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Buckhalter Appointment Questioned and Councilman Kabir Karriem Wonders Why

Ron Williams

At the Tuesday, July 2nd Columbus City Council meeting, Bernard Buckhalter was re-appointed to the Columbus Conventions & Visitors Bureau Board on a 4-2 vote (down racial lines with the 2 white councilmen, Ward 3’s Charlie Box and Ward 6’s Bill Gavin, opposed. RW). During his radio show on WTWG on Tuesday, Ward 5 City Councilman Kabir Karriem pondered why anyone would oppose Buckhalter’s re-appointment. He wondered, aloud, if it was because Buckhalter “asked questions” and has been vocal about racial issues that Buckhalter feels are prevalent on the CVB board. Of course, he never mentioned that Buckhalter’s re-appointment was in question because he works at a Starkville Wendy’s.

It was this columnist who discovered that Buckhalter was working in Starkville, not Columbus, months ago. Until Tuesday night’s re-appointment vote when Ward 6 City Councilman Bill Gavin mentioned that Buckhalter worked at an out of town restaurant, I don’t recall it being mentioned anywhere else except in private conversations. Looking back, I mentioned (in my column. RW) that Buckhalter was working out of town at least 4 times over the past few months, and added what a shame it was that Buckhalter was representing Columbus taxpayer interest while working in Starkville.
I also mentioned that according to the ordinance governing the CVB appointments, Buckhalter is apparently eligible to serve in that position because the silly ordinance only requires that the appointee’s name be referred to the council by a restaurant employee or owner that is subject to the 2% sales tax from which the CCVB derives its revenue. Some have long thought that the appointee must be an actual employee or owner of a Columbus or Lowndes County restaurant subject to the tax (which is the way it should be. RW).

But it wasn’t until Gavin mentioned it and the Commercial Dispatch ran a front page article (after he was re-appointed, not before. RW) that many people seem to be up in arms about it.

The other applicant for the position was Glenn Baldwin, who actually owns several Columbus restaurants that are subject to the 2% tax. In a Commercial Dispatch editorial, the daily actually opined that the council appointed the most least qualified person in Buckhalter (and as dead-on as that editorial was – it was too little, too late – again coming after the vote AND leading me to believe that they didn’t even know Buckhalter was working in Starkville until Gavin revealed it to them).

Not only did I discover that Buckhalter was working at the Starkville Wendy’s by actually seeing him there physically working, I verified it by calling the manager of the Highway 45 Columbus Wendy’s and asking her if Buckhalter was still employed at the local Wendy’s. The manager told me he was still working for the company, but not at either of the Columbus restaurants.

In my column from the March 8th Columbus Packet, I wrote, “Columbus CVB board member Bernard Buckhalter was appointed by The Columbus City Council to serve as a board member for the CVB representing the restaurant industry in Columbus. He was appointed because at the time, Buckhalter was an Assistant Manager at one of the Columbus Wendys Restaurants. I had been hearing for some time that Buckhalter no longer worked at a Columbus Wendys.

Last Sunday evening I was in Starkville and grabbed something to eat at the Wendys Drive-thru window. It was Buckhalter that handed me my food. This all means that Buckhalter still works for a Wendys Restaurant, but not working at a Columbus Wendys. A call to the local Columbus Wendys on Hwy 45 and a talk with the manager confirmed that Buckhalter no longer worked at The Columbus Wendys.”
March 8th was over 4 months ago.

Tim Hudson Done as Columbus City Prosecutor
Tim Hudson resigned his position as Columbus City Prosecutor, officially, at the end of June. Hudson wasn’t exactly sure, but served as city prosecutor for about 12 years. While serving as city prosecutor, an appointed position, he had also served as Lowndes County Prosecutor (an elected position. RW) until this past term in which he didn’t seek re-election. Allison Pritchard Kizer ran for the position and won it last November. Kizer had been supported by Hudson.
In addition to city and county prosecutor, Hudson had also been serving as the Lowndes County Board of Supervisor’s attorney, a capacity he will continue to serve in. It is also an appointed position.

Hudson will continue his local law practice (he’s a partner with State Representative Jeff Smith in the law firm of Sims & Sims. In fact, Sims & Sims are contracted with the supervisors so that when Hudson is out, Smith fills-in for him as board attorney. RW)

Apologies To Mayor Robert Smith
Sometimes while digging and trying to report the facts as best we can, we in the media biz get it wrong. I’m certainly no exception. But when I do so and am called out on it, I’ll be the first to admit so. I’m offering a retraction and apologies when I reported that city workers had planted flowers on private property at the entrance of Dean Acres, a subdivision in which Mayor Robert Smith resides. That entrance is actually city property and my reporting was incorrect.

With that said, I will dispute Mayor Smith’s comments at the July 2nd council meeting suggesting my story was meant as being, “mendacious and deceitful”. Mendacious is ‘lying’ and deceit is ‘fraudulent or to cheat’, none of which was intended. The assumption that city workers were working on private property came mainly from complaints from a couple of city residents who thought it was private property (And until the last annexation, was so. RW).

But, I’m not trying to divert blame. I am the one who said it and didn’t check the facts ahead of time before reporting. However – I did go by the land office last week and check the map. The property IS city property, though just barely. In other words…it’s so close to private property, one could see where a mistake can be made.

I will continue to strive and report the facts to the readers of the Packet. If I make a mistake, I’ll be the first to own-up to it. You can take that to the bank!

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

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3 comments

  1. Ron, I’m all for beautification in the city, but I was left wondering if the city is doing similar work at other housing subdivisions and developments within the city. Do any others have such signage and middle road flower beds, etc. such as that at Dean Acres? I can think of a few outside the city that have been threatened with annexation (Oakdale Park, Sherwood Forest and Bent Tree…but there might others). Are city taxpayers automatically responsible for maintenance for these center divider signs and flower beds when such properties are annexed into the city? I’m not trying to take away from the story and, while its not a burning topic, nonetheless I think city taxpayers should know. It might prevent such erroneous reports from citizens in the future. Call me curious.

  2. Aron Basett

    Karmal Korn can’t be fixed. I can’t understand why anyone would take him serious. This guy is so far out. His radio show should be banded from the air. If he was white he would have been taken of long ago.

  3. Ron, you’re right on that Kabir claimed Burkhalter’s reappointment was an issue for some people because he asked questions. Kabir did NOT mention on that broadcast that Burkhalter worked at a Starkville restaurant. I listened to the entire broadcast. He might have mentioned it in another of his radio shows but not THAT one.
    All the while championing Burkhalter’s right to ask questions at CCVB meetings, Kabir said that questions from public officials and private citizens about Burkhalter’s reappointment (working in another county, versus the other candidate who owns a Lowndes county business) are out of line, uncalled for and need to stop.
    If someone who works in a Tupelo restaurant, but lives in Lowndes county, were to be appointed to the CCVB, would it be unfair for some perception by local citizens that there is some conflict of interest going on there? How many times have local officials, Kabir Karriem included, made the argument that people on the inside know what is best, such as the school district, police department, etc? Burkhalter is not working in a local business, the other candidate is. It sounds like the insider argument only applies when it concerns someone Kabir prefers for a position.

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