Ford calls out Steen as a Democrat
Madison state Rep. Jill Ford had some blunt criticism for the Madison County Board of Supervisors, specifically Board President Gerald Steen, at a lunch last week.
Ford addressed a crowd at the Grip N Grin political gathering at Mama Hamil’s on Wednesday, June 7.
Ford said it was time for people in Madison County to “open our eyes” and said she felt the Democrats had an outsized influence on the business of the county because of Steen.
She said District 1 Supervisor Sheila Jones and District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter are “solid Republican votes” on the county board.
“The other three supervisors are very disappointing to me,” Ford said.
Ford called Ridgeland’s Steen of District 3 a “so-called Republican” and said he sided with the other two supervisors who are Democrats on important issues.
In a conversation with the Journal this week, Ford said Steen is the “swing vote” on the board for the Democrats.
“Voting with the two Democrats is something that he does on a regular basis,” Ford said Tuesday. “Madison County has had enough. It is time we take our county back. They have pilfered through the county treasury and are dismantling our county piece by piece.”
Most recently she criticized Steen for voting to rezone about 350 acres near the proposed Reunion interchange on Bozeman Road as a Highway Commercial District despite significant public opposition at the meeting saying he “voted for a developer over the people.”
In that vote, Steen said it is up to the petitioner to demonstrate that there is a change in the area and a need has been established. He said he felt the petitioner made a good case and that it was legal to grant the rezoning.
Steen said he would listen to anyone who comes before the board regardless of their political affiliation and makes his decisions based on what the law says.
“I don't look at who is sitting in front of the board,” Steen said. “I try to determine if it is legal and if it is a good thing or the right thing to do for Madison County.”
Another criticism included a vote for the redistricting of portions of Madison County that vastly increased District 4 Supervisor Karl M. Banks's district.
“Do you understand that is about a third of Madison County?” Ford asked at the luncheon.
Steen said he followed the advice of the board’s legal counsel and the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, which was contracted for the redistricting process.
Ford accused Steen of moving to move the County’s judicial district from Rankin County to a possible split between Yazoo and Holmes Counties. Ford said she believed such a change would turn Madison County into “northeast Jackson.”
“There have been private meetings with Gerald Steen and state leaders about splitting Madison County’s judicial district," Ford said Tuesday. “It is time to shine the light on who is involved in these clandestine discussions.”
Steen said judicial districting was a legislative matter.
“I do not see the board getting involved or requesting a change,” Steen said. “Personally, I am satisfied with what we have now.”
The final accusation from Ford concerned whether any public officials had taken money from former County Engineer Rudy Warnock who is accused in a federal bribery scandal.
“I challenge Gerald Steen, Mike Espy, Karl Banks, and Paul Griffin to take the lie detector test,” Ford said. She added that Jones and Baxter have said they would be willing to.
Steen said he motioned to fire Warnock in 2013 and was part of the board that accomplished just that in 2016.
“That is on the record and I believe that speaks for itself,” Steen said.