CANTON — Rudy Warnock went beyond the scope of his duties to threaten and harass Canton Municipal Utility Commissioners, an attorney for one embattled commissioner alleged at a special meeting last Thursday.

A series of text messages presented by the attorney, who is a state Senator, also revealed threats to whip a Madison County newspaper publisher.

Attorney and State Sen. Barbara Blackmon presented a folder with dozens of copies of text messages provided by embattled CMU Commissioner Cleveland Anderson that include alleged text messages exchanges with Warnock, CMU General Counsel Mike Espy and a number of other city and CMU officials.

Anderson, in a motion to fire Warnock last Thursday, claimed he went out of the scope of his duties as engineer and “caused dissent and interfered with the orderly operation of CMU.”

Warnock was hired in August 2016 by CMU to be the sole engineer for the utility. Invoices show since that time he has billed CMU nearly $1.15 million for work. (See story, A1).

Some of the text messages refer to policy changes Warnock allegedly suggests, as well as the capability to issue $45 million in bonds.

Warnock also allegedly threatens former CMU Commissioner John Noble and Anderson in a series of messages, even suggesting that Anderson should “answer the door when (the FBI knocks.)”

In another message presented, Warnock asks to have a meeting with CMU Attorney Mike Espy, Canton Alderman Andrew Grant and Alderman Eric Gilkey with “Tye Breedlove with the FBI office.”

There is an FBI agent in the Jackson office named Ty Breedlove.

When asked if there was an investigation into CMU or if Special Agent Breedlove had met with the engineer and other officials, the FBI responded with its standard comment.

“Consistent with Department of Justice and FBI policy, we can neither confirm nor deny whether a matter is under investigation,” Brett Carr, public affairs officer with the FBI Jackson office, stated in an email.

Warnock later discusses the Madison County Journal, a weekly newspaper based in Ridgeland, saying access to future information “Needs to cost them dearly!!!.”

He later apparently threatens Associate Editor and Publisher Michael Simmons in a series of text messages the state senator presented.

The messages presented by Blackmon and allegedly written by Warnock say:

• “He works as a reporter for Madison county journal which is pro republican and anti democrat.”

• “[Madison Mayor] Mary Hawkins tells him where to go and what to report!!”

• “You will never get a fair shake with him.”

• “He needs his ass whipped.”

• “Need a down home bitch slapping!!”

• “I’d pay good money to have his slapped silly.”

Any messages sent in that conversation following Warnock’s alleged threats were not included in the packet of messages Blackmon presented.

The CMU meeting last week followed a meeting by four Canton aldermen held at 8 a.m. where they voted 4-0 to replace Cleveland Anderson with Bob Winstead.

Those present and voting for the replacement were: aldermen Andrew Grant, Les Penn, Eric Gilkey and Olivia Harrell. Mayor Arnel Bolden was not present.

Canton requires four aldermen and a presiding officer (Mayor or  vice mayor) present to call a meeting. Gilkey, who served as the presiding officer as vice mayor, wasn’t allowed to vote in that circumstance.

However, Penn cited an old case that allowed for aldermen to hold a meeting without the mayor present if he purposefully did not show up and under extreme circumstances.

The case referenced a 1997 Mississippi Supreme Court case, Scott vs. Stater, in which former Canton Mayor Alice Scott refused to attend a special-called meeting of the board. Scott was present at City Hall but would not attend the meeting.

Anderson and Commissioners Lanny Slaughter and Cleotha Williams did not recognize the action taken by city aldermen Thursday morning and both state Sen. Blackmon and her husband Ed Blackmon Jr. concurred.

It is unclear which board officially presided over the meeting as Chairman Charles Weems did not recognize Anderson until it came time to approve the claims docket, when Weems seconded a motion by Anderson for approval. Every other motion made by Anderson was not recognized.

Weems attempted to have Canton Police remove Anderson from the meeting, but Mayor Bolden told the officers to stay put.

Ultimately, Warnock and Espy were fired by a 3-2 vote with Anderson, Williams and Slaughter in favor of the terminations. However, Weems said he doesn’t recognize Anderson as a member of the board and that a lawsuit would likely determine the proper board.

Anderson, Williams and Slaughter have called a special meeting for today (Thursday, Dec. 29) at 9 a.m. where they are expected to name a new interim general manager.

Weems said he did not recognize Anderson as a commissioner and therefore did not believe the meeting to be properly called. He said he would not attend.

Warnock was out of town with limited cell phone access, according to an automated email reply, and could not be reached for comment.