There were a few tense moments Tuesday night at the County Commission’s Republican caucus meeting when those who applied for the open seat on the Jackson-Madison County School Board appeared before the Commissioners, who will appoint a new board member at their meeting Monday night.
Madison County Mayor A.J. Massey and Republican Party Chairman Brad Greer\ade references to history when discussing why he thinks Brent Lay needs to not be the one appointed to the position.
For those who aren’t aware, here’s a quick history lesson:
In 2018, Doris Black won a school board election over Shawn Daly. It was viewed as somewhat of an upset because Black is not from Jackson and hadn’t lived here long when she ran, while Daly isn’t from here either but was the plant manager at Toyota at the time. After weeks and months of months of behind-the-scenes accusations and speculation, Lay finally admitted to having a part in getting her elected by funding parts of her election. How much he funded is still unknown because Black never reported anything from Lay in her campaign finances report.
Massey said on Tuesday when he ran for the spot on the school board he sat in from 2018-22 that Lay approached him about funding his campaign and essentially did what Lay called Tuesday night at the caucus “playing the politics game.” Other people who ran for school board in 2018 – some who won and some who didn’t – claimed he made similar offers to them.
While no one besides Massey and former Board member Shannon Stewart has said anything like this on the record, I’m confident in publishing that information because Lay came to me in the summer of 2018 and took me to lunch. But about halfway through the conversation, he tried to get me to do stories looking into a particular school board candidate’s eligibility to run.
Lay was allowed to appear before the school board’s long-range planning committee multiple times – one time where his appearance was the only item on the agenda in a meeting that lasted nearly two hours – to present his plan for the school system that included neighborhood K-8 schools.
There were also accusations from members of the board at the time that Lay had pulled together five members of the board to vote together on issues relevant to his own personal and professional goals. No one has ever admitted to this or having ever admitted to having a relationship with Lay.
A part of the drama in 2019-20 that led the County Commission to buy the property on Ashport Road for the new Pope School was members who were rumored to be a part of Lay’s group was pushing to get the property where Baptist Hospital and Jackson Clinic are building their new facility at the corner of the Bypass and Passmore Lane.
While Board members like Black and Morris Merriweather made decent cases for the school to be put there, the underlying question of if they were simply doing this because Lay put them up to it because he and his brother owned a number of rental properties whose values would increase significantly with the presence of a nearby school caused members of the Commission to pull the extreme move of actually buying the other property.
So questions to Lay on Tuesday were warranted about his agenda for being on the school board.
When asked this week, his answer was along the lines of whatever the school system needs, and that was essentially what the other three candidates said as well.
But history has shown Brent Lay doesn’t do anything without an agenda.
And that’s not to say having an agenda is right or wrong. What would be wrong is if Lay has an agenda, says he doesn’t have one and then it becomes obvious he has one and he told a lie when he said he had no agenda. That is wrong and would warrant questions down the line.
Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.