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Wildlife Federation intends to sue over Wildlife Extravaganza 2019

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A largely empty MWF Extravaganza space at 1:37 p.m. on Sunday afternoon of the "Ganza '19" event last year. (Photo by David Day)

The Mississippi Wildlife Federation announced its intention to sue several state agencies over a dispute connected with its Wildlife Extravaganza of 2019.

The threatened lawsuit says the agencies conspired against MWF “to retaliate against MWF for its political stance on an environmental issue.”

The issue is the Yazoo Backwater Pumps.

“Prior to the 2019 Extravaganza, MWF became aware of a public misperception that the Federation was actively opposing (or otherwise preventing completion of) the installation of pumps at the Steele Bayou Control to push backwater out of the Mississippi Delta,” the organization said in a statement. “Regardless of the accuracy of this misperception, any position taken by the MWF in public was constitutionally protected speech.”

Last July, the Vicksburg Daily News broke a story that Onward farmer Victoria Darden and supporters of finishing the Yazoo Pumps were denied a booth at the Wildlife Extravaganza. As a result of the story, Mississippi’s Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson offered space at the Mississippi Ag/John Deere booth to Darden.

Public support for the people affected by the flood and in support of the pumps quickly snowballed into a grassroots boycott of the ‘Ganza’ event, which Darden said she did not encourage.

Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks canceled its booth, and dozens of other vendors followed suit. Hundreds of Mississippians who had been faithful attendees of former “ganzas” refused to attend.

The result was devastating for the event, which has long been the primary fund raiser for the organization. Throughout the incidents, MWF failed to return calls to the Vicksburg Daily News, although they have since come out in support of completing the pumps.

Now, MWF intends to sue the Foundation for Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Mississippi Fair & Coliseum Commission and others for “violation of constitutional, contractual and property rights” and for a conspiracy “to take over its annual Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza held historically at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds, as well as denying MWF access to state owned public space paid for by state and federal public funding,” the organization said in a statement issued Monday.

The threatened suit also names Don Brazil, chief executive officer of FMDWFP; Sam Polles, executive director of MDWFP; Commissioner Gipson and Steve Hutton, former director of the fair commission; and event promoter Jack Fisher.

“In an effort to subvert the efforts of MWF to put on a successful event, four days before last year’s Extravaganza, the MDWFP publicly withdrew its support of and participation in the event and indicated it would withdraw all future support and funding,” MWF states. “Privately, MDWFP employees were informed by Polles, the MDWFP’s executive director, that they were not allowed to attend the event in any capacity, either as a volunteer or for personal enjoyment, and that such attendance (even in plain clothes) would result in the termination of their employment. In the past, MDWFP employees routinely attended the event in support of MWF’s efforts and to provide services where needed, such as scoring buck deer brought in by attendees. At all times, MDWFP acted with clear knowledge of the adverse financial impact that the MWF would incur.”

The statement says the agencies and individuals “conspired to use government power to deprive MWF of its contractual and property rights, and/or to otherwise cause injury to MWF by denying the group use of exhibition space at the State Fairgrounds for its annual Wildlife Extravaganza, as well as access to other public facilities.”

“Litigation is always a last recourse,” said Ashlee Ellis Smith, MWF CEO in its statement. “This conspiracy not only undermined MWF’s efforts to promote conservation and hunting in Mississippi – it denied access for thousands of Mississippians, stripped state employees of their constitutional rights and reveals high- level corruption that affects all taxpayers in the state.”

MWF claims that the agencies met in two secret meetings “to devise a plan to use governmental authority to strip the MWF of its contractual and other rights to lawfully conduct its business on state property. This included but was not limited to MWF’s contractual and other rights to sponsor the Wildlife Extravaganza at the Mississippi Trade Mart.”

“If these individuals are allowed, through secret meetings and hidden agendas, to use their state power to try and economically punish an organization for its stance on a political issue, or to take over a lawful private business enterprise for their economic gain, then every nonprofit and for-profit group in this state will remain in peril of having their constitutional and contractual rights trampled” said Ellis Smith.

For his part, Gipson told the Clarion Ledger that he does not understand why the MWF is taking this course.

