By STEVEN NALLEY
Former Ward 1 Alderman Sumner Davis presented evidence at the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s meeting Tuesday to quell legal questions about a gate erected at Douglas McArthur Drive and Stark Road during his administration.
Davis said Ward 6 Alderman Roy Perkins, City Attorney Chris Latimer, City Clerk Taylor Adams and City Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill were correct at the board’s Oct. 16 meeting when they found no specific board order to install the gate, and he took no issue with Perkins’ statement in the same meeting that the board speaks through its minutes. He said he disputes the idea that the gate was not authorized by a board order at all.
“On March 21, 2000 ... (the board approved) the final closings of Maple Street, Redbud (Drive) and McArthur Drive in the Green Oaks subdivision,” Davis said. “This happened before I was on the board, so when I was elected to the board, I inherited that as an alderman for that ward. I received numerous concerns and complaints about violations of that board order.”
Davis said Starkville Police Chief David Lindley received complaints about such violations as well, so the two talked about — and tried — many solutions. The only effective solution before the gate was erected, he said, was to park a manned police car at Douglas McArthur Drive’s Stark Road entrance to catch and write tickets for violators.
“That’s not a tenable solution. It’s not an effective use of the police force,” Davis said. “So, in 2007, literally seven years after that board order passed, the police chief came up with a solution: Let’s put in a gate similar to what is at the airport to grant access to fire trucks.”
Davis said Lindley has the authority under Mississippi code to make such a move if he deems it necessary to enforce city law. He also said while Spruill said on Oct. 16 that she had not found the gate on the city’s claims docket yet, that item has since been found on the docket, and a check Spruill presented Oct. 16 should have been sufficient to prove it was there. To demonstrate this, former Starkville Mayor Dan Camp, who joined Davis before the board but did not say anything, produced an enlarged copy of the check and displayed it to the aldermen and the packed audience.
“This check... has a number which references its placement on the claims docket,” Davis said. “My point is, when Ms. Spruill said, ‘We have the check,’ the discussion should have pretty well been over.”
Davis then said he took issue with Perkins saying the gate was illegally placed and asking for it to be removed.
“That is making allegations — as reported the next day in the paper with my name in the next sentence — of Mayor Camp’s administration that something was done illegally,” Davis said. “In all honesty, the only thing that was done illegally, or attempted to be done illegally, surrounding this entire situation, was when Alderman Perkins attempted to direct Ms. Spruill to take the gate down as a board order.”
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman then thanked Davis for his time, stopping him. Davis’s presentation was one of the meeting’s public appearances, and Wiseman said earlier in the meeting that public appearances are limited to 10 minutes. When Davis finished, Perkins asked to respond to Davis’s comments, and Wiseman allowed it.
“I strongly and firmly deny any and all allegations regarding the allegation that was tendered to me this evening,” Perkins said. “Never would I distort any facts.”
After the meeting, Perkins said he specifically denies making allegations of illegal activity pertaining to the Douglas McArthur Drive gate and directing Spruill to take the gate down.
“I only said the board speaks through its minutes,” Perkins said. “Given the factual representation made by the chief administrative officer and the factual representation made by the city clerk, and the advice from the city attorney, the city attorney said it was not legal and proper. There was nothing improper about anything (I) said.”
During the meeting, Perkins said he wants to move past the Douglas McArthur Drive gate issue to more pressing issues for the city. After the meeting, Perkins said one detail about the enlarged check copy Camp presented still concerns him.
“I didn’t see anything on the copy of the check that indicated that the check was purportedly issued for a fence or gate for Douglas McArthur Drive. The only thing I remember seeing (was that the check was written) for a fence. I did not see anything (about the street in particular) on the check, unless it was an oversight on my part.”