WAYNESBORO, MS (WDAM) - The Waynesboro mayor and the Board of Aldermen could not come to an agreement to re-hire 60 former on Tuesday. The mayor said each person needs to be hired and approved on an individual basis, not as a group, but the majority of aldermen recommended to hire them as a group with a single vote.
The positions in question are called "holdover employees," who have to be re-hired within the first 180 days of a new administration, and includes 16 police officers and the entire fire department. The deadline for their rehiring was midnight on Friday, Dec. 31.
"If you walk out of here tonight without a job it's not my fault," Mayor Richard Johnson said. "I don't hire and I don't fire, the board does."
Those were the opening statements made to the packed board room from Johnson minutes before the meeting started.
"If this board decides to start twisting words and trying to lump everybody together to hire them as a group, I will veto it," Johnson said.
Some aldermen refused to hire anyone individually.
"I'm not going to vote to hire anyone individually," Alderman at Large Mary Joyce Davis said. "I am going to vote to hire everyone as a group."
All former city employee names were listed one by one on the meeting agenda. When the time came to vote to approve the hire, Davis responded with a motion.
"I make a motion that we re-hire all employees as a group restoring the benefits they had December 29th at the same rate of pay," Davis said.
The first name read to the board, ended in a 2/3 vote, with three against the re-hire.
"And veto that," Johnson said.
"We have no city firemen as of tonight," a volunteer firefighter said. "I've been manning that station for 90 hours and I'm going home tonight."
As of right now, 60 city jobs have been left vacant. Former employees declined to show their face, but believe a decision needs to be made.
"I think it's really sad," one former city employee said. "They are not considering the employees here. I think it's sad. While they are playing cat and mouse, we have families to take care of."
"The people who have done a good job deserve to work here and the ones who have not done a good job do not need to work here," Johnson said.
Johnson and the five aldermen were supposed to meet for a special meeting Friday at 4 p.m. to re-hire the employees who worked for the city in Johnson's first term, but a lack of quorum prevented a vote after only two aldermen showed up.
Earlier this month, the board did vote to re-hire all employees at once, but Johnson vetoed that decision. The board failed to override his decision.
Johnson said the city does have contingency plans in place for the police, fire and public works departments. He said the city will pull in resources from surrounding counties and municipalities until a rehiring agreement can be made.
Tuesday night those who lost their job were hoping the mayor and the board of aldermen and alderwomen could come to an agreement during the public meeting.