Rasberry renews appeal for funds
by Brian Jones
Jesse Ivy and Dr. Johnnie Rasberry addressed the Clay County Board of Supervisors March 24. Ivy questioned the involvement of the county attorney in a hearing before the election commission, and Rasberry was making the latest in a long line of requests for funding for an education and mentoring program. Jesse Ivy’s candidacy in the District 5 supervisor race was called into question because he also turned in qualification papers for the sheriff’s race. Ivy was subsequently disqualified from running for sheriff, and, at a March 15 hearing, the Clay County Election Commission disqualified him from the supervisor’s race as well. [Mr. Ivy was later reinstated to that race. – Brian Jones] Ivy appeared before the board of supervisors March 24 to question County Attorney Tom Storey’s involvement in the process. “My concern is whether this board authorized the board attorney to represent the county election commissioners in prohibiting a candidate running for office,” Ivy said. “He was representing the election commissioners at my hearing, and I was informed that they were entitled to his representation. Mr. Storey spoke out in opposition to me getting on the ballot.” “He represents all offices in the county,” said District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus. “Whatever the department, Mr. Storey is the official attorney for all offices. All he was doing [at the hearing] was reporting the law. They asked him where they stood on the law.” “I was just surprised that they would have an attorney,” Ivy said. “If I had known that I would have brought my own attorney. I thought he…I thought you had to authorize him to represent them.”? “He is at our disposal any time we need him,” said District 3 Supervisor RB Davis. “So at any county meeting or action he is obligated to represent them without the board’s authorization?” Ivy asked. “Mr. Storey did have board approval to do that,” interjected Chancery Clerk Robbie Robinson. “[Election Commissioner] Wendy Fuller came to this office,” Robinson said. “I was sitting in here with [District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deanes] discussing other business and she said she would feel more comfortable with legal help and Mr. Deanes said that would be fine and sent Mr. Storey up.” “But that wasn’t with the board’s authorization,” Ivy said. “The president of the board didn’t authorize it.” “I don’t have any problem with that,” Davis, who is board president, said. “I guess I’m just naïve and not looking at it like you are. I think if there’s a public function like that and the county attorney is there it’s a plus. As far as doing something against someone, I just don’t see it. He’s hired by the board, and he can be used any time for county purposes.” “I was asked to attend the meeting for the purposes of the hearing to give advice on the complicated election laws of the state of Mississippi,” Storey said. “I’ve been the head of the Democratic Executive Committee of the city of West Point for over 30 years, and I’m very familiar with election statutes. I was there only for that purpose. I did not participate in the vote or tell them what to do or anything like that.”
Rasberry once again made the case for a donation to his mentoring and education program. Rasberry, who is the head of the Southern Atlantic Corporation, has been trying since last year to get the supervisors to donate $25,000 to his program. The supervisors have declined to take any action, citing both the lack of funds and the fact that education matters are best left up to the school board. “I last came to you in January about this,” he said. “We’re hoping the county will see the need to assist our young people and young families with an educational grant. In 2008, only 48% of black males graduated from high school. I think we are more or less aware that we are having a very difficult time with our young me in education. We need, as local leaders, to try to alleviate or address some of these issues. The community, which would also include our politicians, needs to get involved in these programs. “What we’re hoping is that the board will see the need to make funding available,” Rasberry said. “We’re only asking for $25,000. I think we mentioned on several occasions that the board has found these particular funds available when there were other programs, especially involving the cold case task force. [This is misleading. The funding for the task force, had that project gone forward, would have come from seized drug money and not from the county’s general fund. – Brian Jones] I would like for you to seriously consider this. We’re having a very difficult time with our young men being incarcerated. The number of black males being incarcerated is very high compared to other racial groups.” “I feel the concern, we all do,” Lummus said. “You said in the letter you gave us that you’re concerned with students of low income. That covers all of Clay County with this economic depression we’re in. We are a low-income community. I feel good about what we’ve done as a board. We’re doing what we can do. What we do for one, we have to do for everybody. There’s a lot of people out there with the same kind of programs that they’re implementing that haven’t come to the board seeking funds. We can’t help this one and not help them all. “Our public school system is utilizing our tax dollars, and it’s unreal what they’re doing,” Lummus added. “I feel as a taxpayer I’m doing all I need to do to try to help everybody.” Lummus reiterated that the proposed cold case task force was not funded out of the general fund. “That sheriff’s department cold case task force was going to be funded with seized drug money,” Lummus said. “That was money that the sheriff had set aside for this very situation.” “We have cases in the West Point School District where we’ve got children entering school that have never been to an early childhood program,” Rasberry said. “These students enter school behind and in many cases never catch up.” The board took no action.