OS aldermen vote to suspend public works director

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - For two weeks, the longtime public works director in Ocean Springs, Andre Kaufman, has been the center of controversy. It all centers on emails Kaufman sent that contained disparaging remarks about one city alderman. Wednesday, Kaufman learned his fate at a special meeting of the board of aldermen.

The board of aldermen and Mayor Connie Moran opened the meeting, and quickly exited into an executive session that lasted nearly three hours. For one of those hours, Kaufman and his attorney Bob Byrd were behind closed doors as well.

The board came back, and Kaufman found out his punishment from the mayor.

"Three days suspension without pay to end on Friday, this Friday," Moran explained.  "Also, we are asking him to attend anger management counseling, and we'll have a recommendation from that counselor hopefully the beginning of next week on how to proceed with that. And we are placing Mr. Kaufman on six months probation."

The trouble began when the public works department cleaned out a ditch on school property, after an alderman complained about snakes. An email sent by Kaufman to school officials referred to the unnamed alderman as "chicken little."

After learning his fate, Kaufman was contrite.

"I apologize if I offended anybody. I assure you that wasn't my intent. I apologize to fellow city employees and I apologize to anyone that I offended," Kaufman said. "I assure you again that nothing I said or did was intended to offend anybody, and I'm sorry for it."

Kaufman is covered by the city's civil service commission, if he wants to appeal. His attorney talked about that.

"The city and Mr. Kaufman are doing their best to put all this behind them, so I'll discuss it with Andre and we'll see if there is a next step," Byrd explained.

Does he expect a possible appeal to the city's civil service commission?

"We haven't even discussed that. I think it has to be made within ten days under the civil service regulations and frankly, it will not be my recommendation."

Kaufman has been public works director in Ocean Springs since 1998.

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