County supes suspend road manager


The Board of Supervisors approved a motion to suspend Oktibbeha County Road Manager Fred “Hal” Baggett for two work days following employee complaints at Monday’s board meeting. (Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

After two employees made complaints against Oktibbeha County Road Manager Fred “Hal” Baggett, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion to suspend Baggett for two work days at Monday’s board meeting.

The punishment includes a letter of reprimand.

Two employees of the Oktibbeha County Road Department came before the board Monday regarding their complaints of discrimination and favoritism against Baggett. Another employee of the road department came before the board as a witness to the complaints made.

Supervisors entered into an executive session, closed to the public, to hear the employee complaints. After the employees left, the board discussed the complaints with Baggett. No action was taken during the executive session.

Following the executive session, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard made a motion to publicly advertise all vacant positions in the road department. Board Vice President and District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery amended the motion so the job advertisement would include the job requirements for the available positions.

The motion passed unanimously.

“I just felt it was necessary to put in any procedures that would allow all employees in the road department the opportunity to apply for any available openings,” Howard said.

Next, District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller made a motion to suspend Baggett for a week and to put him on probation for 90 days.

The motion failed 2-3, with Board President and District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer, District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams and Howard opposed.

After Miller’s motion failed, Trainer suggested the board lower the days of suspension.

“I think a two-day suspension would be adequate,” Trainer said.

Instead of probation, Howard said he thought a letter should also go in Baggett’s file.

“I would say two days and put a letter in his file,” Howard said.

Trainer officially made the motion to suspend Baggett for two days, during Oct. 11-12, with a letter of reprimand.

The motion passed unanimously.

“We’re holding the road manager accountable,” Trainer said. “So we wanted to send a strong message that we’re expecting for him to help us to see if we can resolve those things.”

“And we did apply some encouragement by giving him some time to think about it and to find out what we and he can do to make everything work out,” Trainer added.

The letter of reprimand will be written by Board Attorney Rob Roberson.

“Basically there was enough information given by other employees that sometimes (Baggett) doesn’t speak to the employees the way he needs to,” Roberson said. “The letter will state his communication with his employees needs to be better.”

EXECUTIVE SESSION

Road employee Doris Harris was one of the employees who came before the board Monday to make an official complaint. The second employee asked to be left unnamed.

The employees made a joint complaint against Baggett alleging discrimination and favoritism.

The complaint comes after the employees were hired as drivers in the road department. The employees allege they held temporary positions as drivers for a six-month time period before they were promoted to full-time employees. The employees claim Baggett hired four full-time driver positions during their temporary employment without telling them about the full-time openings.

The employees also made complaints of name calling. The witness present before the board supported the employees’ claims.

During the executive session, Baggett never admitted to wrongdoing.

“He never admitted that he ever said any of the things alleged against him,” Roberson said. “But the board thought there was at least enough evidence to think that something had been said.”

Baggett said he had no response in regards to Harris’ complaints against him.

“(Harris) is a good driver,” Baggett said. “I don’t have a problem with her.”

Baggett could not be reached for further comment after the meeting.

“As far as the board is concerned this is now a closed issue,” Roberson said. “If more evidence surfaces we will deal with that when it comes.”

Following the board meeting, a recording between Baggett and the employee who wished to remain anonymous was obtained by the Starkville Daily News.

During the recording, Baggett said the following statement to the employee, explaining one reason the employee was not hired for a position he wanted:

“I’ve gotta be able to trust whoever is sitting right there with me. I’ve got to know I can trust them. I don’t know you that well, and the stuff I know about you is not that great.”

Baggett also told the employee his poor driving record was a reason he was not hired for the position.

No further board action has been taken.

HISTORY OF COMPLAINTS

The two employee complaints Monday follow previous complaints alleged against Baggett.

A state investigation of the county was concluded in May after a road department employee filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim against the county alleging discrimination.

The employee who filed the complaint, Casey Harrison, claimed Baggett subjected him to “continued harassment” and “threats of losing his job.”

The EEOC claim was later dismissed.

Following Harrison’s complaint, former road department employee Justin Denson filed a lawsuit against Baggett in July.

The complaint was listed as race-based job discrimination.

IN OTHER NEWS

During Monday’s meeting, Williams made a motion to appoint Michael Taylor as the county’s Golden Triangle Development LINK board member.

The motion passed 3-2, with Miller and Montgomery opposed.

The appointment comes after the board had split votes for Michael Wolfe and Joseph Landfair during the Sept. 17 meeting with Howard absent.

Taylor is a paralegal investigator at Crawley Law in Louisville and a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Taylor also played football for Mississippi State University from 1985-1987.

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