Jackson Co. supervisors clash with SRHS retirees over public comment crackdown

Jackson Co. supervisors clash with SRHS retirees over public comment crackdown

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Tempers flared at the Jackson County Supervisors meeting Monday after the board president limited the comment period and refused to answer questions from Singing River Health System retirees.

"Come election time, I hope every damn one of you is fired," said one retiree.

Eddie Manning didn't hold back his frustration. Neither did many of the Singing River Health System retirees during the public comment time at the meeting. They were hot after President Barry Cumbest told them the board would no longer be answering their personal questions during meeting times, and they would only be allowed three minutes to talk.

"That took all the citizen's rights away here in Jackson County," said Manning.

"It sickens me, and I understand the board of supervisor's stance, but to cut us off from not having any say is wrong," said a retiree after the meeting.

Dozens of health system retirees and employees have been attending every meeting and voicing their concerns, since it was revealed last year that the health system had stopped contributing its portion to their retirement plan after 2009. Now, it's under funded.

Supervisors had also begun investigating the hospital system's ailing finances.

"Our pension is at stake, and if our pension is cut off, that is devastating for a lot of us. It is just not fair. It is just not fair," said retiree Irma Doss.

After the meeting, Cumbest had this to say about his public comment crackdown.

"Public comments have been getting out of hand a little bit, and we have been getting a lot of questions that are legal questions," explained Cumbest.

Cumbest claims his decision will not leave this group in the dark regarding the hospital.

"We are going to try to give updates. We are going to try to give them once a month, if anyone has any questions, all they need to do is call their supervisors."

Retirees disagree and hope the board will have a change of heart.

"Y'all are our only voice. If we can't come to you all and ask questions, we have nothing. Thank you," retiree Cynthia Almond said.

Supervisors have hired an attorney to help oversee their hospital investigation. They hope to have an option or solutions to help fully fund the pension plan for retirees and employees in the next two months.

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