Ethics Commission finds HPSD violated code during selection of strategic planning firm

Ethics Commission finds HPSD violated code during selection of strategic planning firm

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Ethics Commission issued a final order concluding the Hattiesburg Public Schools Board of Trustees violated the state's Open Meetings Act "each and every time it entered into executive session" during the selection of educational consulting firm P3 Strategies.

The final order states "the Board of Trustees for the Hattiesburg Public School District violated Sections 25-41-5 and 25-41-7, Miss. Code of 1972, by discussing matters in executive session that should have been discussed in open session at its meeting on May 5, 2015."

Tom Hood, hearing officer for the Mississippi Ethics Commission, submitted the final order at the end of April after the HPSD board did not file objections to the commission's preliminary report and recommendation.

"The respondent did not object to the Preliminary Report and Recommendation and has thereby waived a right to a hearing on the merits," the order states. If the board had objected, those objections were scheduled to be heard at a commission meeting on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

Hood stated in the order the state Supreme Court limits entering executive session for "personnel matters" to "matters dealing with employees hired and supervised by the board." He goes on to say that "an independent contractor such as an accountant, lawyer or architect is not an employee of the board, and would not come under 'personnel.'" He also lists six other Open Meetings Act violations in the final order.

The commission ordered "the Board of Trustees for the Hattiesburg Public School District to refrain from further violations and comply strictly" with the Open Meetings Act.