Adams and Reese Partner and the firm's Labor and Employment Team Leader, Jim Keith, appeared before the Pearl River Chancery Court Judge Johnny L. Williams to discuss a Mississippi state statute that has come into question in a case concerning whether or not Harvey Miller can serve simultaneously on the school board and as a Picayune city employee. Miller is Picayune’s city manager.
The article on the case was published in the Picayune Item on January 26th.
When Miller was first appointed to the board, he was not a city employee, but when his reappointment came up, he was. The City of Picayune officials and school board members were of the opinion that Miller’s reappointment did not violate the statute.
Keith, who is the attorney for the Mississippi School Board, said he was at the hearing at the request of the Picayune school board and was available to Miller's lawyer, Gerald Patch, for consultation. The attorneys for both the school board, Patch, and the city council, Nathan Farmer, both appeared before Williams after they jointly filed a 34-page complaint on Dec. 1, seeking what they said was a “declaratory judgment” in Pearl River County Chancery Court.
Keith told Judge Williams: “In reality, judge, you are being asked to clear up what the State Legislature should have cleared up a long time ago. If you take a literal reading of the statutes, it only talks about appointments. And if the legislature wanted it to apply to reappointment, they could have easily said appointments or reappointments. And they didn’t. Now whether that was an oversight or intentional, who knows?”
In an interview with the Picayune Item, Keith added: “The State Legislature could clean it (the statute) up simply by addressing this whole issue of appointment versus reappointment. But whether they can do it this term or not is a question. The law as we read it right now is not clear, and that is all that we are asking, is for the judge to give us some clarification. And then if legislators want to address it in the next legislative session, they can do it at that time.”
The controversy over Miller’s serving in both capacities began in earnest on July 7 when Frank Egger appeared before the first session of a new city council that had been just sworn in the day before. Four new councilmen and a new mayor took their seats on the new six member council. Watkins was the only member from the old council returning to his seat on the council.
Egger charged that Miller was violating a state law by serving both as a city employee and as a member of the school board. Miller charged that Egger was making the charges because he was mad over a 16th section land dispute with the school board and Miller produced an ethics commission opinion, saying his appointment to the school board did not conflict with state laws.
At Adams and Reese, Keith's areas of practice include employment, education and administrative law. A specialized aspect of his practice involves the representation of educational entities, including school districts, community colleges and universities. He has represented numerous school districts in all areas of education law, including employee matters, student issues, board/administration interaction, and education of students with disabilities. He has represented school districts in administrative hearings and in state and federal court.
Keith is a frequent speaker in Mississippi and nationwide on issues involving the education of students with disabilities and on issues involving preventing sexual harassment in the school setting. In addition to school districts, he advises universities and colleges on issues involving student rights and employment matters.
Adams and Reese is a multidisciplinary law firm with offices strategically located throughout the southern United States and Washington, DC. American Lawyer includes Adams and Reese on its distinguished list of the nation's top law firms - "The Am Law 200". The National Law Journal also includes the firm on the "NLJ 250" list of the nation's largest law firms.