Jackson County supervisor speaks out about jail saga

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - As the Jackson County Jail saga continues, supervisor Melton Harris is now setting the record straight about why he was the only one to vote against firing the latest jail architect.

The Goldberg Group was hired to replace the county's old and sometimes overcrowded facility. Recently, in four-to-one vote, the board of supervisors terminated the contract after allegations of unlawful actions surfaced.

Supervisor Melton Harris was the one vote against firing Goldberg.  He said it was a waste of time and money to fire the latest jail architect and throw out all the bids for the building's construction. That is why he doesn't regret voting against both moves.

"This has been the most controversial issue that we have had since my tenure as board member in Jackson County," Melton said on Sunday.

WLOX News has learned other board members voted to end the contract with the Goldberg Group due to allegations the architects were making unapproved recommendations to the contractor that was being considered for construction of the project.

"The allegation that was put before us was that the lowest bidder was going to hire a subcontractor, and it was not the choice of the architect, Larry Goldberg. Larry Goldberg supposedly requested someone else be hired," said Harris.

Harris said the accusation is upsetting because Goldberg didn't tell the board. He also said  Goldberg never got a chance to explain himself.  Yet, the architect still walked away with more than $1 million in taxpayer money.

"My concern was to bring Larry Goldberg in and talk directly to the board instead of someone presenting some allegation. Of course, the low bid had already been accepted, so any infraction that we were hearing of was after the low bid was accepted. So, my concern was that shouldn't have slow down the process," Harris said.

Goldberg is the second jail architect the board fired in two years.  Harris said the first firm was paid around $2 million.

"This process has been going on 16 plus years, long before I became on the board. I think it is nothing more than the citizens want to see us to do is move ahead with this jail," Harris said.

Harris and county board members do agree on that. They say the board remains committed to moving forward with the project.  The termination, they believe, reflects the board's commitment to maintaining public trust.  "I want everything to work in a positive way, so we can still jail built as orderly and fast as we possibly can," said Harris.

Harris said the board plans to keep Goldberg's jail design because it's already been paid for.  However, the board will reopen the bidding process for the construction of the jail.

Supervisors meet Monday morning.

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