Heated debate over funding Hinds supervisor primaries - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

3 Hinds supervisors abruptly end special meeting

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HINDS COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The Hinds County Board of Supervisors special meeting Wednesday started with Hinds County Election Commissioner Connie Cochran torpedoing claims that the county doesn't have the funds for a primary election.

The ongoing debate centers around whether the board will pay for the primary election, which may exceed $66,000 due to the likelihood of a runoff in the heavily Democratic District 2.

"As it stands, we have ample money to pay for the primary in this current fiscal year," she told the Board of Supervisors Wednesday.

The supervisors meeting was called to discuss an Attorney General's opinion on whether the Board is obligated to pay. The Attorney General's opinion states the board is obligated to pay for the election, and even lack of funding, if that were the case, would not remove the county's obligation.

Board president Robert Graham and supervisors Al Hunter and Kenneth Stokes don't want to pay for the election.

Supervisors Peggy Calhoun and Robert Walker want to follow the law.

With Stokes making a motion to adjourn the meeting Monday, Hunter seconding, and Graham voting aye, the meeting was adjourned before the Attorney General's opinion was even handed out.

Supervisor Calhoun was not given the floor to speak before the adjournment, despite a request to do so.

Cochran says she has to get absentee ballots out by Friday.

"I can have them ready. I can't get them printed," she says. "The bottom line is, I have the money to pay for them. And... I don't know, it's a catch 22. I need a directive as well." Cochran said. "They're playing a game of control, and they're not going to budge."

"We will proceed as planned," says Jacqueline Amos-Norris, Chair of the Hinds County Democratic Party. "We have counsel already. We will sit down with the counsel," she adds, saying that the parties will file a lawsuit if the matter is not handled quickly.

Supervisor Calhoun shared her opinion on why Graham, Hunter and Stokes are resisting.

"If an election is not held, does that mean the supervisors that have been appointed, stay on the board of Supervisors? That is my question," she said.

Board President Robert Graham ignored our effort to get comment Wednesday.

Graham, Hinter and Stokes said Monday that they believe the board doesn't have to fund the primary election.

"We don't have $66,000," District 5 Supervisor Kenneth Stokes argued at Monday's Board meeting.

Supervisor Stokes and Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry exchanged words in Monday's meeting.

"Mr. Stokes, it doesn't matter if you have the money, you have a budget and the law says you pay the expenses," Perry said from the podium. "The fact that you don't want to have a primary because maybe you want to screw up this whole system so your appointees..."

At that point he was interrupted by Supervisor Graham, who asked for order.

The chairmen of the Hinds County Democratic and Republican Parties are not only joining forces on the issue, one embraced the other at the podium.

The board voted 3-2 to seek the Attorney General's opinion on whether state statute 23-15-301 could be up to interpretation. The law states that a Board of Supervisors "shall pay for election expenses."

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