint.
“Nothing will happen unless Pittman signs an affidavit against (Plunkett) for threats,” said Lane.
Wayne Plunkett was unavailable for comment at his home. Shasta Plunkett declined comment regarding his firing and the complaint against his father.
Lane said no further harassment complaints had been received from selectmen.
Pittman and Shasta Plunkett have been at odds for months. Pittman was the only selectman named in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed against the city by Plunkett in February, although two unnamed selectmen were also accused in the complaint of refusing to pay utility bills.
Following Plunkett”s acquittal on charges of disturbing the peace in October, Pittman claimed the trial was unfair because the presiding judge, Mark Cliett, is a personal friend of Plunkett”s.
Electric department activity
The electric department, part of the West Point Water and Light Department, has seen a flurry of activity in recent months.
A group of citizens addressed the Board of Selectmen April 13 complaining of unfair practices regarding disconnection dates, discrepancies in deposits and the department”s inability to accept payment via credit card.
In December and January the board transferred four employees” salaries to the Water and Light Department from the general fund in an effort to relieve a $700,000 budget shortfall.
Three employees were also hired in January followed by three more hires in March. The total additional annual expense to the Water and Light Department is approximately $320,000. The electric department shoulders approximately $98,000 of that expense.
One of the March hires, Theresa Moore, the new office manager for the Water and Light Department, required training from a CSA accountant at a cost of $125 an hour for five days.
Despite the additional expenses, Jones says the Water and Light Department remains solvent. Several salaries, including former Purchasing Clerk Bill Houghton, were lost to retirement, relieving some of the financial burden.
“We haven”t worked out the actual impact (of the departures) yet, but we”re getting by as far as I can tell,” said Jones.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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