Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins wants the mayor and his fellow aldermen to have more information about potential city hires and says department heads will be held accountable if they do not provide full reports to the board in the future.
Perkins’ first told The Dispatch he wanted more in-depth briefings days after learning a newly hired Starkville police officer, Garrett Mittan, was named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the estate of Ricky Ball, a 26-year-old shot by Columbus police after a traffic stop last year.
A second wrongful-death lawsuit listing Mittan and other Columbus police officers as defendants was filed in federal court Friday on behalf of Ricky Martin, Ball’s father.
Mittan joined SPD earlier this month after serving with the Columbus Police Department since 2013.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, Perkins instructed the city’s department heads to give City Clerk Lesa Hardin complete employment applications when she prepares board members’ agenda packets.
After the meeting, Perkins said his request was a “message to city staff and department heads” stating he wants to be “fully informed of any and all persons who may be recommended for hire,” whether they are full-time employees, part-time workers or independent contractors.
In the past, aldermen have received briefings on newly hired employees that “only contained two or three sentences and a cover sheet,” Perkins said.
While he would not comment specifically on the Mittan hire, Perkins did say aldermen “need to know the totality of the facts” surrounding a potential employee.
“Our department heads, they know all of these things. Even with prior situations, department heads knew a lot more than what was provided to the board. It’s the department head’s duty and the human resources director’s duty to gather information, compile it and present it to the decision-makers,” Perkins said. “I want to hold these individuals to a higher standard. We want to make sure we hire people who are very qualified, competent and who will get the job done, and who will be persons that make our city shine and put the city in a good light. That’s my high expectation.”
In the September lawsuit filed by Ball’s estate, Mittan is accused of planting a weapon at the scene of the October 2015 officer-involved shooting that killed Ball.
Authorities found a 9mm handgun belonging to Mittan near Ball’s body on the night of his death, a fact police did not report until 12 days later. The gun was reportedly stolen from Mittan’s home on Aug. 5, 2015.
The September lawsuit alleges Mittan was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene.
Former CPD officer Canyon Boykin shot and killed Ball after he fled a traffic stop. Boykin was recently indicted for manslaughter.
No criminal charges have been filed against Mittan, and the Mississippi Attorney General’s office has not publicly named him as a suspect.
Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols previously told The Dispatch he was aware Mittan was involved in the Ball investigation when he was hired. However, Nichols said he carefully vetted Mittan during the hiring process.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch