CANTON — The Canton Municipal Utilities Board of Commissioners voted on Friday to reinstate CEO Brian Finnegan and Staff Attorney LaToya Thompson following a hearing in federal court last Wednesday.

The two were abruptly fired by the CMU Board in a 3-2 vote last Tuesday. General Counsel Lisa Ross was also terminated from the position and replaced with Mike Espy.

Espy represented CMU in federal court on Wednesday. Ross represented Finnegan and Thompson.

Ross told the Journal last week that Finnegan and Thompson were denied due process and a hearing, whereas she served at-will and had no recourse.

CMU held a special-called meeting Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. where Espy advised that Finnegan and Thompson be reinstated.

“During executive session the board voted 5-0 to follow the recommendation of counsel to reinstate Brian Finnegan and LaToya Thompson to their former positions,” Espy said.

This past Tuesday, CMU held its regular second meeting of the month and Finnegan was absent, with co-workers saying he was out on “sick leave.”

The federal lawsuit remains open.

Meanwhile, former CMU Chair Silbrina Wright, who was appointed in July 2015 to a five-year term, is seeking a legal remedy of her own after being kicked off the board before the dismissals.

Wright was kicked off the CMU board and replaced with Cleotha Williams by the Canton Board of Aldermen on Aug. 23 in a 5-1 vote.

The aldermen claimed Wright did not live in the city limits and could not serve on the board. Those who voted to remove her were Les Penn, Eric Gilkey, Rodriguez Brown, Vickie McNeil and Andrew Grant. Alderman Olivia Harrell voted against it and Daphne Sims was not present.

She claims it was because she didn’t help steer a sludge removal project to a particular vendor, UCI-LAA. She claims she received pressure from individuals to award UCI-LAA the contract over a lower and better company, Denali.



The Journal reported on a recorded telephone conversation between Wright, Thompson and Commissioner John Noble where Noble speaks of negotiating with UCI-LAA and city officials to lower costs associated with the project.

Mayor Arnel Bolden vetoed the Board’s decision to kick Wright off the board on Sept. 6, but his veto was ultimately overturned in a 5-2 vote. Harrell and Sims voted against overturning the veto.

“I disagree and find that said homestead is sufficient to show that Wright is a qualified elector of the municipality,” Bolden claimed in his unsuccessful veto.

Wright has filed a bill of exceptions, or appeal, in Madison County Circuit Court.

According to the bill of exceptions, in September 2015, the Canton board tried to kick her off the board for not being a resident.

Wright claims to have shown the board her drivers’ license, voter registration card, and homestead exemption application proving her residence.

The matter was not brought up again until this August.

Wright is claiming in her bill of exceptions that the Canton Mayor and Board of Aldermen’s ruling was arbitrary and capricious and was not supported by evidence. She claims it “was beyond the power of the lower authority to make…and violated some statutory or constitutional right of (Wright).”