While cracking down on violent crime, the city of Clarksdale appears to be less concerned about white collar criminals. On February 12th Mayor Chuck Espy said the city’s mission is to protect good people and punish bad ones and criminals who sell drugs, burglarize homes or pull a gun on law enforcement officers run the risk of being killed. This week Espy cast a tie-breaking vote to drop the prosecution of Maple Melton, a former Clarksdale Public Utilities employee who was indicted for embezzlement four years ago.
Prior to Monday’s vote, another vote on the same matter occurred last week. Commissioner Bo Plunk called ClarksdaleNews last evening for further clarification about that earlier vote.
According to Plunk the matter on the Melton case was brought up by Mayor Espy in an executive session. There was a motion for a vote to drop the prosecution. Plunk says he abstained from that vote because he did not think it was a role of a City to vote on a judicial matter. “This is not in our jurisdiction,” he said, “it’s for the prosecutors to decide.” He was referring to the balance of power inherent to our democracy where there is a clear distinction of the executive, judicial and legislative functions of government.
When asked how this judicial matter came before the City in the first place, Plunk said, “that’s what I’d like to know.” ClarksdaleNews asked if this came directly from the Mississippi Attorney General’s offiice, “the mayor said the Attorney General contacted him,” Plunk responded, “but I called them and they said the mayor called them about it.”
By abstaining on that earlier vote, the motion still passed by a 2-1 vote by the other City Commissioners. Seals and Turner voted to drop the Melton prosecution, Murphy voted against it. Plunk said that since the vote passed anyway, his abstention was included as a ‘Yes” vote, but it was not.
Plunk was clearly not pleased with anything to do with the City’s position on this. “It’s just not right,” he said more than once. “The City is not in the business of dropping court cases,” he repeated, “we don’t have that power, this is not in our lane,” and Plunk added, “I think the people of Clarksdale won’t like this one bit either, and you put down the attorney general’s number, so folks can call Jackson and tell them this is just plain wrong.”
Mississippi Attorney General: (601) 359-3680
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