The Ruleville city board meeting had quite a draw on Tuesday night.
Well over two dozen citizens packed the small room at city hall.
It may have been elbow-to-elbow, but it was not arm-in-arm.
The meeting itself served as a two-hour opening act to the ten-minute main attraction.
That main attraction, of course, was the board’s executive session, and the motion and vote that followed.
There was one Ruleville citizen who was not in the room. That was local business owner Zacc Turner.
Normally, Turner is a faithful attendee, offering the outside world a view inside of Ruleville’s city government by streaming meetings live on social media.
But a recent court order barring him from having any contact with Ward 2 Alderwoman Dorothy Robinson has relegated Turner to the exterior, at least for now. Robinson, according to Turner, is a relative of his, which sort of blurs the line a bit between family disputes and political activism.
Turner did send a proxy into the building to stream the board meeting live on Facebook.
The meeting itself was rather mundane, with just a few moments of excitement.
There was, of course, a lengthy discussion about the city’s only copy of its ordinances, to which no one seems to know the whereabouts.
“They need to find that book,” one citizen shouted over the discussion about drafting a new copy.
Another person chimed in, accusing those in charge in the small town of making up ordinances.
“I’m kind of p*****d now,” he said, as the crowd burst into laughter.
After the city’s open session business was done, a motion was made to enter into executive session to discuss personnel.
The room slowly cleared, and the spectators who remained waited outside of the building, which also houses the city’s police department.
The executive session ended, but no one on the outside was notified, at least in any profound way.
So, when the mayor and board members began to file out of the building, it was revealed rather informally that a motion was made by Alderman Tommy Boykins to fire Ruleville Police Chief Ernie Scarber. The motion had a second, but it was struck down on a now predictable 3-2 vote.
This was the third time newly elected Mayor Michael Clark has attempted to dismiss Scarber since he was sworn into office this past summer.
Clark spent almost two decades on the Ruleville police force prior to becoming mayor, many of those years under Scarber.
It’s no secret by now that he wants his former boss gone, but Ruleville’s Alderman-At-Large Billy Marlow says Clark hasn’t provided the board, particularly Scarber’s staunch allies, a good enough reason to give him a pink slip.
“He won’t give us a reason,” Marlow said after the meeting. “The mayor won’t give us a reason… We had a long conversation about it, a good conversation, but we think we’ve got a good man in the chief.”
Clark apparently attempted a vote to terminate the chief a few weeks ago, but according to some who were in attendance, two aldermen voted to fire, and the other three simply walked out of the meeting.
The Enterprise-Tocsin was not present at that meeting.
Turner, who owns Turner’s Construction and Downtown Liquor in Ruleville, along with Pearlie Mae’s convenience store in Drew, is one of Scarber’s fiercest critics, and he says he believes the 2-0 vote that night should count, because the other three aldermen “abstained” with their walkout.
Clark obviously felt that way too two weeks ago when he asked Sunflower County Sheriff James Haywood to send three deputies to be present when he handed Scarber his walking papers.
Scarber turned in his badge and gun without incident that day, but he was back in uniform less than 24 hours later.
If the 2-0 vote doesn’t count for anything, Turner says the 426 signatures he gathered from citizens to fire Scarber should count for something.
“All the people who voted y’all in want him gone,” Turner told Marlow as he exited city hall. “We voted y’all in, Billy…It’s only 600 people vote in this city, and 426 people signed that petition to get rid of this chief.”
When asked after the meeting, Clark offered no explanation to The E-T for the repeated attempts to send Scarber packing.
He did say that the signatures Turner spoke about don’t really play a part in his thinking.
“I try not to get involved in things like that,” Clark said. “I wouldn’t say that was a factor.”
Meanwhile, as a small crowd gathered around to pontificate over everything from the city’s missing ordinances to its policing practices, Scarber walked out of the building next to the gathering, got into his vehicle and drove away into the night.
Turner, Clark and all of those who signed Turner’s petition will at least have to wait until the next board meeting to try again to gun for Scarber’s job.
Until then, he’s the chief of Ruleville, whether he has the city’s ordinances on hand to cite or not.