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Barbour's choices

By Staff
April 22, 2004
Gov. Haley Barbour's nomination of four new members of the state College Board certainly offers a chance for some interesting analysis. While the four are no doubt fully qualified to serve there is no official qualification other than residency in a particular Supreme Court district the nominations evidently represent the political and institutional diversity Barbour said he seeks.
Robin Robinson, of Laurel, is director of organization development and corporate communication at Sanderson Farms Inc. Robinson is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and is from the Southern Supreme Court District.
Bob Owens, of Jackson, owns the Law Firm of Bob Owens PLLC and is past president of the Magnolia Bar Association. In 1993, he received the NAACP of Mississippi's Lawyer of the Year Award. Mr. Owens attended Jackson State University will represent the Central Supreme Court District, which includes Meridian.
Ed Blakeslee, of Gulfport, is vice president of Mississippi Power Company. He attended Mississippi State University and will also represent the Southern Supreme Court District.
Aubrey Patterson, of Tupelo, is chairman and CEO of BancorpSouth Inc. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and is from the Northern Supreme Court District.
Owens was selected over at least one longtime Republican Party activist from Meridian attorney Rick Barry, who was Barbour's Lauderdale County co-chairman. The choice of Owens means that for the first time in decades there will be no local voice on the College Board. It also says something about political loyalty.
Patterson presents a different sort of problem. A distinguished banker and civic leader, he was nominated to represent Ole Miss and his Tupelo-based bank and associated insurance company handles millions of dollars for guess who Ole Miss. State ethics rules prohibit members of the College Board from profiting from their official position.
The argument could be made that every time an Ole Miss student opens a checking account, Patterson and his bank profits. The argument could be made that he cannot possibly recuse himself from every single College Board decision affecting Ole Miss and, thus, his bank without in essence opting out of the board's business.
The Mississippi Senate should carefully examine all of the issues before rushing to rubber stamp these nominations.