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Jones v. City of Canton

Supreme Court of Mississippi

September 26, 2019

WALTER JONES
v.
THE CITY OF CANTON, MISSISSIPPI, FRED ESCO, JR., INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ALDERMAN, LES A. PENN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ALDERMAN, DAPHNE JOHNSON SIMS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ALDERWOMAN, ERIC GILKEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ALDERMAN, AND ANDREW GRANT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ALDERMAN

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/05/2018

          MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. STEVE S. RATCLIFF, III TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JOHN W. CHRISTOPHER.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: PIETER TEEUWISSEN KIMBERLY BANKS.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: JOHN W. CHRISTOPHER KIMBERLY BANKS PIETER TEEUWISSEN.

          BEFORE KING, P.J., MAXWELL AND GRIFFIS, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Walter Jones appeals the order of the Circuit Court of Madison County affirming his removal as trustee of the Canton Public School District (CPSD) by the Board of Aldermen (the Board) of the City of Canton (the City). Jones argues that the Board lacked the authority to remove him as a public official. Finding that the Board's actions were prohibited by the Mississippi Constitution, we agree.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Jones served as a trustee of the CPSD, appointed by the Board under Mississippi Code Section 37-7-203 (Supp. 2017).[1] His last appointment to a five-year term occurred in February 2016.

         ¶3. On February 20, 2018, William Truly, mayor of the City of Canton, and the Board met at Canton City Hall for a duly called meeting of the governing authorities. Truly determined the Board had a quorum, with only one alderman not in attendance. During the meeting, the Board discussed concerns involving CPSD. The meeting's minutes reflect the following:

There came on for consideration before the Board the matter of a school board member appointment. Alderwoman Daphne Sims expressed concern that the City was supposed to be kept abreast by the School Board members of school issues, and no one has been before the City Board to keep them abreast of the issues of the District. The Mayor addressed whether it was legal for an employee of the School District who sits on the Board of Aldermen to vote on the issues of the School District. When requested, Attorney Banks advised the Board on the statutory conditions to remove a Board member, per the Attorney General Opinions on the matter. Alderwoman Sims made the motion to remove Walter Jones, whose term will expire in 2021, for cause for being unwilling to serve and unwilling to keep the City abreast of what is going on in the school system, and replace him with Timothy Scott. Alderman Penn seconded the motion.

A majority of the aldermen voted in favor of the motion to remove Jones, and the mayor declared that the motion was carried by majority vote.

         ¶4. While the minutes reflect no authority for removal, Section 2-55 of the City's Code of Ordinances states that the Board shall remove "[e]very officer or employee who shall refuse or willfully neglect to perform the duties imposed upon him by ...


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