City Council conducts business despite continued absence of Breland and Bumpers
At last night’s Picayune City Council meeting, council members Larry Breland and Lyn Bogan Bumpers were once again absent. Breland and Bumpers have not attended a council meeting since leaving the September 15th meeting when both exited that meeting prior to a vote to approve the city’s budget for fiscal year 2018. Both had openly protested the lack of a vote to include funding for a fence around a cemetery and bathroom construction at a park before leaving the meeting abruptly.
Near the end of last night's meeting, WRJW News asked Mayor Ed Pinero and City Attorney Nathan Farmer if there was an ordinance that existed to address a council member’s lack of attendance and what is the process if they continue to be absent?
Mayor Pinero asked Mr. Farmer “Will you look that up for us, unless you know off hand.” Farmer responded stating, “I will research the issue so I can fully answer the question, but at this point in time, in terms of absenteeism, I would say that would be between the constituents and the council person in the district's they represent.”
When asked if there was any recourse for the constituents in the district of a council person in regards to special or recall elections and if there is any precedent on that? Mr. Farmer stated “I have no idea. To be honest, I would have to research it and see if there might be an Attorney’s General’s opinion.”
When asked if he has had any correspondence with Breland or Bumpers since their last time with the council on September 15th, Mayor Pinero responded, “No.”
WRJW News later learned that Mississippi Code TITLE 97 in regards to Crimes - Chapter 11 - Offenses Involving Public Officials, 97-11-37 - Failure to perform any duty states: “If any person, being sheriff, clerk of any court, constable, assessor, or collector of taxes, or holding any county office whatever, or mayor, marshal, or constable, or any other officer of any city, town, or village, shall knowingly or willfully fail, neglect, or refuse to perform any of the duties required of him by law, or shall fail or refuse to keep any record required to be kept by law, or shall secrete the same, or shall violate his duty in any respect, he shall, on conviction thereof, be fined not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or be imprisoned in the county jail not exceeding six (6) months, or both.“
So what defines the terms being met or the actions that can be taken in regards to the statement above “shall knowingly or willfully fail, neglect, or refuse to perform any of the duties required of him by law..” ?
The question is whether Breland and Bumpers have refused to perform their duties as council members and if they continue to remain absent, what can be done? Is there a State Attorney General’s ruling that addresses how to either remove them from office by process or force them out by neglect of duty while their absence from council meetings continues. Or would they resign their seat on the council to allow a special election to elect someone willing to show up and serve the city?
WRJW News did confirm with one city employee that Breland had contacted him in regards to asking the employee to look into a situation in Breland’s district.
If the absence of Breland and Bumpers is an attempt to try to slow down government, it’s not working. As long as the other three council members (Wayne Gouguet, Tammy Valente, Jan Stevens) and the mayor attend meetings, they can conduct business and pass measures without any representation from the other two districts of the city.
So what do the constituents in those districts think about the current absenteeism? WRJW News spoke with one of Breland’s constituents after the meeting and he said he was unaware that Breland had not been attending the meetings.
If Breland and Bumpers choose to remain absent, will their constituents get fed up and take action to find a way to have them removed and have a special election to get representation in place again?
One can only hope that either Breland and Bumpers decide to come back and do what they have been elected and most fairly compensated to do: Serve the people they were elected by and perform the duties they were sworn to do. Or if they choose not to attend meetings, then please step aside and allow someone else a chance to represent their districts.