The McComb city board refused to reimburse the mayor’s expenses for a trip to Jackson to meet with a lawyer hired to conduct an investigation into unspecified City Hall affairs.
The vote followed a heated dispute before the bord met for an hour and a half in executive session to discuss three litigation matters and a personnel matter.
Tempers flared when the board took up Mayor Quordiniah Lockley’s request for travel reimbursement for a Dec. 14 trip to Jackson to meet with lawyer Jim Warren.
Selectman Devante Johnson told the board he was against paying the mileage reimbursement because the city paid Warren for the internal investigation and he should be the one to travel.
“We are paying this guy to conduct an investigation for us, and we have to pay for people to go meet with him?” he said. “It was my understanding that he would be coming here. I am not for paying someone to do an investigation if we have to pay outside expenses for people to go meet with him.”
Selectman Ronnie Brock asked Lockley why he had to go to Warren rather than Warren come to McComb. Lockley said he did not know and that was a question to ask Warren.
Several times during the discussion, board attorney Angela Cockerham warned the board about speaking to the merits of the investigation, noting that the board was “treading on some very thin ice.”
She said board members could agree to the reimbursement or go into executive session to discuss the investigation and the details of what Warren was hired to do.
Lockley said he could be reimbursed because he used his personal vehicle to make the trip instead of a city-owned vehicle. Cockerham asked Lockley if a city vehicle was available at the time, and he said there was not.
Cockerham butted heads multiple times with Selectman Michael Cameron, who said that the board did not need to go into executive session just to speak about reimbursement of the mayor’s travel. Selectman Ted Tullos threw his support for reimbursing the mayor.
“The mayor did what he was required to do, so I think we need to vote on this issue,” Tullos said. “Pay the man if he did what he did what he was told to do.”
Johnson, who attended the 2019 National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C., after the city board split on a vote to pay for travel expenses for him and other selectmen, made a motion to skip the mayor’s reimbursement. That vote failed 2-3, with Johnson and Selectman Shawn Williams in favor of skipping the item, and Cameron, Brock and Tullos against skipping it. Selectman Donovan Hill was absent.
Cameron called for the vote, and the board voted 2-3 against paying the mayor back for his travel. Tullos and Cameron voted for the reimbursement, and Johnson, Brock and Williams opposed. Selectman Donovan Hill was absent.
Lockley noted no action was taken during the extended executive session.