Council members (L-R) Tammy Valente, Larry Breland, Jan Miller-Stevens
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Picayune City Council, councilman Wayne Gouguet made a motion to appoint David Mooneyhan to the Picayune School Board to replace Dr. Lori Blackmer whose term will end in March. Councilperson Tammy Valente seconded the motion. When Mayor Ed Pinero asked if there was any discussion on the matter before a vote would be taken, councilman Larry Breland took the floor to discuss his objection on the vote.
Councilman Breland asked, “Mr. Mayor, are you going to vote on this?”.
Pinero replied, “Yes I am.”
Breland told the council that according to Mississippi Ethics Commission, a mayor or alderman should not vote if they have a spouse employed as an administrator with a school district. Breland requested that the city attorney seek a written opinion from the Secretary of State and the Mississippi Ethics Commission on the matter. Breland said that he feels the council should not vote on the appointment of Mooneyhan until the opinions have been received.
Mayor Pinero responded saying, “I am very familiar with that. Nathan (Farmer-City Attorney) and I have discussed that and that’s one interpretation. It also states that if there is no financial, unethical, or any other means that would be derived from this. We are talking about a wife that’s been with the school system for 23 years and I’ve voted before and she has never received any benefit because of it, and she was an administrator before I was even elected. I have consulted with Nathan and there are opinions, and the opinions are based on when people are going to receive unethical benefits and are appointing people for that purpose.”
Breland responded that he was not implying anything unethical. He told Pinero that in the past Pinero had recused himself and others had done the same. Breland thinks the council should delay a decision until the opinions are requested and received.
When asked about the situation, City Attorney Nathan Farmer, who has served the city in that capacity for over 16 years, stated that it’s simply up to the individual to decide whether they want to vote or not vote and a personal matter of choice by the mayor. Farmer said he has seen situations where city council members have voted and not voted.
Mayor Pinero stated at the end of the discussion, “I feel perfectly competent in my ethics.”
The council voted 5-1 to approve the appointment of Mooneyhan with Breland voting against the appointment.
Also during the meeting, the city entered into a lease agreement with Southern Regional for property located at 306 Magnolia to store equipment that will be used to maintain the Crosby Commons. The property is adjacent to Crosby Commons and has a warehouse type facility according the Public Works Director Eric Morris.
The council accepted two grants from Wal-mart, both in the amount of $1,000.00. One grant is to be used to purchase public safety material for senior citizens and children. The other grant will be placed into the Summer Camp Fund.