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Howard Smart Sues Lowndes County: Loses Suit!

Ron Williams

Former Lowndes County Road Department employee Howard Smart (who was also a candidate for District 4 supervisor, recently, but was disposed of by incumbent Jeff Smith in the Democratic Primary. RW) sued the county over his dismissal from 3 years ago. Actually, according to Board President Harry Sanders, Smart was “laid-off” after his superintendent position was eliminated at that time. He was later offered a road foreman position in District 2, one that he never took. Smart decided, instead, to “have his day in court.”
Beginning Monday, Smart got his day in court. As a matter of fact, he got two days. The federal jury trial in Aberdeen got underway Monday in the ‘racial discrimination’ lawsuit that Smart filed against Lowndes County. Smart was supported by former District 4 Supervisor Jim Terry as well as former Lowndes County Road Manager Rocky Allen, who was fired in 2008. Terry was convicted of making and allowing improper purchases on the county-issued Fuelman Card.
Called to testify on the county’s behalf was Sanders, District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, Road Manager Ronnie Burns, Assistant Road Manager Tommy Kidd and County Administrator Ralph Billingsley.
Sanders said it was Brooks’ testimony that gave the final blow to Smart. When asked by Smart’s attorney, Mike Cook of Iuka, if Brooks had been trying to get rid of Smart, Brooks reportedly answered he’d been trying to get rid of him for 8 years. That statement reportedly brought a chuckle from some of the pro-county crowd.
Sanders said the jury returned an 8-0 verdict in favor of the county.
Sanders said he hoped that the verdict would discourage many in the future from trying to sue the county. Over the past 25 years, numerous lawsuits have been filed by former county employees, former road foremans and county administrators against Lowndes County. Most all were unsuccessful.
No word was given on the possibility of an appeal. In unanimous decisions against, they rarely are filed.

Runoff Election Tuesday, August 23rd for Republican Nomination for Sheriff, Superintendent and
Democrat Governor Nomination!

A runoff election to determine the Lowndes County sheriff and school superintendent will be held Tuesday, August 23rd. Those who participated in the August 2nd Primary election are encouraged to go back to the polls on that date to determine the party nominee’s.
A runoff to determine the governor nominee for the Democrat party will also be held that day. Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree will battle Clarksdale businessman Bill Luckett for the nomination. The winner will move on to the November General election to take on Republican nominee (and current Lt. Governor) Phil Bryant.
If you voted in the Republican or Democrat primary, you’ll be limited to voting for the party you voted for on August 2nd. You can’t switch parties. Also, if you registered to vote within 30 days of the runoff election, you can also vote in the party primary runoff of your choice.
The Republican sheriff candidates are Mike Arledge and Bo Harris. Arledge barely missed avoiding a runoff by garnering 49.66% of the vote on August 2nd. A candidate must receive 50% + 1 vote to avoid a runoff.
In the county superintendents race, Lynn Wright led the ticket and will runoff with second place finisher Edna McGill.
About 36% of the county electorate participated in the first election. Generally, only about 10-12% return to the polls during runoffs. That makes it possible for 2nd place finishers to get their people back out and possibly pull off an upset, though it rarely happens. The chances of voters returning to the polls who voted for a candidate that was eliminated in the first round is slim. But, those voters can return to the polls and cast their votes for one of the two remaining candidates.
In a related matter, I’ve received several phone calls and emails concerning superintendent candidate Lynn Wright. The callers, refusing to give out their names, asked me to check out a story that Wright, who was fired from New Hope because of an alleged improper lawn mower purchase, was involved in a similar incident while serving at Pickens Academy in Carrolton, Alabama. After speaking with a few people in-the-know around Carrolton…they said there was nothing to that allegation! They stood behind Wright!
As a matter of fact, ever since Mr. Wright first qualified back on March 1st, I had been asked to check out his residence status and other possible scenarios that would possibly disqualify him of running for county school superintendent. Everything I checked out turned out to be legit on the part of Mr. Wright. He is a legal resident of Lowndes County and appears to be a qualified candidate.

District 39 State Representative Jeff Smith is Thankful!

District 39 State Representative Jeff Smith dropped me a line on his recent reelection after defeating challenger Jack Larmour on August 2nd. Here is Jeff’s message to voters:
“Ron: I thought I’d drop you a note and not talk so much about me winning my
election as telling you what comment I heard the most. Of all the comments I got or heard, the most common one and by far the most satisfying one was, “Jeff, I am so glad you ignored those nasty negative ads and stayed clean and positive” I think this sums up how people feel of negative campaigning or politics as usual. God bless those expressing comments on negative campaign tactics and maybe politicians should listen.”

Freelance Writer for Commercial Dispatch Garners DUI!

A gentleman who described himself as a “freelance writer for the Commercial Dispatch” represented himself in Lowndes County Justice Court, Tuesday, in a case where he had gone through a Mississippi Highway Patrol road block back in July and received a DUI from MHP officer Lawrence Lard. The road block was located on Hwy 82 West near the Old West Point Road overpass (I believe I came through that same road block on the same night after returning home from The Junction. RW).
In acting as his own lawyer in the case (and having no witnesses. RW), the gentleman did a really fine job. For a short time, he appeared to have Officer Lard on the ropes during his intense questioning of him. (Officer Lard apparently took the defendant to the sheriff’s office for a machine intoxilizer. Lard had testified that the gentleman had refused to take the portable test, to which the gentleman disputed. RW).
The defendant claimed that Lard, while in route to taking him to the sheriff’s office, tried to pull over another driver and claimed Lard asked the driver to blow into the portable intoxilizer (the defendant claims the portable was the same one used on him and that Lard never changed the tubing in the device. RW).
The guy had a pretty good case going…until he decided to take the stand in his own defense. This is where County Prosecutor Tim Hudson shot his case down.
Hudson asked the defendant about previous testimony in where he said he had worked an 8 hour shift at The Dispatch (being a Saturday night, he said the Dispatch deadline for stories for the Sunday paper was 10:30 p.m. He then stated he left and went somewhere to have a drink. RW). Hudson asked the defendant where it was he went to have a drink. The defendant answered, “I don’t remember”.
Hudson then asked the defendant what he had to drink. “I can’t remember”, was the answer.
Hudson then asked him how much he had to drink. He wasn’t sure but was pretty sure it was only one drink and not near enough to register DUI.
Previously, the defendant had remembered precise moments and events leading up to his arrest and his trip to the sheriff’s department by Lard. in questioning by Hudson, he suddenly couldn’t remember particulars that were vital to his own defense. This, in the long run, became his downfall.
Judge Phillips found him guilty and he was fined $886.00 and given 6 months probation. His jail time was suspended. The defendant immediately said he wanted to appeal to county court. His appeal bond was set at $1,000.
Speaking of fines, I had received an overtime parking ticket from the CPD on August 1st when I parked over the two hour limit in front of the Lowndes County Courthouse back on August 1st while covering a Lowndes County supervisor meeting for The Packet. In my more than 10 years of covering meetings at the courthouse, it was my first overtime parking ticket I had received.
I put the ticket over my visor and never looked at it again until last Thursday, August 11th. It was a good thing I did…that was the due date of the $10 fine. I went by the municipal complex that houses the Columbus Police Department and paid the fine. I stated that I didn’t want to end up on an old-fine not-collected list.

Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com


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