Religious Freedom goes to conference, correction made

 

 

JACKSON — OK, in this spot Wednesday, the facts were misremembered.

The House did not change what is known as the Religious Freedom Act so that it applied only to governmental entities. At one point, the House was considering doing that.

But instead the House changed the bill to make it a study to determine what if anything needs to be passed.

The original bill as it passed the Senate, according to some, would allow businesses to not provide services to people based on religious objections. Some contend, for instance, it would allow restaurant to not serve a gay couple.

But at any rate, the House made the proposal a study. And on Thursday, the Senate invited conference where House and Senate leaders will try to work out the differences in the legislation.

 

.

Religious Freedom Act remains in limbo

 

 

JACKSON — As the 2014 session winds down, most bills are in conference where House and Senate leaders try to work out differences or have been sent to Gov. Phil Bryant.

But one high-profile bill is still in limbo. The Religious Freedom Act that created so much controversy earlier in the session remains on the Senate calendar. It is on the “for concurrence or non-currencence calendar.”

Senators could concur in changes the House made to the bill and send it to the governor or invite conference to work out differences. Monday is the deadline to reach agreement should the Senate decide to send the bill to conference.

The bill is controversial because opponents say as it was passed out of the Senate it allows businesses to discriminate against groups of people, such as gays, for religious reasons. Some contend, for instance, it would allow restaurant not to serve a gay couple.

In the House, the bill was changed to pertain to actions by the government, not by a private entity. In other words, the government could not require someone to do something against his or her religious beliefs.

The issue became controversial nationwide after similar legislation was passed and later vetoed in Arizona.

The Mississippi bill also includes language placing “In God We Trust” in the state seal.

It will be interesting to see if the Senate leadership sends

the bill to the governor or to conference or simply allows it to die on the calendar.

 

Teachers now in catbird seat in Legislature

 

JACKSON — A bill providing a pay raise to teachers has yet to make its way through the maze known as the legislative process to become law, but rest assured that the state’s public school teachers are going to get a salary increase.
And the good thing — from the teachers’ perspective — has to be that there is now a bidding war going on between the House and Senate about which chamber is offering a bigger raise.
The original House proposal called for a phased-in four-year raise totaling $4,250 with the first $500 coming in January.
The Senate countered with a $1,500 raise on July 1, followed by another $1,000 the following July.
Now the House leaders say they want to do that, too, but still have a four-year package totaling $4,250. It should be pointed out that the final two years of the House package will be dependent on state revenue growing by at last 3 percent.
The bottom line is that teachers can count on a raise of at least $2,500 by July 1, 2015, including $1,500 of that amount on July 1, and who knows where the bidding war will end.
In the end, the original proposal of Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, to offer a $5,000 raise, which is now the official position of legislative Democrats, still might become law.

MSU may have violated political policy, ethics questioned

This photo of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and other public relations materials by Mississippi State University staff may have violated the university’s political activities policy.   Photo by MSU’s Office of Public Affairs

 

Mississippi State University officials may have violated the institution’s policy on political activities related to promotional materials for the university president’s former boss, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, a candidate for re-election amid a heated primary election.

Multiple parts of the university policy on political activities appear to have been violated when MSU used taxpayer resources to publish and distribute photos and a news release about Cochran, an incumbent wanting a seventh term.

Cochran’s campus visit Feb. 19 involved sharing with about 30 students his experience crafting the $956 billion farm bill signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier that month. Of course, public universities have academic freedom to expose students to elected officials and politicians. However, MSU’s political activities policy prohibits use of employees, equipment and services to assist political candidates.

“State or federal funds or other resources may not be utilized in any way, directly or indirectly, to advance or attempt to advance the cause of any candidate or political party,” page one of MSU’s policy states.

Cochran’s MSU visit happened between campaign stops that included events in Columbus, West Point, Tupelo, Oxford and Greenville.

The senator’s campaign staff posted photos of the other campaign stops but not the MSU visit. Instead, university staff in the Office of Public Affairs took professional photographs of the candidate interacting with students and wrote a glowing news release about his expertise on farm policy. Staff materials published on MSU’s website and then used a taxpayer-funded database of statewide news media contacts for distribution.

Keenum

MSU President Mark Keenum served 18 years as chief of staff for Cochran, 76, first elected to the Senate in 1978 and now finishing a sixth six-year term. After a stint as Undersecretary of Agriculture, the Board of Trustees at Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the governing board for Mississippi’s public universities, appointed him to as president of the land grant university with heavy agriculture ties.

