McComb officials accepted a verbal resignation from interim city administrator Ebony Ross in a closed-door meeting Thursday afternoon and agreed to launch an internal investigation with a vote in which Selectman Devante Johnson recused himself.
Then in another special meeting on Friday, the mayor broke a tie vote to terminate an unidentified city employee, effective last Tuesday.
Thursday’s two-hour executive session centered on personnel matters and included three votes in which action was taken — to accept an unnamed employee’s verbal resignation, to reject a letter from the employee in which the person reportedly withdrew the resignation and to launch the internal investigation into unspecified matters.
The board reconvened in open session to announce the votes, which were all unanimous, with the exception of the internal investigation, in which Selectman Devante Johnson did not vote.
Mayor Quordiniah Lockley would not identify the city employee who resigned, but Ross told the Enterprise-Journal Tuesday night as the board was meeting in executive session that she was asked to resign and said she would fight the board’s demand for her resignation.
Another city official also confirmed this week that the city board was asking for Ross’ resignation.
Thursday’s special called meeting followed a contentious meeting Tuesday, when the city board voted to demand the resignation from the employee. The employee later verbally tendered a resignation, then withdrew it through a letter, according to motions made in executive session Thursday.
Since Tuesday’s meeting, allegations have surfaced on social media from an anonymous, disgruntled employee who claimed another city employee had committed worker’s compensation fraud.
The posts have since been deleted from the city’s Facebook page, but multiple fake social media accounts have taken to commenting on the city and Enterprise-Journal’s Facebook pages about the incident.
The Enterprise-Journal identified five accounts that are fake, many of which had profile photos using stock images, including one belonging to a supposed Hattiesburg resident who messaged Enterprise-Journal reporters, claiming to have inside information about wrongdoings in city hall. A reverse image search of the profile picture turned up a stock photo with the file name “Happy middle aged gray haired bearded man stock photo.”
The account made allegations that mirrored the since-deleted posts on the city hall Facebook page that alleged worker’s compensation fraud and an inappropriate relationships.
Of the alleged worker’s compensation fraud, the person behind the fake account said in a message, “It was not clerical. This happen since October, until she (the employee) was back at work. Lockley help HR get out of jam. HR help Lockley get rid of (the city administrator). Everyone win.”
The person behind the account refused to talk either in person or by phone and defended Ross’ position over the other employee, claiming the employee was caught committing worker’s comp fraud “when the documents got altered and (are) now missing.”
The account said Ross could confirm each of the allegations.
Sources in city government confirmed the worker’s compensation issue did happen, noting that the employee would have to pay the money back, and that the issue was between the employee and worker’s compensation, not the city.
Multiple anonymous sources in city hall said Ross was asked to resign because she allegedly waived the water reconnection fee of a selectman.
Waiving the reconnection fee is an illegal act, as is the selectman’s acceptance of the waiver, city officials said.
In the vote to launch the internal investigation, Selectman Ted Tullos made the motion and Selectman Michael Cameron seconded. The vote passed 5-0, with Johnson recusing himself.
Johnson also recused himself from the vote Tuesday night to demand the employee’s resignation.
Before Thursday’s meeting, an anonymous caller told the Enterprise-Journal that there would be a press conference before the meeting in which information about alleged fraud would be divulged.
The press conference never took place, but a reporter from WLBT in Jackson said she spoke with Ross before attending the meeting.
On Friday, the board returned to executive session to take up a personnel matter in a closed-door meeting that last a little more than an hour. The board voted 3-3 to fire an unidentified employee — who due to a slip of the mayor’s tongue was revealed to be a woman — with the mayor breaking the tie.
Selectmen Ted Tullos, Michael Cameron and Donovan Hill voted in favor of the termination, while selectmen Johnson, Shawn Williams and Ronnie Brock opposed.