- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

McCOMB, Miss. (AP) - McComb officials are feuding over the mayor’s role, with some saying the current mayor, who’s white, is getting back some powers that were taken from the former mayor, who’s black.

A Board of Selectmen meeting devolved into a shouting match Tuesday, The Enterprise-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/2bjWzT9 ). African-American selectmen claimed biased treatment by the mayor and white selectmen.

After prolonged arguments, the board voted to restore some powers a previous board had stripped from then-Mayor Zach Patterson in 2009. The board at the time moved some duties to the city administrator.

The current board has been wrangling over how much Mayor Whitney Rawlings may express his opinion on matters selectmen are considering.

Selectman Ronnie Brock has been the most vocal board member asserting that the mayor’s role is limited to conducting meetings, maintaining parliamentary procedure and breaking tie votes.

Board attorney Wayne Dowdy has supported Rawlings’ view that the mayor may participate in debates, even if the mayor doesn’t vote on issues the selectmen are deciding.

In 2009, the board removed the mayor’s supervision of city department heads, including his authority to suspend them. That power was transferred to the city administrator.

In an unscheduled move Tuesday, Selectman Tommy McKenzie asked to amend the meeting agenda so the board could consider the matter of the mayor’s powers. Discussion quickly turned rancorous.

“You know this is black and white,” Brock said. “When we got our first African-American mayor here, this board put a harness in place to shut his mouth.”

McKenzie interjected to say he wasn’t on the board then. Brock replied, “You’re going to listen.”

Brock continued, “Now we have a white mayor and you want to take just the opposite position.”

After several minutes, McKenzie’s motion passed on a 31 vote.

___

Information from: Enterprise-Journal, https://www.enterprise-journal.com

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