The university president’s ties to Cochran represent just a slice of MSU’s direct connections to the longtime senator.  Cochran’s savvy negotiations in delivering congressional earmarks led to $2.5 billion in federal money flowing into the state during fiscal years 2008-2010, each year Cochran earmarked ranked first among 100 Senators in earmarks sponsored, according to the data from the Center for Responsive Politics. MSU received significant chunks of that federal funding.

MSU’s $43 million in 2007 ranked the university first among public universities in the nation receiving congressional earmarks, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Ole Miss ranked second that year with $37 million in projects.

Altogether, MSU activity related to promoting and supporting Cochran may have violated four parts of the university’s nine-page political activities policy. It prohibits preferential treatment of political candidates, instead calling for “equality” of treatment of all candidates. The policy requires the university to invite all candidates who have qualified for the office to receive the same level of treatment as any candidate who has appeared at the university.

The university’s political activities policy makes no exemption for incumbents seeking re-election.

When Cochran appeared at MSU, his Republican primary opponent Chris McDaniel, 41, and Democratic candidate Bill Marcy, 67, had also filed qualifying papers for the U.S. Senate race with

McDaniel

McDaniel

state political party offices. Federal Election Commission records show McDaniel’s statement of candidacy documents on file since Oct. 22. Other candidates qualified last week to try and unseat Cochran.

Among other Mississippi public university policies on political activities reviewed, MSU’s document provides the most lengthy and thorough guidelines and explanations for activities prohibited. Multiple of the state’s eight publicly funded universities do not have policies that address prohibited political activity for the institution. IHL does not have a policy related to defining acceptable political activities at state-funded universities.

Most university employees also qualify as state government employees and must follow state personnel policies. Mississippi State Personnel Board’s policies and procedures manual also prohibits “agencies” from directing state employees to provide services for or against political candidates.

National political pundits have identified Mississippi GOP U.S. Senate primary as among the most competitive in the nation. National political groups advocating for less federal government spending have targeted Cochran this campaign season, pumping more than $1 million to attack the senator or promote his opponent. Cochran has worked to appropriate billions of federal tax dollars to many programs throughout the state through congressional earmarks, often called porkbarrel spending.

Congress ended the practice of earmarking money for projects back home in 2011 after an outcry of abuse.

McDaniel and Marcy both have said they would support less federal spending in all states.

Marcy

McDaniel did visit the university on Nov. 16 to speak to a student organization but review of the university’s news release archives showed nothing promoting the state Senator’s campus visit. Marcy last visited MSU as part of a candidate forum in 2008 when all Congressional candidates received invitations to interact with the university community.

Both McDaniel and Marcy’s campaigns confirmed the university has not informed them of any plans for photos and a news release for publication on MSU’s website and distribution to news organizations that received the Cochran material.

Sid Salter, director of MSU’s Office of Public Affairs, said the university did nothing inappropriate related to supporting a candidate in the Senate race. He said the university did not publicize Cochran’s visit until after the senator left campus and did not mention incumbent’s heated GOP primary race in the news release published and distributed.

“I don’t think we could have made that experience any less political,” Salter said during a lengthy interview last week. “The release that the university put out made no mention of the campaign or any aspect of that.”

MSU routinely has elected officials visit the university’s campus and produces related promotional material. It’s not immediately known how many have visited amid political campaigns.

Brett Kittredge, communications director for state auditor Stacey Pickering, said “gray areas” exist related political activities on state universities and wouldn’t comment on possible violations of state law. He said the auditor’s office must first receive an official complaint before any inquiry could make any official determination.

The Sun Herald, a south Mississippi newspaper, published a column last week by Pickering related to a dustup from a Politico story about McDaniel’s campaign that included criticism of government waste during disaster relief efforts. Pickering defended Cochran’s leadership in providing federal funding for relief and rebuilding in the state after Hurricane Katrina.

Experts on ethical actions of public, private and nonprofit leaders outside of Mississippi believe university officials made significant judgment lapses. James Abruzzo, co-director of Rutgers University’s Institute for Ethical Leadership, said all leaders face ethical dilemmas and must ensure they do not create the appearance of conflict of interest or favoritism. He said sometimes the appearance of these dubious activities is sometimes considered the same as a conflict of interest or favoritism, even if it breaks no laws or regulations.

