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Hiring decision for fire department assistance tabled; prosecutor appointment came down to straws

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors delayed the approval of hiring an employee to assist the volunteer fire departments in the county and they also appointed a new county prosecutor by a draw of straws.

Emergency Management Director and Fire Services Coordinator Danny Manley had discussed and received approval at a previous board meeting to move forward with selecting a person to assist him with administration work with those voluntary fire departments who wanted help with administrative paperwork.

The administrative help would be available to all the fire departments, but not mandatory according to Manley. Manley would also take the responsibility of overseeing the expenditures of the fire departments to ensure the money was being spent on items needed and the money drawn from the correct county account for each department.

At Monday’s meeting, when Manley made a request to hire the person at a salary of $36,000.00 and a motion was made to accept the request, District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday asked for the process to be stopped and at which time he voiced concerns about the need for this person. Holliday said he had met with individuals with the fire departments that were not on board with this move. Manley responded saying that he had met with those involved and did not get that feedback and told Holliday that some of those people may not be telling him (Holliday) the truth.

Danny Manley (right) discusses fire department oversight process with Hudson Holliday.

Holliday said that he would like to have a meeting with all twelve of the volunteer fire departments and make sure they are all on board with the plan. Manley agreed and stated that he had already had a meeting setup with the group for Thursday forother reasons

The crux of what Manley explained was to ensure there is oversight in place, but not take away the fire departments’ ability to make purchases as some had apparently told Holliday in his discussion with them. Manley said his goal is to make it easier from the paperwork and related tasks for the volunteer fire department personnel.

The board rescinded the motion and all agreed to meet with the fire department personnel to ensure everyone understood the process and the role of the person that will be hired once approved by the board.

Also during the meeting, the board accepted the resignation of county prosecutor Aaron Russell and immediately heard from lawyers who showed their interest in fulfilling the rest of the term. Gerald Patch, James “Jim” Gray, William “Bill” Cruse, and Mike Patten all spoke briefly to the board about their desire to take the job for the remainder of the term.

Mike Patten draws the winning straw from the hat held by Scott Hillery, President of Pearl River County Bar Association.

The board went into executive session and emerged later to said that they were unable to make a decision by vote because they felt all four candidates were duly qualified. Board Attorney Joe Montgomery then explained that in these circumstances, the board has the right to execute a drawing to decide who should be the winner. The candidates drew straws, with the shortest straw to be the winner, and Mike Patten was the winner.

Patten is a native of Poplarville, Mississippi. He joined Williams, Williams & Montgomery, P.A. in 1984 an is head of the firm’s real estate practice. He lives in Poplarville.

The election to permanently fill the position will be in November 2019. All four men in the selection process today have said they plan to run for election for the position in the election. Patten will serve in the position until January 2020.


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