- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - The Meridian City Council has voted to cut the salary of Chief Administrative Officer Richie McAlister to $0, citing his performance.

Mayor Percy Bland says he will veto the action.

The Meridian Star reports the order passed 3-2 following an executive session Tuesday.

In a statement, Bland says the council’s actions “were not only political and personal, but also outside of their legislative authority.”

McAlister was hired as CAO in December 2015 after serving as Bland’s assistant for 2½ years. McAlister is paid $36.06 per hour regularly for an annual salary of $75,000.

Long-time administration critic Ward 5 Rep. Weston Lindemann introduced the order. He and McAlister have publicly feuded since Lindemann won the seat in 2017. Lindeman tried to eliminate the CAO position in December.

“At what point is the money amount worth it?” Lindemann asked. “For all the poor decisions that are made, all of the litigation that we have as a result of decisions that were made… the wasteful spending that wasn’t even approved by the council.

“I think the City of Meridian would be better served if we had someone else in that position.”

Lindemann started the meeting before Bland returned from his office, where he waited during executive session. Once Bland learned of the order, he said he would veto it.

“There are decisions that the executive branch makes, no matter if you agree with them or not,” Bland said. “You cannot be the mayor and a City Council person. You cannot be able to talk to our employees about decisions we’ve made as the executive branch. At the end of the day, no matter what your feelings are about those people or those situations, they’re our decisions to make. But if you want to go with what you have on the table, it’s your decision and y’all can vote on it.”

Lindemann told Bland he didn’t think the mayor could veto the decision, since the council had the “sole authority” to set salaries.

Bland pushed back, citing the Mississippi Code that said the “(CAO) shall be answerable solely to the mayor in the performance of his functions and shall be subject to dismissal at the pleasure of the mayor.”

Though McAlister hasn’t officially left the position, Lindemann discussed moving forward with the hiring process for a new CAO, conceding that any hiring decision would be Bland’s choice to make.

“I think the council in the past has had some involvement in the process… ultimately it’s the mayor’s appointment and the council confirms,” Lindemann said. “So once that gets started, however that gets started, we can revisit the salary and pay whoever this next person is based on what they’re worth.”

Bland said that he felt “like this was legislative overreach.


Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com

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