Abruzzo reviewed MSU’s political activities policy and the news release resulting from Cochran’s visit and said the policy seems very explicit, going to great lengths to describe circumstances not permitted.

“While one could argue that the circumstances in question, however they are interpreted, do not break any policies, they certainly present the appearance of favoritism toward one candidate,” Abruzzo said. “The fact that the university may benefit from the candidate’s influencing government appropriations, simply exacerbates the situation.”

 

Disclosure: I worked as a research writer at Mississippi State University’s Office of University Relations (now Office of Public Affairs) as I completed my master’s degree in public policy and administration and until I resumed my journalism career full-time in May 2012. I never officially worked with Salter at the university and had accepted a position at a Pennsylvania newspaper before he was appointed director of the office. However, I did write a news release in December 2010 about Salter speaking at a fall commencement.

 

 

MSU’s political activities policy

 

MSU’s Feb. 19 news release

 

Mississippi Public Personnel Board’s policies and procedures manual

 

 

Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning policies related to political activity

Mississippi’s options for U.S. Senate and House candidates

 

Now that the qualifying deadline has passed, we learned that Travis Childers did make the political gambit to run for U.S. Senate in an election he and others in the state Democratic Party believe could potentially turn favorable to the former congressman.

But Childers isn’t the only last-minute candidate looking to win elected office.  In all, 28 candidates will likely have their names on the ballots combined between primary and general elections. Check out the field candidates who want to represent Mississippi in Congress. Among qualifiers, 12 are Democrats, 11 Republican, four independent and one Libertarian.

As for incumbents, four are Republican and then the other is Bennie G. Thompson.

Nine candidates have qualified to run in the 4th Congressional District in south Mississippi, the most among all Mississippi political races this year. Six candidates qualified for U.S. Senate and for the 3rd District. Alan Nunnelee has three challengers and the 2nd District has three candidates.

As this political season begins to heat up, Daily Journal Jackson bureau reporter Bobby Harrison and I will continue to report stories about candidates and races voters need to know as they prepare to make informed decisions on June 3 and Nov. 4. Click here to read my longer piece about tea party challengers ready to defeat six-term incumbent Thad Cochran and Childers in the primaries, along with insight to race. As of now, many pundits give tea party sweetheart Chris McDaniel a slim chance of knocking Cochran out in the GOP primary.

Information for each U.S. Senate and House of Representatives candidate appears in boxes below.

 

 

 

Click different spots on the map to see if any of the candidates are your neighbor.

 

Contact Robbie Ward

2014 Mississippi GOP, Dem Party candidates for primary elections

Below are full both lists of candidates filing qualifying papers provided by Mississippi Republican and Democratic parities. Candidates had until today at 5 p.m. qualify for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives elections.

A few candidates filed at the last moment today but the biggest names added to the occurred Friday when former Democratic U.S.  Rep. Gene Taylor qualified as a Republican in the 4th Congressional District to try to get told old job back. Democrat Travis Childers, former 1st Congressional District representative, ended months of speculation Friday when he filed paperwork to run for U.S. Senate.

Democrat Childers yet to qualify for U.S. Senate as deadline looms

Childers

Democrat Travis Childers again failed state party hopefuls today by letting another day pass without announcing his campaign for U.S. Senate, leaving the former 1st District Congressman just three days to meet the qualifying deadline.

Mississippi Democrats not named Jim Hood have struggled to win statewide election since 1999, when powerful Republican Haley Barbour knocked the wind out of squeaky-voiced incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove trying to stay in the governor’s mansion.

Democratic defeat of six-time incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran has never happened. For years, Democrats fielded only token challengers to Cochran’s re-election bids but this

Cochran

year could buck the trend. Currently, only tea party Republican turned-tea-party Democrat Bill Marcy has filed papers on the blue side. For the record, conservative Marcy does not send a thrill up the legs of most Mississippi Democratic Party leaders.

Depressed Mississippi Democrats looking for a more promising future see a glimmer of hope in tea party champion Chris McDaniel, a state senator and GOP candidate running far to Cochran’s right. Most status quo Republicans in the state don’t normally pay attention to any primary or general election Cochran challenger but McDaniel has an outside shot of putting “earmark slayer” on his business cards. Cochran’s reputation for funneling billions of federal tax dollars toward Mississippi research, health care, community and economic development and other projects has earned him accolades from many folks throughout the state.

