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Commission votes to ‘censure ‘Harris

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

A lengthy session of Lowndes County Commission, Tuesday, Aug. 14th, that covered a wide gamut of subjects from discussion of reducing weight limits on heavy trucks to help curb damage on certain Lowndes County Roads to garbage service collection issues with Liberty Garbage Services ended with the surprise “censure“ by the commission of Commissioner Robert Harris.

As Tuesday’s commission meeting was coming to a close, Commissioner Dickson Farrior told Commission Chairman Carnell McAlpine, “I’ve got a resolution I’d like Ms. (Jackie) Thomas (commission administrator) to read and enter into the minutes.” The item was titled “Resolution of Censure.”

That resolution, approved with Farrior, McAlpine and Commissioner Joseph (Joey) Barganier all voting in favor and Commissioners Harris and Joshua Simmons voting “no,” cited Harris’ for repeated involvement of the of the personalities of McAlpine, Farrior and Barganier and repeated attacks of the motives of McAlpine and Farrior in violation of the rules of procedure for conducting commission meetings.

Prior to a vote to cut off the debate and a vote to censure Harris, Harris asked County Attorney Hank Sanders, “If these are not accurate, correct statements that are in here, what is the repercussion that I have?”

Sanders said, “I believe that they are accurate.” But he told Harris, “If they are not accurate, I don’t know what can be done. They are elected officials. You are an elected official. You don’t have the usual rights for slanders and other kinds of things… I don’t know of anything that you can do legally about it.”

When Harris asked if the resolution was an attempt to do something “legally” toward him, Sanders responded, “It’s just an attempt to censure you.” Sanders explained passage of the resolution meant Harris was found to do things that “are in violation of the rules of procedure of the county.”

In another exchange, Sanders told Harris, “I believe that what’s in there is fairly stated because I have heard you myself … say all kinds of things. I’ve heard you myself disturb the commission.”

The text of the “Resolution of Censure” approved is as follows:

“Whereas, the Lowndes County Commission has official Rules of Procedure for conducting commission meetings.

“Whereas, these Rules of Procedure, among other things, provide in VI-Rules of Debate – A. Decorum, as follows:

“1. Every Commissioner desiring to speak should address the chair, and upon said recognition by the chair should confine discussion to the question under debate avoiding all personalities and unprofessional language.

“2. Commissioners shall refrain from attacking a member’s motives; speaking on a prior motion not pending; speaking while the chair or other commission members are speaking; speaking against their own motions; and disturbing the commission.

“3. When a motion is presented and seconded, it is under consideration and no other motion shall be received thereafter, except motions to adjourn, to lay on the table, to postpone, to carry over, to substitute, or to amend which shall have preference in the order in which they are listed.

“Whereas, Commissioner Robert Harris has repeatedly involved the personalities of Commission Chair Carnell McAlpine, Commissioner Dickson Farrior and Commissioner Joey Barganier in violation of said Rules of Procedure.

“Whereas, Commissioner Robert Harris has repeatedly used unprofessional language concerning Commissioner Dickson Farrior, Commission Chair Carnell McAlpine and Commissioner Joey Bargainer.

“Whereas, Commissioner Robert Harris has repeatedly attacked the motives of members, specifically Commissioner Chair Carnell McAlpine and Commissioner Dickson Farrior in violation of said Rules of Procedure.

“Whereas, Commissioner Robert Harris has repeatedly disturbed the commission in violation of said Rules of Procedure.

“Whereas, Commissioner Robert Harris has repeated used race to attack Commissioner McAlpine, Farrior and Barganier in commission meetings.

“Whereas, a few of the specifics include Commissioner Robert Harris making statements summarized as follows:

“1. Commissioner Chair Carnell McAlpine was voting a certain way because he was controlled by the county commissioners who are white.

“2 Commissioner Chair Carnell McAlpine’s ‘blood is not right.’

“3. Commissioner Chair Carnell McAlpine has been ‘bought by the devil.’

“4. Commissioner Dickson Farrior was voting on a seven mile stretch of road because he has property on the road.

“5. Commissioner Farrior thinks that he runs the commission.

“6. A motion to adjourn was made pursuant to the Rules of Procedure, VI Rules of Debate, A-Decorum B (3) and Commissioner Robert Harris continued attacking insisting that a motion to adjourn was not proper even though the attorney said that a motion to adjourn is in order at any time.

“Whereas, commissioners have repeatedly objected to these acts which violate the Rules of Procedure of the Lowndes County Commission meeting.

“Now Therefor, based upon the foregoing: the commission hereby censures Commissioner Robert Harris for said conduct which violates the Lowndes County Commission Rules of Procedure.

“Further, the commission hereby directs Commissioner Robert Harris to cease and desist from such violations in future commission meetings.

“Now Therefore, the commission hereby directs that a copy of this Resolution of Censure be published in the Lowndes Signal newspaper and posted on the courthouse bulletin board.”

The resolution was adopted Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018.