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City administrator can keep his job with conditions

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
May 7, 2002
The murk surrounding the DUI arrest of Assistant City Administrator Don Cross, and the surprising events that followed, is expected to clear to a degree at today's meeting of the Meridian Civil Service Commission.
Ironically, Cross is the city official in charge of administering Meridian's drug and alcohol testing policy and Mayor John Robert Smith, while allowing Cross to keep his job, says he expects great improvements in this area.
Short-circuited background
Cross was involved in a traffic accident on Feb. 4, and charged with driving under the influence. Two days later, the mayor suspended him for 30 days with pay. Cross appealed the decision to the Meridian Civil Service Commission.
He subsequently appealed his suspension to the commission, alleging racial discrimination had played a part in Smith's decision, resigned and then asked to withdraw his letter of resignation.
Smith said in early April that he had agreed to hold Cross' resignation letter "in abeyance" until the two men could discuss the situation in more detail.
Next, Cross appealed his "termination" from his position as a city administrator, asserting that he would later provide the Civil Service Commission with a copy of his letter of termination.
The mayor said he had not been fired, but neither has Cross kept office hours since his original Feb. 6 suspension.
The Civil Service Commission granted Cross' request for a delay in the appeal of his suspension until after his DUI trial in city court. Originally scheduled for April 15, that trial is now set for May 16.
Bringing the story
into the present
A letter from city attorney Lee Thaggard to be formally presented to the commission today asserts that Cross was never fired so any appeal of a termination is "premature."
Also scheduled for presentation to the commission is an April 16 letter from Smith outlining the conditions under which Cross can keep his job. The main points are:
1) The mayor will be Cross' direct supervisor, instead of Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms, and will prepare Cross' next job evaluation;
2) Regardless of the outcome of the DUI trial, Smith asserts that Cross was dishonest in his remarks to Meridian police officers responding to the scene of his accident, co-workers and the city administration; and,
3) Smith also says in his letter that Cross has done a bad job of administering the city's random drug and alcohol testing policies.
Thomas is the city's risk manager, and has functioned as Meridian's "acting drug enforcing officer" since February. Kirby is the Meridian Civil Service Commission's administrative assistant.
Where Cross stands
Cross' appeal of his suspension is still active before the Meridian Civil Service Commission. Cross was suspended for 30 days with pay on Feb. 6, and then his letter of resignation was "held in abeyance." Presumably, he has been paid since then  but has not kept office hours.
Though city officials assert that Cross was never fired, an appeal before the commission regarding his termination is still technically "active."
The mayor informed Cross in his April 16 letter that he was suspended without pay for 30 days effective April 17.