McDaniel

McDaniel

However, those same earmarks bring perpetual death stares from fiscal hawks like U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and plenty of deep-pocked special interest organizations like Club for Growth and Freedomworks for America. So far, about a half-dozen tea party groups have spent more than $1 million in outside expenditures through PACs and super PACs.

Most Mississippi pundits and Republicans still predict a Cochran victory in the GOP primary and an easy win in the general election. Cochran’s 36 years in office should have built enough political capital to make skeptics of his re-election sound like rants of madmen. However, Cochran’s campaign team assure nosy reporters like me that the Senator takes his GOP primary threat seriously. The key Senate farm bill negotiator’s campaign coffers won’t apply for food stamps anytime soon. Cochran reported more than $1 million in cash on hand on Dec. 31 and reports continue of him raking in big-money donations.

Back to former U.S. Rep. Childers of Booneville. Democratic strategists in Washington, D.C. and Jackson seem to keep factoring the blue dog Democrat (an ever-diminishing endangered species rarely found in elected office) into their favorite “If…then” probability scenarios. Childers served one term before the current District 1 U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, a Republican, sent the former chancery clerk back to selling real estate in north Mississippi.

Mississippi Democrats see Childers with realistic shot at returning half of this Deep South state’s U.S. Senate delegation to the

Cruz

blue column if McDaniels can retire Cochran in the GOP primary. Some Tea party candidates for U.S. House and Senate seats in recent years have  in general election wins, such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. However, others defeated incumbents in primaries and lost in the general election.

Finding a viable Democratic candidate to defeat McDaniel in a general election showdown remains a top priority for state party chairman Rickey Cole but qualifying ends at 5 p.m. Saturday. I suspect Childers and other big-name Democrats view a Senate run as a tricky gambit. After all, if Cochran, third on the U.S. Senate’s seniority list, shows as much political savvy in the GOP primary as his earmarking deft, once optimistic Mississippi Democrats will likely resume their familiar November ritual of requesting more Prozac refills.

Y’all politics, a conservative blog focused on Mississippi’s political landscape, reported today registration of ChildersforSenate.com on Oct. 30, 2013, shortly after McDaniel’s Oct. 17 announcement to run again Cochran. Democrats could have registered the site on behalf of Childers out of optimism he’ll run. However, registration does not confirm anyone associated with Childers reserved the site. A website squatter or someone with other interests could have taken possession of the site, currently set to expire five days before the Nov. 4 general election.

Either way, we’ll know within three days who will surface on Democratic side of the U.S. Senate election equation.

If Childers makes the calculated risk to run, national and Mississippi Democrats will have at least until June 3 to keep the “If…” in their political prayers. If McDaniel pulls off the upset, national media will join the general election chorus of “If, if, if…” Would bitter Cochran supporters vote for a tea party elephant or stay home? Will Childers’ mustache prove as successful as Jim Hood’s mullet in winning general election votes?

If Sen. Cochran wins yet another GOP primary, all of these ifs will be for naught.

Cochran, McDaniel campaigns exchange gifts

Cochran

Cochran

Heated politics in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate GOP primary doesn’t have to

McDaniel

McDaniel

mean both sides can’t exchange gifts.

They just don’t know when and what they’ll deliver to the other side.

Cochran gave first to McDaniel’s campaign when he told Jackson television stations that he knew didn’t know much about the tea party, generating howls and derision all across conservative media. The Club for Growth’s super PAC even used Cochran’s words in an 11 second ad against him.

Not to be outdone, McDaniel offered a much more valuable present to Cochran’s campaign when Politico published a story reporting the state senator “ducked” answering questions about how he would have voted for federal disaster relief for Southern states to recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. McDaniel faced an onslaught of criticism for hesitating to support disaster relief for south Mississippi and other parts of the state. He later said he would have supported funding for the bill.

Cochran supporter and former Gov. Haley Barbour said anyone hesitating to support federal funding for Katrina recovery doesn’t deserve to represent the state. News organizations including the Jackson-based Clarion Ledger and the New Orleans-based Times Picayune also published editorials slamming McDaniel’s lackluster support for resources after the tragedy.

