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Judge Rules That Governor’s Appointees Cannot Serve

July 10, 1996

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A circuit judge ruled Tuesday that Gov. Kirk Fordice illegally named four white men to the state’s College Board, wrongly pushing the appointments by claiming emergency powers.

Since the Senate didn’t act on the nominations during the 1996 session, the appointments were essentially rejected, Hinds County Circuit Judge James E. Graves Jr. ruled.

That meant Fordice acted illegally when, citing an emergency because the 12-member board didn’t have a quorum, he had the four men sworn in as board members on June 20.

Graves said the four men _ lawyer Tom McNeese of Columbia and businessmen Hassel Franklin of Columbus, John McCarty of Jackson and Ralph Simmons of Laurel _ couldn’t be considered for the four seats currently open. They can be considered for future vacancies.

The governor’s office said it would appeal.

A Senate subcommittee _ comprised of three blacks and two whites _ didn’t take action on the nomination during the regular session. The three black senators asked Fordice to diversify the appointments with a black or a woman.

Fordice attacked the senators for bringing race into the process.

``They said, `Governor, these fine people are unacceptable to us because their skin is white.′ That’s this issue.

``I said `what then is wrong?′ They said `you did not show diversity.′ Let’s translate that. What that means and what this is all about ... these four people are unacceptable because their skin is white. That is this issue,″ Fordice said.

A group of 33 Mississippi writers _ including Willie Morris, Barry Hannah and Hodding Carter _ said Tuesday they had written a letter opposing the appointments.

``That’s retrograde. Mississippi is nearly 40 percent black and about 50 percent of our citizens are women,″ the letter said. ``We encourage the Senate to confirm equitable representation on the Board that more nearly reflects the reality of the state’s population.″

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