By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Neighbors’ concerns about attorney Willie C. Allen’s Direct TV satellite dish in his front yard have some Tupelo City Council members questioning how well he’ll enforce city codes and ordinances as a city judge, an appointment the council will decide on today.
Allen, who would be the first African-American municipal judge for Tupelo, has riled his neighbors for months by having a small satellite dish in his front yard, a violation of the city’s ordinance that requires formal, special approval.
Councilman Mike Bryan of Ward 6, which includes the Huntington Place subdivision where Allen lives, said more than a dozen neighbors surrounding the attorney have complained about him not following the city ordinance that requires formal permission for the dish in the front yard and hiding it from view.
While Bryan said he has complained about Allen not complying with city law for months, he questions the timing of Allen putting a fence around the small dish in recent weeks.
During Monday’s agenda review meeting with the City Council and Mayor Jason Shelton, Council president Nettie Davis left the council chambers to answer a call from Allen, informing her that he’d removed the dish altogether from his yard.
“It’s odd that he took it down the day before he was voted on,” Bryan said. “This has been a thorn in my side and for the residents of Ward 6 for months.”
Allen is among the 15 department heads nominated by Shelton to serve as his leadership team. All are expected to sail through City Council confirmation, but Bryan and Councilman Jim Newell will likely have questions for Allen.
The city's development code requires residents interested in a place a satellite dish in their front yard to first receive a "minor conditional use" permit from the city. With Allen, city officials advised him to enclose the dish but didn't require the permit. Tupelo City Planner Pat Falkner said this part of the development code hasn't been enforced in recent years since the intent of the code was to address older, larger satellite dishes.
Newell and Bryan both raised issues Monday about how someone not in compliance with city ordinances would enforce them against violators in city court.
“We have a right to ask questions,” Newell said. “Any nomination of any judge at any level has confirmation hearings about how they’ll rule.”
Davis said Monday that she considered questions about Allen’s ability to make sound decisions as city judge inappropriate.
“To me, it looks like a racial issue,” Davis said. “I don’t want to say that, but that’s what it looks like.”