Firings and evictions at water park...is it retaliation? - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Firings and evictions at water park...is it retaliation?

By Mike McDaniel - bio | email | Twitter

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - For the last two years Dalton Lumpkin and his wife have called site number 63 at Little Black Creek Water Park home.

"I love this park, I don't even like to go to town, I don't like to leave out the front gate," said Lumpkin.

But that's just what's about to happen, for good. The same goes for now former park ranger John McNeese who's worked the night shift at the park for the last five years.

"I would like to stay and serve the people of this lake that I like so much, I would," said McNeese.

McNeese was fired Monday,  and the Lumpkins were handed an eviction notice. Now all of them have two weeks to get off the property. They say it's direct retaliation from the Pat Harrison Waterway District which oversees the park. This after a group of campers brought a list of safety concerns and pictures to last weeks board meeting.

"Due to their actions at the board meeting and since and their inactions about keeping this park maintained, it's personal now," said Lumpkin. When asked why he though they were being targeted, Lumpkin said "I don't think they want it publicized they weren't maintaining the park."

In exchange for their park site, Dalton entered a contract with the district to do small maintenance work. Now, that contract has been terminated with Dalton and his wife being told to leave because of an alleged "violation" which was not given.

District Executive Director Hiram Boone did not return phone calls, instead board Attorney Jolly Matthews did saying.

"The contract states either party could terminate the contract at any time without reason. We think that we just have some disgruntled campers," said Matthews.

"We've done what we thought was best for the public so they'd have a nice safe clean place to come camp," said Lumpkin.

Since those concerns were brought to the board, some issues have been corrected. But, not everything. Rotten wood remains on some of the railings around the picnic areas and more railing has actually fallen, exposing nails.

According to the former ranger that's just scratching the surface.

"Certain things we we're supposed to tell about or talk about," said McNeese.

Now terminated McNeese says he's not afraid to talk.

"I don't have to lie no more as I'm told to do my job and shut up," said McNeese. "I've seen sewer directly out of a sewer rock filter, pumped directly on the ground that I've seen and discovered that it did run into the lake and I did question about it"

McNeese says he was told to keep his mouth shut and do his job and that it was cleared.

According to McNeese's termination letter, there were two violations. The first, the shooting of a rouge dog on site, which McNeese says he was told to do. The second, letting unauthorized people behind the counter in the park office, a claim mcNeese says is false. When asked about the firing attorney Jolly Matthews said "I can't discuss personnel issues."

"I did not even allow my own child to go behind that counter," said McNeese.

McNeese says there's lots of work not being done which is long overdue, and personally reported by him, from dead trees and limbs, some left over from Hurricane Katrina, to exposed electrical wires and an infestation of bedbugs in the cabins.

"It's a lot better, haven't seen them in a while but they have been there," said McNeese, also adding that information, to his knowledge, was never disclosed to campers.

McNeese even has a message for the folks who've spent time in the park, apologizing for simply following what he says were orders.

"I'm sorry for lying on certain things. I'm totally sorry from deepest part of my heart and I want each one of you to know I love all of y'all and Black Creek is special," said McNeese.

All of these folks say they'd rather stay at Little Black Creek and those who oversee it are the ones who need to go.

"I think they need to be resigned and find somebody that's got more character to run this place," said Lumpkin.

Copyright 2010 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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