The morning after the Politico interview, Sen. McDaniel’s campaign spokesman contacted the reporter to “clarify that Chris would’ve been a yes vote on the disaster bill,” according to the article. Someone in the campaign must have decided that being against Katrina aid might not be a winning strategy.              – The Times-Picayune editorial board

McDaniel’s campaign struck back on his Facebook campaign page saying critics “slandered” him by accusing the candidate of not supporting the bill. He emphasized that he opposed wasteful spending in disaster relief funding, not actual disaster relief.

Independent studies on Katrina relief have demonstrated more than $2 Billion in waste and misspent funds. Some of the waste went for such “necessities” as guns, strippers and tattoos among a whole list of other things not related to what the donors intended.         -Chris McDaniel

Evaluating campaign “gifts,” McDaniel seems to have paid a higher price for what he gave Cochran’s campaign. Whether or not true, audio exists of McDaniel noncommittal statements related to Hurricane Katrina support.

 

This issue Cochran supporters will continue to exploit will likely hurt McDaniel in south Mississippi and other parts of the state, places the challenger must make strong inroads to unseat a sitting U.S. senator. Many political pundits and experts on Mississippi’s Southern fried politics believe for McDaniel to win the primary election he must run a nearly flawless campaign with significant Cochran missteps.

Cochran’s statement packaged and delivered to McDaniel supporters may do little more than encourage McDaniel’s tea party base. We’ll never know if Cochran’s gaffe was a miscalculation or honest unawareness of political landscape within his own party.  Perhaps, Cochran wanted to minimize discussion with the reporter on anything associated with McDaniel, hoping the television reporter would use a soundbite about Cochran touting his accomplishments.

Moving forward, both campaigns will plan to give fewer gifts to the other team but will likely manage to keep giving.

Speaking of gifts, PACs and super PACs making independent expenditures to oppose or support a candidate have reached the $1 million milestone for combined spending in this race. Outside independent spending currently favors McDaniel by a 3-to-1 margin. But remember, more than 83 percent of contributions to Cochran’s campaign during the most recent Federal Election Commission filing period (Oct. 1 through Dec. 31) came from PACs.

This race seems to have something for everyone and has just started.

King of Pork, meet the Prince of PACs (and super PACs)

Cochran

Cochran

Mississippi’s six-term U.S. Senator, Thad Cochran, built his reputation for bringing home federal bacon through Congressional earmarks. His Republican primary election opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, seems likely to have earned his own nickname by the time Mississippians decide on June 3 which GOP candidate to advance to the general election.

McDaniel, 41, has attracted lots of political action committees

McDaniel

McDaniel

with unlimited spending restrictions supporting his bid for statewide federal office. These PACs without spending limits by law just can’t coordinate with McDaniel or his campaign. To date, the majority of PACs supporting Tea Party favorite McDaniel are super PACs, which can receive unlimited contributions from individuals, associations, union and corporations.

My piece on independent expenditures so far in this U.S. Senate

primary published Sunday showed early outside influence brewing on both sides. Many more PACs and super PACs will likely join the fray before the election.

However, McDaniel continues gain deep-pock PAC allies, which can offer get-out-the-vote support, campaign materials like signs and commercials, logistics and so much more. His newest supporter, Freedomworks for America, reported $41,355 in expenses Sunday to either support McDaniel or oppose Cochran. This covered yard signs for McDaniel and against Cochran, a luncheon, estimated staff and overhead and travel.

Former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas founded Freedomworks for America to advocate on fiscal issues and less government intervention in economic activities, largely supporting Tea Party candidates.

Freedomworks for America’s support for McDaniel amounted to 46 percent of all the super PAC’s reported spending Sunday in three Congressional primary races in Mississippi, Idaho and Kentucky. This super PAC, like so many others, provided a force nationwide during the 2012 election cycle, spending $22.6 million. In 2014′s election cycle, Freedomworks has spent nearly $2 million and will likely spend exponentially more to elect candidates like McDaniel.

So far, PACs and super PACs making independent expenditures in this race on McDaniel’s behalf have totaled $716,424. The single super PAC supporting Cochran, Mississippi Conservatives, has spent $221,740, the group’s most recent expense was $2,000 for advertising on the popular state blog Jackson Jambalaya.

Other PACs and super PACs supporting McDaniel are Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth Action, Senate Conservatives Action and Madison Project Inc.
Along with independent expenditures, these PACs also “earmark” contributions directly to McDaniel’s campaign by having their supporters, more than 1 million throughout the nation, from each group’s website.

