Red Cross 'branch' may lose county funds

After yet another visit from executives representing the American Red Cross Monday, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors are determining whether the local “branch” can legally receive the county’s financial support.
Patty Tucker, executive director of the Red Cross’ Northeast Mississippi Chapter, announced that the organization has hired a full-time local branch coordinator, Amy Shake to run the local office.
Tucker said she also hopes to have a full-time branch director hired and to refill the local Red Cross’ advisory board with new members.
“I’m here again to reemphasize that we are committed to Oktibbeha County,” Tucker said.
But the office that the state Red Cross interim director Mark Smith promises will remain open, may not be allowed to house Red Cross operations if supported by Oktibbeha County, according to state statute, board attorney Jack Brown said.
Additionally, the county cannot fund what Tucker called a “branch” if it is not technically a chapter, he added.
After learning of a statewide $500,000 deficit and a planned reorganization, the Oktibbeha County American Red Cross chapter lost its charter, while chapters in Tupelo, Jackson, Meridian and Hattiesburg became regional chapters and another regional chapter was created in Oxford.
“If that be true, then the board cannot legally fund donations or office funds to the branch,” said county attorney Jack Brown, who suggested that attorneys representing the Red Cross make their own determination.
Tucker contended that she had not run into this problem with other counties.
“The statute, one more time, says ‘a local chapter,’” Brown reiterated, explaining that the local chapter refers to an entity eligible for donations from the county.
“The statute is pretty explicit; I don’t want this board to run afoul of the law,” Brown said.
After of the board members suggested seeking an attorney general’s opinion on the issue, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said that the board should just listen to Brown and let the attorneys handle it.
“I’d rather do the right thing and all the other counties be wrong,” Trainer said.