Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Mayor Frank Melton abruptly called the Jackson Free Press last week to correct what he thought was misreporting in the paper, in a July 25 story about a camp for boys that he organized. "You know I don't read your paper," he said, "but someone told me that you reported that the city paid for the camp. It didn't cost the taxpayers. I paid all costs out of my pocket."
Melton said he paid for all the food for the five days of the camp at the Sophia Sutton Mission near Prentiss, and then on the sixth day he brought the 51 young men back to his Jackson home for a barbecue. He paid for that, too. Then, he put the young men to work picking up trash around the city, which cost him a total of $4,170, also out of his pocket.
The mayor explained that because some of the young men were under 15, federal labor law does not allow the city to pay them to work because they are not "big enough." Thus, he explained, he had to pay them out of his pocket to pick up trash in the city.
When told that the JFP had not reported that the city had funded the camp, but had said that city staff had assisted with it, Melton said: "That is correct." He said that he had five adults at the camp with him. Two of them are city employees—Anthony ("Danky") Staffney and Marlon ("Mickey") Warner, both on the Parks and Recreation payroll.
Both Staffney and Warner have served time for felonies: Staffney for possession of crack with intent to distribute and Warner for cocaine possession. Staffney and Marlon Warner's brother, Maurice, were acquitted along with Vidal Sullivan in 2006 for the 2003 murder of Carey Bias, a murder that Melton has called a Wood Street Players action.
Albert "Batman" Donelson was acquitted for the murder of Aaron Crockett after the district attorney was forced to drop a prime witness provided by Melton—Christopher Walker—because Walker was living in Melton's home and carrying a Frank E. Melton credit card. Donelson has denied prosecutors' claim that the Wood Street Players is a violent crime organization, and Walker later appeared with Melton at a press conference to accuse District Attorney Faye Peterson of corruption and of "f*cking" a now-deceased bail bondsman.
Melton has been close to the Warners, Staffney and his late brother Joseph since he mentored them as young men. Joseph Staffney attended a similar camp for young gang members that Melton held in Texas in the '80s, according to old news reports. He later died in an unsolved shooting in Jackson.
Anthony Staffney went to work for Melton in 2006 weeks after his acquittal and frequents the mayor's home at 2 Carter's Grove. His attorney in the Bias murder case was Robert Smith, who also defended Donelson's co-defendant James Benton in the Crockett case and represented bodyguard Marcus Wright in the Ridgeway Street trial and Melton mentee Michael Taylor for armed robbery. Smith is running for district attorney.
Staffney sat in on an interview with the JFP in Melton's City Hall office in April 2006. Melton said of him then: "His name is Anthony Staffney. That is the first child that I ever met in my life here in Jackson."
Also attending the camp were a Mr. Knight of the Washington Addition—Melton could not recall his first name—as well as Luisa Maria Battista, Melton's 83-year-old aunt who cooked for the 51 young men. Melton says Battista moved to Jackson to take care of him after his heart surgery. She lives in his home and cooks for the house full of men every day, he said. "The house looks like Mexico now," he said with a snicker. "Life goes on."
Melton also said that Councilman Frank Bluntson and Rev. Ronald Moore from Jackson attended part of the Sophia Sutton camp, but could not recall the name of the third non-city adult. The mayor has made no secret in past interviews that Bluntson—who directed the Hinds County Juvenile Detention Center for many years until an scandal in the early '90s forced him to step down and go to work for then-District District Ed Peters—has long helped young, at-risk men come spend time with him for mentoring.
"Frank Bluntson is the one who brought me Aaron Brown, when Aaron was 12 years old," He told me in April 2006. "(Bluntson) just said, 'Frank, here's a kid that deserves your attention and deserves your help.' I took Aaron in, he lived in my home, and it was a real education." Brown is now serving life in Parchman for murder, Melton said in 2006.
Melton said he could not provide the names of the boys who attended the Jefferson Davis camp last month because they are minors. None has lived in his home, he said.
"They are all new kids," Melton said. Four of them are from the Juvenile Detention Center. "They did fine," he said. "We didn't have any disciplinary problems."
After Melton's indictment last August, the mayor was forbidden from supervising minors because he was accused of ordering at least one—then-16-year-old Michael Taylor—of committing a felony. But after his acquittal, the judge lifted the restriction.
The mayor was mired in controversy for months because he tried to replace Parks Director Ramie Ford with Charles Melvin. Before that appointment, which was later rejected by Council, Melvin was over the mayor's youth division, and supervised Staffney and Warner, among others. Melton and Melvin told the JFP last April that all youth workers were being drug-tested by the temporary agency writing their checks.
That turned out not to be the case.
Remember this is the man that will tell you other black men are not helping young children like he is - usually aiming his lies towards the 100 Black Men of Jackson. Yet, the 100 Black Men of Jackson own a whole recreational camp where they provide camps and safe play areas for children. There are men that are involved in fatherhood seminars. There are youth coaches, teachers, and youth volunteers at the various centers like Boys and Girls club. Mayor Melton there are plenty of men out there helping mentor young men and women, so stick a sock in your lies. You can't believe a word this man says.