Meridian Star

February 25, 2014

Attorneys agree to delay civil service hearings

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Terri Ferguson Smith

    With the future of the city's Civil Service Commission uncertain, two attorneys have agreed to delay two high profile hearings until the situation with four of the five commissioners is resolved.

    Michael Goggans, city attorney, issued a statement late Monday afternoon, stating that he and Bill Ready Jr., an attorney representing two fired Meridian Police Department officers, had agreed to the delay.

    Goggans said it was a joint statement from himself and Ready.

    "Because of the current uncertainty regarding four of Meridian’s Civil Service Commissioners, the city attorney and counsel for Don Hopkins and Dean Harper have jointly agreed to continue the Hopkins and Harper civil service appeals until such time as the issue of Removal of the Civil Service Commissioners is resolved," the statement said. " This joint request was delivered to the Commission and their attorney last Thursday."

     The statement noted that Goggans and Ready agree that the "continuance is necessary to ensure a fair and just adjudication of the appeals currently pending before the Civil Service Commission and is in the best interest of all parties.  The city, Hopkins and Harper all look forward to a prompt resolution of these cases at the soonest opportunity."

    Earlier this month, Mayor Percy Bland served four of the commissioners with notices of removal. They are: John Watts, chairman; Robert Stockton, Carol Smith and John House.

    Commissioner Frederick Liddell  was not given a notice of removal. He was appointed by Bland and confirmed by the City Council on Jan. 21.

    The mayor and city council disagree over who has the governing authority to remove commissioners and who has the authority to conduct their hearings. The city is awaiting an opinion from the Mississippi Attorney General's Office to answer that question. In the meantime, civil service hearings are being delayed.