CANTON — Three commissioners walked out of the building following a strange sequence of events that included the firing and re-hiring of attorney Mike Espy, abruptly ending a meeting of the Canton Municipal Utilities Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Commissioner Cleveland Anderson made a motion at the beginning of the meeting to fire Espy over an email sent to Anderson and Engineer Rudy Warnock on Oct. 6 discussing irregularities with CMU. Anderson’s motion was to also hire Ed Blackmon Jr. as general counsel for CMU.

In the email, Espy discusses a meeting with the Public Service Commission and how CMU was out of compliance with PSC filings dating back to 2005.

Espy had submitted a corrective plan to get into compliance at the end of November.

On Tuesday, Anderson said the email included language “not representative of CMU” and made misrepresentation about CMU’s problems and strategies to address them.

Espy states in the email that previous general managers messed up and did nothing to bring things to light.

The motion ultimately passed 3-2 with Cleotha Williams and Lanny Slaughter voting with Anderson. Charles Weems and Charlie Morgan voted against.

“It’s a total surprise to me,” Espy said. “I can assume where it comes from. What’s on that letter is false.”

He added, “My contract has a pretty good severance package. I wish I had been given the courtesy of notification.”

Immediately following the vote, Anderson called for a short recess, and during that time he and Slaughter exited the meeting room.

After a roughly five-minute break, Weems, the CMU chairman, called the meeting back to order and made a motion to re-hire Espy, which passed 2-1. Weems and Morgan voted in favor, with Williams voting against. Slaughter and Anderson were still absent.

Anderson and Slaughter both returned and Anderson then asked what happened while he was gone.

“We reappointed Mike Espy,” Weems said.

Anderson tried to make the motion to again fire Espy but Weems said they had moved on from that part of the agenda and they were “past that.”

Engineer Rudy Warnock then tried to get a $126,335 bill for emergency sewer repairs that was not on the claims docket passed when Anderson charged that it wasn’t on the agenda and couldn’t be voted on.

“My contention right now is for this meeting to cease,” Anderson said.

Weems responded, “You can leave if you want to. If you don’t like the way it’s run you don’t have to be a commissioner.”

At that point State Sen. Barbara Blackmon, wife of Ed Blackmon, had rushed to the meeting room and sat behind Anderson as Anderson continued to call for a motion to fire Espy. Blackmon kept repeating that Weems has to recognize the motion.

“You can bring it up in the next meeting then,” Weems said.

Anderson exclaimed, “I’d like to call for a vote sir.”

This back-and-forth continued for several minutes before Espy shouted, “You’re giving me cause. This is illegal.”

Weems never recognized the motion and Blackmon then escorted Anderson, Slaughter and Williams out of the meeting room ending the meeting due to lack of a quorum.

Later that evening, the Canton Board of Aldermen called a special meeting for Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Multiple sources say the meeting was to replace Anderson on the CMU board.

At 8:05 a.m., the only two aldermen present were Ward 6 Alderman Eric Gilkey and Ward 7 Alderman Andrew Grant. Five aldermen are needed to have a quorum.

Ward 3 Alderman Les Penn and Ward 2 Alderman Olivia Harrell showed up shortly afterwards, followed by Ward 5 Alderman Vickie McNeil.

However, prior to the meeting being called to order, McNeil exited the building saying she wasn’t going to give them a quorum to fire Anderson. As a result, there was no meeting.

Anderson, Slaughter and Williams have called for a special-called meeting of the CMU Board today (Thursday, Dec. 22) at 9:30 a.m. According to the notice posted, personnel items, including general counsel, engineer and CMU consultant,are listed.