ABERDEEN – Following a 20 minute-long executive session Friday morning, the Monroe County Board of Supervisors approved for Curtis Knight to serve as interim sheriff for the remainder of the year. Kevin Crook was approved as chief deputy.
Knight, a long-time employee with the sheriff’s department, will serve the unexpired term of Cecil Cantrell, who turned in his resignation effective immediately Tuesday afternoon.
“After much discussion with all of the parties involved, and I think I can say, without reservations, we all agreed that this is the best way to get from where we are to end this term. I’d like to tell the public out there that Curtis Knight has always been a rock in the sheriff’s office,” said board president Billy Kirkpatrick.
Crook, who defeated Cantrell and Kennedy Meaders in Aug. 6’s Democratic primary, will begin his role as sheriff in January when the new term begins. Wednesday, his Republican opponent, Andy Hood, dropped out of the race.
Crook said, given the circumstances, the supervisors’ action presents a unique situation.
“I trust Curtis and work well with him and I think he deserves to be in the position. I look forward to working with him and working for him,” he said. “We can cast a vision for where we’re going in January,” he said.
Knight thanked the board and Crook for trusting in him to do the job.
“I’d like to assure everyone, the public, this board, Kevin that we will have a smooth transition, and things will work out better,” Knight said.
Knight assumed the leadership of the sheriff’s office after Cantrell submitted his resignation.
The day after Cantrell’s resignation, a representative from the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office confirmed an affidavit was sent to the county alleging Cantrell’s involvement with a work center inmate assembling his campaign signs in April.
County attorney Candy Blalock said the county does not have any interest in pursuing the potential misdemeanor charge related to the affidavit. She also confirmed Cantrell's resignation stemmed from the affidavit.
“There was a misdemeanor charge that could have resulted from the investigation. There was an affidavit prepared. If you have a charge against a public official, the affidavit cannot be filed until after there’s a petition for a probable cause hearing, and a circuit judge has to hear that,” she said.
Blalock said in communicating with the state auditor’s office and the auditor’s office communicating with Cantrell’s attorney, it was determined it was in the best interest for him to resign.
She sent a press release after the meeting stating the auditor’s investigation determined the legitimacy of a video showing the inmate assembling signs, which is a violation of Mississippi Code Annotated 47-5-137, which states inmates cannot be used as servants by an employee of a correctional facility or by any person in an individual household.
If Cantrell had been found guilty, it would have carried a $337.75 fine, according to Blalock’s press release. It continued to state the decision for Cantrell’s resignation would result in the state auditor’s office having no interest in pursuing the misdemeanor charge.
Crook will be sworn in Jan. 6 and until then, Knight will have full authority as interim sheriff.