“I just had a chance to review the letter,” Gipson said. “It’s full of lies and I don’t know why they would pick this fight.

“I don’t know what they have to gain. I look forward to responding at the proper time.”

Read the complete statement.

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Two officers graduate academy with top honors

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Officer Michael Whitley, Chief Milton Moore and Officer Jeremy Hooper (photo by Thomas Parker)

The ranks of the Vicksburg Police Department grew by two today as Michael Whitley and Jeremy Hooper graduated from the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy at Pearl.

The curriculum at the academy has been modified due to COVID-19. Recruits have been required to stay at the academy for 8 straight weeks. Previously, the program ran several additional weeks while allowing weekends off.

Both officers took top honors, with Hooper being recognized as the best in the class in physical agility. Whitley was recognized for the highest average academically.

There were 53 recruits in their class, which was the 245th class of the academy.

The officers will report back to their respective shifts for additional training with a field training officer before being assigned to one of four shifts with Patrol Division of the Police Department.

Congratulations Officers from your friends at Vicksburg Daily News.

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Thomas Hudson named president of Jackson State University

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Thomas Hudson (photo courtesy IHL)

Jackson State University officially has a new president.

The board of trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning named Jackson State University Acting President Thomas Hudson as president of the university at its meeting held Thursday in Jackson. Hudson was named acting president earlier this year.

“As a Jackson State University alumnus, I am extremely pleased that we have identified one of our own to serve as president,” said Dr. Steven Cunningham, a member of the board of trustees, in a statement. “We have witnessed the great strides he has made over the past nine months and have full confidence that he will continue to demonstrate the great love he has for this university by providing outstanding leadership for the students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

As acting president, Hudson has provided leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and the university’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaffirmation process. He has also helped to improve the university’s financial position.

“Naming Thomas Hudson as president provides much-needed stability in leadership at the institution,” said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., commissioner of higher education. “He has done an excellent job leading the university during an extraordinarily difficult time. I am pleased to continue working with him to advance Jackson State University and the university system.”

As special assistant to the president and chief diversity officer, Hudson served on the executive cabinet and provided guidance to senior leadership on all topics related to the university’s future course and trajectory. With the Division of Human Resources and Office of General Counsel under his purview, Hudson oversaw institutional EEO and Title IX implementation and collaborated with other executive administrators on matters of curriculum, guidelines and practices.

“I am extremely appreciative and beyond humbled for the opportunity to continue to build upon Jackson State University’s extraordinary legacy,” Hudson said. “I recognize that it is an honor to serve in a leadership role, but it is an extreme honor and privilege to serve my alma mater – Jackson State University and the community I grew up in.

“My focus remains the same and that is to ensure the success of our students, faculty and staff and the long-term viability of JSU. I would like to thank the IHL board of trustees for entrusting me to lead. I want to thank my wife, daughters, mother and all my family for their infinite love and support. I also want to thank JSU administrators, faculty, staff and alumni for their deep-rooted dedication to JSU and their immovable belief in the power of a JSU education.”

Hudson has been on staff at JSU since 2012. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Jackson State University and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. Before joining the staff at Jackson State, Hudson founded his own law practice and served as an EEO specialist for the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA in Clinton.

Hudson and his wife, Phylandria, have two daughters.

 

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2.0 earthquake recorded in northern Mississippi Wednesday

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(Image source: USGS)

Yalobusha County experienced a mild 2.0 earthquake early Thursday morning.

The quake, which was centered near Enid Lake and Water Valley and about 18 miles south of Oxford, was the third one recorded in Mississippi this year. Previous rumblers were recorded near Booneville and Tunica Lake.

It’s unlikely that anyone felt much with this quake as it occurred about 6.5 miles underground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At 2.0 on the Richter scale, an earthquake can be felt slightly by some people; however, they cause no damage to buildings.

Globally, about a million 2.0 to 2.9 quakes occur every year.

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Vicksburg
57°
Partly Cloudy
6:37am5:00pm CST
Feels like: 55°F
Wind: 8mph ESE
Humidity: 71%
Pressure: 30.36"Hg
UV index: 0
FriSatSun
77/54°F
75/52°F
73/48°F

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