Harrison County

Why a Harrison County official thinks the road manager was forced to resign

Supervisor Marlin Ladner wouldn't go along with road manager Russell Weatherly's resignation.
Supervisor Marlin Ladner wouldn't go along with road manager Russell Weatherly's resignation. amccoy@sunherald.com File

The Harrison County Board of Supervisors has parted ways with road manager Russell Weatherly.

The board called it a resignation, but one supervisor said it was a firing and he wouldn't go along with it.

"I think it was retaliation for that PEER report," Supervisor Marlin Ladner said when asked why he voted no on the motion to accept the resignation. "I didn't agree with the way it was handled. It was in executive session, and I wasn't even here."

The resignation comes about three months after the Legislature's Performance, Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee issued a report critical of the way the county was managing its Road Department.

It said it was spending road and bridge money on recreational projects such as splash pads and the county fairgrounds. It also recommended the supervisors consolidate its work centers, closing centers in Districts 1 and 4 and transferring staff and equipment to centers in Districts 2, 3 and 5.

Supervisor Beverly Martin said Weatherly was a great employee, but there were "several requests made by the board that were not fulfilled."

"But it was his choice, and he decided to move on," she said.

Martin, just before the PEER review was released, said she believed it had been sought by Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, because supervisors wouldn't appoint his wife, Tricia, to the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport board. Bennett, who is Weatherly's brother-in-law and the chairman of the PEER Committee, denied he had a hand in the report. Neither PEER nor Bennett would say who asked for the report.

Weatherly was hired as interim road manager in August 2011 and was made road manager in 2012. The supervisors voted 4-0 on Jan. 8 to keep him as road manager another year. That was the same day the PEER report became public.

Earlier Monday, supervisors had some problems when attempting to deal with road fund money that was spent on recreation projects. They were trying to reimburse the road fund for work on ball fields and a walking track, but at times it was unclear what exactly the money was spent on. This is the kind of spending PEER has a problem with.

There was $1,586 spent at the Saucier ball field and another $5,810 on the new walking track in Woolmarket. The Woolmarket reimbursement was tabled until they can sort out whether it was spent on a track or overflow parking.

"Let me explain where I'm coming from," said Ladner. "I don't want those road department reimbursements to come from recreation, because it's not in his (Fairgrounds and Parks Director Greg Whitfield) budget and he didn't plan for it in his budget. The board needs to be aware we can't automatically default these reimbursements to his department."

Paul Hampton: @jpaulhampton; 228-284-7296.