Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba has fired Public Works Director Dan Gaillet, effective immediately. The mayor confirmed Gaillet's termination Monday afternoon following a special meeting of the city council.
Monday's personnel move signals a major step toward the city's goal of fundamentally transforming the department from being contract-based to doing more in-house work.
"I think we do have some philosophies and some directions that we want to take public works in, and that was not the direction that public works was going in," Lumumba said. "It's not meant to be any kind of a stain or denunciation of anybody. It's just a question of what direction we want to go in and how we're going to get there."
Gaillet had served as director since April 2010. Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. promoted him to replace Thelman Boyd, who worked in the public-works department in Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.'s first administration and served as public-works director in the Frank Melton administration. Gaillet previously served as city traffic manager.
He was appointed shortly after an unexpected freeze caused water pipes to burst throughout the city in January 2010, and part of Gaillet's legacy involves the installation of a water tower currently in the latter stages of construction at the corner of Woodrow Wilson and Mill Street.
Gaillet also helped spearhead the city's attempts to address two consent decrees with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about sludge the city dumped into the Pearl River and another with the U.S. Department of Justice involving sorely lacking accessibility for disabled citizens at public bus stops and city-owned buildings.
Lumumba says the public-works department needs a more Jackson-centric approach, in which the city would buy the equipment and hire the workers to do jobs previously contracted out to companies such as Rankin County-based Hemphill Construction. Hemphill is just one company that some council members have tied to the whipping post over costly work change orders.
The city cut a check for $383,405 to Hemphill at Monday's special council meeting, roughly 12 percent of the city's weekly claims docket of $3.25 million, for work on parking-garage ramps. The city typically contracts with private companies for major infrastructure work.
Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps has complained about 80 positions in the public-works budget that remain unfilled; in the meantime, non-Jackson-based companies and their employees cash in on construction work. Hiring Jacksonians could save money and keep the wages in Jackson, Stamps has said.
The mayor stated it plainly after Monday's meeting: "We need to make public works more capable of insourcing work as opposed to outsourcing work."
Lumumba appointed Gaillet's deputy and Lumumba mayoral-campaign worker Willie Bell as acting director.
Gaillet is the fourth department head Lumumba has replaced since becoming mayor. That list includes ex-Police Chief Rebecca Coleman, Fire Chief Raymond McNulty and Parks and Recreation Director A.C. Jimerson. Also under Lumumba, city attorney Pieter Teeuwissen resigned from his post. Lumumba has appointed Gail Wright Lowery to replace him.