Cop, fire captain beat city hall
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
August 17, 2002
The Meridian Civil Service Commission has ordered the reinstatement of two city employees, a senior police patrolman and a fire captain, terminated after unproven accusations of wrong-doing.
Capt. Richard Mackey of the Meridian Fire Department was arrested for aggravated assault in August 2001. Chief Bunky Partridge suspended him for 30 days and fired him in September.
Mackey appealed to the CSC and the city could not prove its assertions. The two sides agreed to a settlement and Mackey is back at work.
Police officer Rita Jack was fired in September 2001 by Police Chief Benny DuBose amid allegations that she and a civilian employee, Vivian Groves, stole cash and checks from the station's front desk.
The CSC deliberated on her case Tuesday, and issued a reinstatement order received by Jack and city officials on Thursday. Jack is not back at work yet and says the city's failure to reinstate her is an act of insubordination directed at the Civil Service Commission.
CSC's decision on Rita Jack
The civilian employee involved in the thefts at the Meridian Police Department, Groves, admitted her guilt and named Jack as her accomplice. Groves was fired but escaped prosecution in return for her testimony against Jack.
After an investigation, State Auditor Phil Bryant issued a demand letter to Groves to repay a total of $5,097 the missing money, plus $1,648 in investigative costs and $478 in interest.
Jack was never arrested. Her case was presented to a Lauderdale County grand jury in November, but the panel declined to indict her.
She appealed her termination to the CSC.
In issuing its ruling, the CSC noted that Groves was the only witness against Jack. The five-member commission said Groves was unbelievable because she gave two written statements that did not mention any accomplice before accusing Jack in a third.
Reactions: Jack, the police chief
Jack tried to report for duty on Thursday.
Jack wants a meeting with DuBose as soon as possible.
DuBose said the city will appeal the CSC's decision but he can live with the outcome either way.
I have a job to do, and I will not mistreat her or anyone else. But, I think she would feel more discomfort being here than I would in having her here. I think she would be wondering what the other officers thought about her."
Settlement in Mackey case
Mackey was never prosecuted for the arrest that caused him to lose his job.
The alleged victim in the aggravated assault asked District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell to drop the charges, but Mitchell presented the case to the next Lauderdale County grand jury.
Mackey was indicted in November 2001.
In February 2002, with the trial date approaching, Mitchell was forced to ask a Circuit Court judge to dismiss the indictment because he could not locate either the victim or a witness to the events.
Mackey appealed his termination to the CSC. Lee Thaggard, the city's attorney, couldn't find the witnesses either.
Attorney Robbie Jones said Mackey and the city have reached an agreement that includes reinstatement and some compensation for loss of income. The agreement has been drafted, but not yet signed by all parties.
Mackey is back at work at the police and fire training facility on Sandflat Road. He declines to comment. Fire Chief Bunky Partridge also declines to comment until the agreement is finalized.
The felony charges against Mackey were dismissed "without prejudice," which means he can be re-indicted if the missing witnesses in his case are ever located.