Harry Sanders Speaks His Mind

President of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders is known as a man who rarely holds his tongue. In a conversation that I had with him, one recent morning, this fact became crystal clear immediately.  

Sanders quickly professed his disdain for the politics of Lowndes County Supervisor Leroy Brooks. Before any questions were even asked, Sanders began to speak.

“I went down looking to Leroy’s garden,” commented Sanders, speaking on the issue of a community garden that Brooks has spearheaded and which has benefited from proceeds from Brooks’ Juneteenth event, “I wanted to see what he had done and not done. Low and behold we [Sanders and an un-named individual] went down there and there was a man from the county cutting grass. I asked, ‘What the hell you doing down here?’ And he said, ‘I’m checking on this fence.’ “It’s not your job. Why are you here?’ The county employee responded, ’Cause Leroy sent me down here.’  That property had nothing to do with the County at all and here’s a damn county employee in a county vehicle going around working in the [Leroy’s] garden. This is just one of many illegal things that Leroy’s done and nobody says anything and he keeps right on doing it. Leroy’s a crook.”

Can you tell me which laws that you believe Leroy has broken?

“He had to pay back $5,000 because he put in a culvert illegally. He had to pay back $800 where he used the county for some concrete for a monument. Between him and other supervisors he had to pay $138,000 back because of illegal contributions to the African-American Cultural Organization. His wife was found guilty of embezzling from the bank at Federal Court in Aberdeen, and what do they get? They sentenced her to one day in jail,” stated Sanders. He’s always stated that I’m not smart enough to get him. You know why? He got a cashier’s check at one bank, walked across the street, cashes it and gets another cashier’s check and he does that five times around. The auditors told me when they go try and run the cash down, you wait three years and all of a sudden you got twenty cashier’s checks that you got to follow, then the bank’s home office isn’t here so they have to go to Birmingham and all these different places. They say you just can’t follow the trail,” accused Sanders. “Let me give you some history about Leroy,” Sanders offered. “I like Leroy, personally, because he has sense and he’s charismatic, but he’s a paranoid schizophrenic. He had a Section 8 discharge [not an official title for a discharge] from the Air Force with the notation the he cannot get along with authoritative figures. Whenever someone shows some authority over him, he goes ballistic.”

[Sanders has been president of the board since 2004, while Leroy’s been a board supervisor for about 30 years. In the past Leroy has claimed that, “When Harry was hired, he told me, ‘I’m here to put you in your place, Leroy.’” This is a claim that Sanders denies.]

When questioned on the issue of the Lowndes County budget, Sanders said, “He [Brooks] set up an interview with every department head, got all his requests and formulated his budget. None of us had any ‘backroom’ – whatever Leroy called it. When we called Leroy in with the other supervisors to discuss the budget, Leroy said, ‘I ain’t gonna do it. Give me a copy of it, if I have any questions, I’ll ask.’ It was posted in the newspaper and Jeff Smith gets all those people to come up there requesting a baseball field and whatever else. They were at the wrong meeting. They needed to be talking to Parks and Recreation and not us. Jeff Smith had been told, prior to the Board of Supervisors meeting, that he was in the wrong place and he needed to go to Parks and Recreation. They think because they’re supervisors, they can go and run every department in the damn world. They don’t understand how government works and what their responsibilities are.”

Let me ask you this, and I may be confused, but the Columbus Municipal School District, as well as the City of Columbus had budget hearings with PowerPoint presentations, involving every member of the board. Why did Lowndes County not do this?

“Well the county…One reason we didn’t do it is because the Chief Financial Officer has been out due to surgery and it was right around budget time. But, also, there’s really no need in it. Let me back up. The county and city governments are different. The law says that the counties cannot spend money or give money to anybody unless the [Mississippi] legislature has said we can do it. The city or municipal government is different. They can give money to anybody they want to. The county can’t do that. We can’t give anybody money unless the Legislature says so.”

It’s been speculated that the board talks among themselves and hold private meetings. What is your response to that?

“We always have the press there and advertise that it’s a public meeting. So, we wait until our board meeting to do that. That being said, if Davis Basinger, our chief financial officer had not been sick we would have resolved the [budget] issue on Sept. 1, but we had to do it on Sept. 15. Because he was sick, Ralph [Billingsley, Lowndes County administrator] had to do it by himself. It was all postponed for two weeks, so we had to do it all at the same time. Leroy’s just trying to make a grandstand. I’ve been working with Leroy for 12 years. We’ve done it like this every year, and if he doesn’t like the process, he needs to go change the damn law.

Why weren’t the budget hearings conducted like those of other government entities? For example, the Columbus City Council had three different meetings, one of which was about four hours.

“One of the reasons the city did that that way, well you got that Kabir [Karriem] and others and the sons of bitches are in real financial trouble. They’re hoping like hell that sales tax collection comes up. They forget that they had the people working out at KiOR coming into town and eating out and buying food and cokes and beer, whatever.

The conversation continued for some time, along those same lines, but offering nothing specific or of great consequence. Although Harry Sanders was cordial and invited me into his home, it was evident that Sanders is very passionate about what he believes and is not the least bit reluctant to share his views with anyone who will listen.

Whit Harrington

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3 Comments on “Harry Sanders Speaks His Mind”

  1. Billy Says:

    Don’t it make you feel warm and fuzzy to have a leader like this? Where are the other 3 supervisors? They could take control of the Harry and Leroy show. Oh I forgot they are not their own men! Very sad ! How we must look to the rest of the world.

    Reply

  2. C.David Page Says:

    Keep kicking that Prairie chicken in the pants Harry!

    Reply

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