Harrison Co. Utility Authority fires contractor

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - After weeks of controversy surrounding contractor S.H. Anthony, the Harrison County Utility Authority Board, in a unanimous vote Monday, decided to terminate its four year contract with the company.

Questions about the company arose in early February after the board fired Executive Director Kamran Pahlavan following news reports that S.H. Anthony purchased a car for Pahlavan.

Harrison County Utility Attorney Jim Simpson said, "The Board feels that the transaction was a violation of state ethics laws and board policy. S.H. Anthony is bound by its contract to follow state law and board policies, and ethics issues are always of paramount importance to the board members. We feel that this kind of breach is material and requires more action at this time... Based on the information provided to the board, the board feels termination of the contract is appropriate."

Harrison County Utility Authority President Billy Skellie said, "I prepare to make a motion to issue notification of termination of contract based on the ethics provision in that contract."

The motion was seconded, and passed without opposition.

Last week, I asked board members about concerns that S.H. Anthony was not fulfilling its contract. Acting Director Bart Clover admitted the company did not check lift stations for weeks. Though the board did not directly link firing S.H. Anthony to those questions, it gave the contractor's attorney a chance to respond.

Before the termination announcement, Skellie gave Hugh Keating, S.H. Anthony's attorney, an opportunity to respond or anything else you would like to bring to the board.

"Obviously, there's been some allegations made about the company have not been favorable. They have been very damaging to the company in the press and the media. The general public has just gotten a point of view that is not entirely accurate and we were hoping by Mr. Anthony submitting this letter to you that it would help you have a better understanding of the good things they have been doing, as well," Keating explained.

Keating reminded the board S.H. Anthony has been working with the Utility Authority for 20 years and the company's performance has never been questioned.

Though Keating declined an on camera interview with WLOX News, he released a statement from company owner Sean Anthony who promises to fight to keep the utility contract.

"The action is clearly unrelated to the job performance of S.H. Anthony, Inc," the statement read. "The board's action is without legal basis. S.H. Anthony will assert and defend all rights under its contract with the Harrison County Utility Authority in the appropriate forum."

S.H. Anthony has 30 days to respond to the contract termination. However, the company will continue to provide services for up to the next six months or until the Harrison County Utility Authority hires another contractor.

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