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franklin county times

Twists, turns in the Don Cross story

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
April 7, 2002
The story of Don Cross, a black city administrator who alleged racial discrimination played a part in Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith's decision to suspend him, has taken a couple of strange turns.
Cross was involved in a traffic accident on Feb. 4, and subsequently charged with driving under the influence. Two days later, the mayor suspended him for 30 days with pay. Cross appealed the decision to the Meridian Civil Service Commission.
Cross included a copy of this letter in his appeal to the commission, and cited three situations in which he alleged "non-minority" city employees had received different treatment in similar circumstances.
He appeared briefly before the Civil Service Commission on March 12 to ask that further action in his appeal be delayed until after his DUI trial in Meridian Municipal Court. That trial is set for April 15.
The next thing that happened was that he resigned effective March 26. Today is April 7, and Don Cross is still the city's assistant administrative officer. He apparently had second thoughts after his resignation was accepted, and went to see the mayor.
Meanwhile, Cross is scheduled to appear before the Meridian Civil Service Commission again on Tuesday this time, to appeal his termination. Notations on the appeal documents indicate they were filed March 18.
I had not heard anything about Cross being fired, and the mayor seemed genuinely perplexed by news of this new Civil Service appeal.
In this second appeal, he notes that a copy of his termination letter is attached but there is no letter attached and indicates that he will provide the commission with a list of witnesses at a future date.
I couldn't get hold of Cross for a comment. Perhaps all will become clear at Tuesday's meeting of the Meridian Civil Service Commission.
Quick takes
Status report: In an attempt to check Cross' allegations of racial discrimination, I submitted a request for public records information to City Clerk Ed Skipper. In it, I asked for information about disciplinary actions taken against the four people named in Cross' letter.
I received a response before the 14-day deadline. Skipper provided the hire and termination dates, but referred me to the minutes of the Civil Service Commission for information about disciplinary actions. Getting an answer will involve reading all CSC minutes dating back to 1986.
It could take a while and, if Cross is right, there shouldn't be anything to find…
Appeal: Harland Craig Renfrow has appealed his conviction to the Mississippi State Supreme Court. Renfrow was sentenced to life for a June 2000 sexual battery against his daughter. He is now represented by Meridian attorney Jim Williams, the court's public appellate defender.
Indictment list: The list of indictments issued by a Lauderdale County grand jury in March will not be available until after arraignment day on April 12. The Meridian Star will publish the list as soon as possible after that date.
Chancery Court: The cork tile in Chancery Judge Jerry Mason's courtroom has been removed and replaced with neutral gray carpeting. Staffers there say you can see flecks of green in it if you look hard enough.

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