City executive asserts racial bias in 30-day suspension
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
March 13, 2002
A high-ranking black employee of the city of Meridian has appealed a disciplinary action taken against him, alleging that racial discrimination played a part in Mayor John Robert Smith's decision to suspend him for 30 days following a DUI arrest.
Don Cross, the city's assistant administrative officer, was involved in a traffic accident on Feb. 4, and subsequently charged with driving under the influence. Two days later, the mayor suspended him.
Cross stated his objections in a letter to Smith and Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms.
A copy of that letter was included in Cross' appeal to the Meridian Civil Service Commission, which met Tuesday.
Even though the mayor suspended Cross "pending investigation of formal disciplinary charges," Cross wrote that suspending him prior to his trial in Meridian Municipal Court was inappropriate.
Cross cites examples
In his assertion that Civil Service regulations have been applied inconsistently to minority vs. non-minority employees, Cross cited a number of examples and says he can back them up with documentation and reliable witnesses.
The examples he cited presumably involve "non-minority" police officers who were not disciplined:
1. Two police officers implicated in time card fraud who allegedly called in sick when they were actually working at other jobs. Cross says a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Moore verified to him that fraudulent acts had occurred;
2. Storms' removal of documents relating to disciplinary action from the personnel file of a police officer. Cross said he brought this to the attention of Human Resources Director Gary Matlock, who agreed it was an inappropriate action.
3. A police officer who went to the Gulf Coast to attend law enforcement training sessions and allegedly became intoxicated at a casino.
In contrast, Cross said, his accident and arrest did not occur during work hours or while he was engaged in city business and involved his own car, not a city vehicle.
The next step
Cross appeared briefly before the Civil Service Commission on Tuesday to ask that further action in his appeal be delayed until after his March 21 trial in Meridian Municipal Court.
The commission granted the request.
Cross declined to comment on this assertion or any other, but said he will make a statement in the future.
Mayor Smith was out of his office today, and could not be reached for comment.
Chief Administrative Officer Storms said, "It's a personnel matter being handled by the Civil Service Commission and I have been advised by my attorneys to make no comment at this time."