The Mississippi Ethics Commission is set to hear arguments next month over an ongoing complaint case against the city of Columbus.
The Commission will hear arguments at 10 a.m. on Sept. 14 in its Jackson offices for the case, which centers on questions of Mayor Robert Smith’s conduct in discussions between the city and county about a firing range on Yorkville Road.
The Dispatch filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission last year after Smith sent a letter to Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders regarding the operation and management of the Yorkville Road firing range.
“I am advising by this letter that it is the unanimous opinion of the Columbus City Council, and I totally agree with them, that the small arms range should be operated and managed by the city of Columbus,” the April 28, 2015, letter reads.
The mayor stated in the letter that he had “discussed this matter with each” Columbus councilman. He also stated that he and the council proposed that the city maintain the range and bill the county for half of the costs.
The Dispatch is alleging that city leaders, by not discussing the matter in a public meeting, violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.
According to an Ethics Commission preliminary report issued in May, the city claimed Smith met with three councilmen by happenstance, individually, and each time discussed the operation of the firing range.
The Commission took no issue with the happenstance meetings, but found a problem when Smith called the city’s three remaining councilmen about the firing range in the following days.
The city has disputed the timeline the Ethics Commission used to make their determination.
The preliminary report recommended a $500 fine on Smith. The city has since filed an objection to the report.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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