With Cochran and McDaniel both accepting PAC money directly to their political campaigns and receiving support from super PACs, neither candidate can legitimately denounce outside money expected to overwhelm this race.

Both campaigns provided statements related to outside money in the race, specifically independent expenditures of PACs and super PaCs.

McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch:

“Sen. McDaniel is proud of all the support he has received from conservatives across Mississippi and across the country. These conservatives are supporting Sen. McDanial because he has a record of standing up for limited government and fiscal responsibility. They are tired of career politicians that vote for tax increases, debt ceiling increases, outrageous pork projects like the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska, and the funding of Obamacare.”

Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell:

“We are not allowed to coordinate with outside groups so we have no control over what they do. We are very pleased to have the endorsement of Governor Phil Bryant along with virtually every other conservative elected official in this state. Governor Bryant and other conservative Republican elected officials who have also endorsed Thad know it’s critical we have Thad’s experienced leadership in the U.S. Senate so Mississippi’s voice is as strong as possible.

Out-of-state groups have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to influence this election just like they have done in other states so we expect these outsiders will try to mislead and deceive voters. Mississippians are not going to be fooled because people here know Thad’s record of conservative leadership and how he’s done so much to help build our state. We are pleased to have strong support from Mississippians all across the state and we are not relying on out-of-state groups to deliver our message.”

But how effective will all this outside spending be as Mississippians decide between these very different candidates? Ask me about 9 p.m. on June 3.

As always, I welcome comments below.

Tupelo government to nix cost-saving, higher productivity schedules

11271301 Public Works

Photo by Thomas Wells / Zach Phillips replaces a solenoid on a trailer Wednesday afternoon at the Tupelo Public Works shop on Crossover Street. The public works crew will return to a five-day work week in late December.

How do leaders in the city of Tupelo reward a department finding a way to lower operating costs, overtime and sick leave while increasing productivity?

This month, they plan to end the practice without any formal evaluation to determine benefits and negatives of the change in scheduling for the city’s department of public works.

Sid Russell, who retired in September as director of the department, said he studied for years benefits of switching to a four-day workweek from the traditional five-day schedule before the change nearly three years ago. He said said evaluation of the effort led to significant savings of city tax dollars and improved productivity of workers.

This move followed a trend nationwide to create alternative schedules to some nonemergency city services. Public works staff currently work 10 hours daily from Monday through Thursday and keep office staff on Fridays, along with a crew on call for emergencies.

Carlos Zepeda, president of a Miami-based organizational management consulting company and an expert on performance management, said cities he reviewed in Arizona that changed departments to a four day work schedule saved more than $1 million.

Tupelo chief operations officer Don Lewis said he recommended the change to provide better service to the public, although he acknowledged possible increases in costs to taxpayers and morale drop for public works employees, along with research showing benefits of four day work weeks.

“The citizens expect that service five days a week,” he said. “It makes the total city operations better when everybody is on roughly the same schedule.”

City leaders shouldn’t always stick with the same policies just because the city has had for a long time, municipal government experts say. Zepeda, the organizational management expert, said citizens in other areas have appreciated changes in hours from four-day work weeks.

“From a customer service aspect, clients have a extra two hours of service” he said of work days in the four-day work week.

Rex Facer, an associate professor of public management and finance at Brigham Young University who has researched alternative work schedules for six years, is currently reviewing surveys from about 1,500 responses  from employees nationwide.

“We’re seeing employees on alternative work schedules are more satisfied, more productive, have a better work/life balance, and are less likely to leave an organization,” he said.

Mayor Jason Shelton has yet to name a permanent replacement to Russell as leader of Tupelo’s public works. Chuck Williams, traffic control supervisor in public works serving as interim director, said he does not oppose returning to a five day schedule, that some employees might not like it but will get used to it.

Russell said an interim leader in public works makes it vulnerable to policy changes that may not benefit employees or tax payers. He said he knew of snide remarks in other city departments not allowed to switch to a four day work week, something Lewis also acknowledged but denied as a factor for recommending ending the practice.

Here’s the full Daily Journal story.

Links below will take you to January 2012 public documents showing reasons the city of Tupelo changed to the four-day work schedule and benefits achieved.

Tupelo Public Works Department Accomplishments July 6, 2009-July 20, 2011 (PDF)

Tupelo Public Works Department Accomplishments July 6, 2009-July 20, 2011 (Text)