At their Thursday, September 15th board meeting, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors addressed a concern about the sheriff candidacy of Juvenile Detention Center Director Anthony Nelson. The concern is if Nelson, who is a county department head, might fall under the federal Hatch Act. Hatch Act concerns had already caused Columbus City Interim Police Chief Selvain McQueen, who had defeated Nelson in the Democrat-nomination race back in August, to pull out of the race.
After the Lowndes County Democrat Executive Committee met and named Nelson as a replacement to McQueen, the Hatch Act question arose once again, this time for Nelson.
Board President Harry Sanders brought up the subject near the end of the board meeting last week. Sanders wanted board attorney Tim Hudson to look into the matter. Sanders concern, he said, was for the county, who could possibly lose federal funding if Nelson were to be found in violation. (Though that statement is still questionable. RW) District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks wanted Sanders to put it in the form of a motion so that he could vote against it . Brooks had said he didn’t want to be perceived as interfering with the electoral process. Both Brooks and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith serve on the Lowndes Democrat Executive Committee.
Brooks stated to Sanders that he didn’t want the public to perceive he was a part of a “witch hunt” against the Democrat nominee, though he told Sanders that may not be his intention. Brooks stated he would probably recuse himself (because of his involvement as a Democrat Executive Committe member) but he wondered about Sanders intentions.
“Especially coming from you (he was speaking to Sanders. RW), a good Republican trying to get a Democrat out of the race, you know…it could be that they’re trying to help a Republican walk in there. Now that wouldn’t happen in Lowndes County…and I know you wouldn’t do anything like that, because I’ve known you too long…you certainly wouldn’t play no political tricks” Brooks playfully said to Sanders. “But now, I think we need to put it on the minutes so we (Brooks and Smith) can recuse ourselves.”
(Incidentally, the complete opposite happened in Noxubee County this week. While there has been some suggestions that the Hatch Act controversy might be racially motivated because McQueen and Nelson are black and Lowndes Republican nominee Mike Arledge is white, what happened in Noxubee County would be the reverse of that. Noxubee County Chief Deputy Terry Grassaree, a black Democrat, would have faced two independent candidates for the sheriff’s race in November. One of the independent candidates, Macon Police Chief Petey Freshour, who is white, dropped out of the race after being notified by the Justice Department that he was in violation of the Hatch Act. And, the other independent candidate, Felicia Slaughter Ivy, also dropped out of the race. Meaning…Democrat Grassaree will now “walk” into the Noxubee sheriff’s office in January. No word, yet, if anyone is thinking the Hatch Act decision forcing Freshour out of the race is “racially-motivated” or not. It, of course, isn’t. The Hatch Act covers certain candidates regardless of race, creed or color. If you’re in violation, you’re in violation regardless of color or political affiliation. Congrats are in order for Grassaree. All that being said, these facts should lay to rest any thought or implication that these Hatch Act concerns are racially-motivated, in my opinion. RW).
I’m not an attorney, but I’ve been seeing different cases of Hatch Act concerns and possible violations not only locally, but all over the state lately. In my informed opinion, Nelson might not be in violation of the Hatch Act. I base my opinion on similar cases, but again, I’m not an attorney.
I’ve also found out that an attorney for the Office of Special Counsel will give an opinion on a possible Hatch Act violation based largely upon information provided them by the person either filing the complaint, or the accused. These opinions can be vague in nature, obviously. Without a full-fledged investigation by the Office of Special Counsel, which would mean being provided information involving federal grants and money used by the particular agency in question, there is no way of knowing whether an individual is truly in violation. An opinion given by an attorney without that investigation is just as it is – a legal opinion!
In fact, there have been instances of candidates getting elected who are probably in violation of the Hatch Act. Without a complaint, or an investigation as a result of said complaint, we’ll never really know.
At last word, County Attorney Tim Hudson had yet to hear from the Office of Special Counsel on whether Nelson could be in violation or not.
Superintendent Candidate Roger Hill Runs No More
Speaking of pulling out of political races, independent Roger Hill has pulled out of the Lowndes County Superintendents race leaving only Democrat nominee Cliff Reynolds, Republican nominee Lynn Wright and independent Rusty Greene in the race moving forward.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0