PELAHATCHIE, MS — The drama in Pelahatchie continues as the mayor announced Friday that she had suspended the town’s police chief, days after the two had a heated exchange in the streets about employees not getting paid.
Pelahatchie city attorney John Wakeland said Friday morning that it’s his “understanding and belief” that Mayor Ryshonda Harper Beechem suspended Chief Joseph Daughtry Thursday for “insubordination.”
“I don’t want to speculate without seeing the actual documents but it’s my understanding and belief that the mayor is upset with comments that were made by the police chief to the mayor,” he said.
Neither Beechem or Daughtry could be reached for comment Friday morning.
Monday, a WAPT-TV cameraman captured an exchange between Beechem and Daughtry.
As the mayor was getting in her car, outside of City Hall, Daughtry exclaimed from the sidewalk, “We’re talking about payroll. You want to talk about some training, I’ve got a certificate to prove where I’ve been. Where have you been?”
Speaking of his officers while fighting back tears, Daughtry later told the station, “These guys work hard and this is bull. I’m tired of it. I’ve got to look these guys in the face and tell them they’re not getting paid.”
Some of the officers had missed checks over two pay periods.
The town’s employees have been caught in the middle of a feud between Beechem —town’s first-term mayor — and its board of aldermen.
Seventeen Pelahatchie city employees, including Daughtry, weren’t paid on Aug. 23. The prior pay period, five people — those who weren’t on direct deposit — weren’t paid.
Barbara Harper, the town’s deputy clerk who has been on the job about three months, said Thursday the pay process, that started Wednesday, was continuing.
Beechem, who is in the middle of a lawsuit she bought against the board over what she characterizes as an investigation into the misappropriation of city funds, said previously that she had been advised by her attorney, Thomas Bellinder, not to sign checks.
She relented this week, in what she characterized on Facebook on Monday as a “compromise and temporary resolution to the issues plaguing the town.”
Thursday, she posted a video to her Facebook page, saying in part that she “was trying, literally all day (Wednesday) to make sure that these people with direct deposit (had their check deposited) in their account but the effective date kept being wrong, it didn’t happen. At the end of the day, the bank had closed.”
The board has requested a special called meeting Friday night, Wakeland said, pointing out that only the board has the authority to hire or fire the chief. While Beecham can suspend an employee without board approval, she can only suspend them with pay.
Wakeland said the board’s request for a special called meeting is “not an extraordinary action.”
“The mayor has a right to do what the mayor thinks is appropriate and the board has a right to review that action and take whatever steps they deem necessary,” he said. “It’s a very small police force…they don’t have nay extra police officers. I think the board is probably of the position that we need all the police in place.”
Wakeland said, to his knowledge, Beechem did not name an interim chief.
From The Clarion Ledger