After much discussion and debate, the Southaven Board of Aldermen voted to approve the removal of Gossett Wrecker Service from its city rotation at their board meeting Tuesday night.
The recommendation to remove the service was made by the Southaven Police Department, and Captain Mark Little briefed board members on the department's behalf. Little explained that all three operators listed on the business license are convicted felons. All three were indicted by a DeSoto County Grand Jury for tax evasion in 2017.
Two pled to the charges, while the other, Eddie Gossett Jr., pled to a non-adjudication sentence but was later indicted again in February 2019 in Circuit Court on charges of embezzlement by the Mississippi Tax Commission. Gossett Jr. pled to both the 2017 charge and the 2019 charge on June 12 of this year.
"By the wording on our policy, it distinctly says that no owners, managers nor drivers shall be allowed to participate on the wrecking rotation with us if they have been convicted of a felony," Little said.
The attorney representing Gossett Wrecker Service, LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) explained that Gossett Jr. surrendered his managing membership interest in the LLC on June 8 prior to his June 12 conviction and that wife Misty Gossett is now the sole owner and member of the LLC. The attorney argued that, since the LLC is the owner and legal entity under the policy and since the three people named with the felonies have not been involved in managing, driving or owning the business since their conviction, the business is not in violation of the policy.
City Attorney Nick Manley explained the definition of an LLC, which is created to protect individuals from liability, and said that from a legal and technical aspect, Gossett Jr. has had no ownership interest as of June 8.
However, Mayor Darren Musselwhite pointed out that Gossett Jr. surrendered his membership interest just days before his conviction.
"That definitely shows that it was a strategic move to not violate the policy," Musselwhite said. "If they were performing in any of these roles as late as June of this year and they were convicted on June 12, I think it is pretty apparent that they have been actively involved in the wrecker service."
Musselwhite also pointed out that it would be hard to prove that the three no longer are involved in the business operation or serve in any capacity at the company, even if the LLC says otherwise.
Gossett's Wrecker Service, not the LLC, was ultimately found to be the entity listed on the wrecker rotation. Musselwhite shared that it was opinion that the policy was violated because Gossett Wrecker Service is the name indicated despite the formation of the LLC and it is hard to say that the Gossetts were not involved.
Musselwhite said that at the end of the day, the rotation is a "privilege."
"The wrecker rotation is not a city ordinance," Musselwhite said. "That is a policy that our police chief created, but there's nothing in the law that dictates that the city must have a wrecker rotation. Our city could have one wrecker service and contact them every time. It's a privilege to be on the wrecker rotation. It's not a legal obligation. It was created to involve all of our local businesses and let them share in the needs of the city, but there's no legal obligation or ordinance that requires anybody to be on this."
Musselwhite pointed out that this is not the first time that the police has recommended the removal of Gossett Wrecker Service. The business was suspended from the rotation several years ago for driving a wrecker without insurance.
The removal was ultimately approved by the board.
Musselwhite also gave board members an update on several city projects at Tuesday's meeting.
The arena floor project, which is part of the parks enhancement and expansion plan, is reported to be almost complete. Bidding for the Springfest paving project, which will pave the area where Southaven's annual Springfest barbecue is held, will commence on Aug. 2, and the project will be completed before Springfest 2020. The Snowden Grove multi-use trail project, which will add sidewalks throughout Snowden Grove Park, has received federal co-op funding and will break ground in about four weeks. The sidewalk project is what Musselwhite describes as a "step forward" in helping make Southaven more pedestrian-friendly.
Musselwhite also reported that the city has received $2.5 million from the sale of a Getwell property that will go into an unassigned fund balance. With the city well above its 12 percent general fund goal, Musselwhite said that city officials will discuss the needs of the city and talk in detail about what to do with the money but personally recommended the immediate fixture of Stateline Road, specifically between I-55 and Tchulahoma Road and state Highway 301 to Horn Lake Road.
Brent Walker is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.