Starkville Board of Aldermen meetings could run late into their respective nights if two aldermen continue to block consent agenda items as they did Tuesday.
This week’s board meeting featured an usual twist after an alderman previously asked city staff to not place any business on Starkville’s consent agenda, a list of minor business approved in unison and usually without discussion.
City staff would not disclose who ordered the action, but Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins and his neighbor at the table, Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn, repeatedly objected to any and all attempts made by other aldermen to place routine travel requests and other small-ticket items on consent.
Both Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and Ward 3 Alderman David Little attempted to speed the meeting along by motioning for such moves, but Perkins and Vaughn shouted down their motions with stern calls of “Objection!”
The rapid-fire pace of Vaughn’s objections increased to a point where he would block Wynn’s motion before she even specified what item she wished to move to consent.
Perkins was approached by media after Tuesday’s meeting but entered a closed-door meeting with Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams, who was then sent out and said the vice mayor would not make himself available for comment that night.
The placement of items on consent can be blocked by any alderman simply wishing to do so. Blocking a consent agenda item does not require debate or a voice vote.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said while Tuesday’s lack of a consent agenda item was unusual, aldermen may continue to do so as they so wish in the future.
Aldermen drew numerous days of public criticism last month for their apparent inability to discuss major policy implications after the board unanimously extended insurance coverage to an adult of employees’ choosing.
The new blanket coverage also extended to employees’ same-sex partners, and the policy change evoked strong challenges from clergy and the religious community.
The board amended the policy by moving to only allow legally married spouses to benefit — Mississippi does not recognize same-sex marriage — but Wiseman’s eventual veto nixed aldermen’s action and reverted the policy to its original form.
Adams relegated to audience
Tuesday’s meeting also featured another irregularity: Instead of sitting with the board at his usual seat, Adams joined the public and watched the meeting from afar.
The division between Adams and the board grew to a physical one after aldermen previously blamed him and Wiseman for failing to communicate what the city’s “plus-one” insurance policy would mean for Starkville’s growing LGBT community.
It is not known if an alderman asked Adams to sit in the crowd or if a pending personnel matter to be discussed behind closed doors prompted the move, but the city’s top administrator jokingly noted Thursday that “the view was certainly different than usual.”
Undisclosed personnel items were listed for discussion in executive session Tuesday, but the board took no action.
Like other department heads, Adams’ position is not an elected one, and he reports directly to the board of aldermen.
Last year, aldermen fired former CAO Lynn Spruill in their first month in office without stating a reason behind the personnel move.
In other business, the board:
■ tabled a five-year, $30,000-maximum financing package for sidewalk improvements to Lafayette Street;
■ authorized the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to prepare and submit an application for a $400,000-maximum Mississippi Capital Improvements (CAP) Loan for improvements to the industrial park’s sanitary sewer system;
■ approved a cost-sharing agreement with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership for game day operations of the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit system.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch