By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Aldermen were scheduled to appoint a special prosecutor to try one of their own at the regular monthly meeting of the city board last Tuesday night.
However, Mayor Bill Norris will make the appointment later this week, according to information received after press time Tuesday. The matter was not addressed at the meeting.
Alderman Fred White faces a trial June 25 on charges of violating the city’s junk vehicle ordinance. White was charged Feb. 12 after complaints that numerous non-operable and wrecked cars were parked behind his business, Super Lube and Tire at 341 South Main St.
A special prosecutor became necessary when city prosecuting attorney J. Katherine Ward asked to be recused from the case. Ward told municipal judge Trent Howell when the matter came up in city court last Thursday that she didn’t want there to be an appearance of prejudice because of her prior dealings with White.
Howell agreed and told city clerk Vivian Snider to place the matter on the board’s agenda for the next meeting. “We need to get someone from outside the immediate area,” Howell said and added that a certified copy of the ordinance would need to be entered in evidence.
Howell added that although he had done some legal work for White in the past, he didn’t see any reason to recuse himself. “I feel like I can be fair and impartial.”
White’s initial appearance on the charges was Mar. 5 at which time he was granted a continuance until Apr. 2. On that date White phoned in a not guilty plea and a trial was set for Apr. 30.
White was not in court for the trial and when contacted by phone told court officials that he didn’t know he had to appear.
“This matter has got to be addressed,” Howell said, “I an not expecting any more continuances.”
Howell then set the June 25 trial date. He added that would give both the city and White ample time to prepare.
The item first surfaced publicly almost 16 months ago when former Alderman Tommy Swearengen brought the issue to the attention of the board and the public.
“I think we need to do something about that before it gets too big and Fred can still move those cars,” said Swearengen at the Jan. 9, 2008, board meeting.
“Those cars down there are for sale and you ain’t got a damn thing to do with it,” White said, raising his voice. “You need to leave it alone.”
“No,” Swearengen responded, “I need to bring it out. We’re cleaning the town up.”
“Those cars are for sale,” White said. “You’re sticking your nose where you don’t have no business. Anything for sale I don’t have to move.”
“Do they run?” Swearengen asked. “Do we need to read the ordinance?”
Swearengen, who was ill at the time, said that he would be back to pursue the issue. He never got the chance to bring it up again. He passed away in February of this year.
Other items on the board agenda include:
• Discussion of the WIA (Workforce Investment Act) Summer Youth Employment program;
• Approval to purchase drinking water fountains;
• Bids on stationary 80 kW generator for Water and Sewer Dept.;
• Approval of Baker Street Park Grant Invoices totaling $3650.24;
• Re-Appointment of James Moody to Water Valley Housing Authority;
• Approval of partnership resolution for the Census 2010.