Pelahatchie’s Black Woman Mayor Is Still Fighting Corruption and Injustice

Pelahatchie, y’all need to stand up and replace your entire board of aldermen.

These people need to go. There’s some serious corruption and irresponsibility going on there. I’ve put together a timeline, with links to the articles over the last 3 years. It’s a lot, and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.

mayor ryshonda beechem pelahatchie ms

Mayor Ryshonda Beecham (photo from Facebook)

Ryshonda Harper Beechem was elected mayor of Pelahatchie in 2017, making her the first Black mayor in Rankin County. Ever. Right after she took office however, she became suspicious of how they were managing the money, specifically the use of the drug seizure funds. After doing some research, she addressed it with the board of aldermen, and it went downhill from there.

They’ve been working to get rid of her ever since then, 3 years now.

That’s just how it started, though. It’s Aug 2020, and it’s still going on.

For anybody interested in helping, I’m putting this at the top of this post and the bottom: I’m giving a personal monetary gift to Ryshonda Beechem via Cashapp ($RyshondaB) every time the aldermen call a special session, every time they veto one of her suggestions, every time they override her veto, and every time they act out in some other way.

It’s not much, but I can’t just sit here on my hands.

Down the rabbit hole we go…

June 14, 2017
“Meet the first African-American mayor in this Mississippi county”

“Elected officials in small towns and cities are really public servants because they don’t get paid a lot, Ross said.The Pelahatchie mayor’s salary is $1,000 a month. The mayor and Board of Aldermen meet once a month.”

“I am looking forward to working with the many wonderful residents, the continuous building of our parks and recreation and the growth of the town as a whole,” Beechem said. “I am ready to help inspire our town to be the great town of Pelahatchie that I grew up to know.”

Beechem has a degree in accounting from Jackson State University. She and her husband, Rod Beechem, are the parents of a 2-year-old daughter. They own the accounting firm HBG & Associate Inc.; HBG Academy Inc., a Jackson childcare center; and StaTuned Multimedia, which creates commercials. Beechem also coaches a girls dance team and is the dance instructor for her church’s youth inspiration dance team.

July-Aug 2017
Pelahatchie mayor contacts auditor over misspent drug forfeiture funds

(Article from May 2018, when this became public)

“Beechem, the town’s first African-American mayor and also an accountant, said when she was given access to the city’s bookkeeping, she became suspicious.

And when town officials told her there was nothing to see, she contacted the state auditor’s office for guidance.

On Monday, the office issued a demand for $500,000 in what they say was misspent drug forfeiture funds.”

Dec 1, 2017
Pelahatchie’s first African-American mayor runs into resistance

mayor ryshonda beecham pelahatchie ms

“Five months into her administration, Beechem and the five-member Board of Aldermen have butted heads on most issues.

“There’s not as much progress as I would have liked,” she said recently. “I didn’t expect to receive that reaction … I’m not saying I’m the smartest person, but I want to follow the law. I feel like they never gave me a chance.”

Alderman James Harrell said the board couldn’t support some of the things Beechem wanted.

When asked to elaborate, Harrell would only say “she wanted outrageous stuff. Just stuff we couldn’t support.”

“I don’t bring anything to the board anymore because I know they will vote it down,” Beechem said. “I just preside over the meeting.”

Despite being at odds with the Board of Aldermen, Beechem said she still enjoys being mayor. “I was put here for a reason.”

“We are still trying to get on the same page,” Beechem said of her working relationship with the aldermen.

Mar 10, 2018
Pelahatchie Mayor takes big pay cut

“Beechem said she wants everyone in the city hall on the same page. However, the past month has been just as trying for the new mayor. According to WAPT, in that time, her salary was reduced by 75 percent, dropping to $250 a month. That’s a $750-a-month pay cut for the city’s historic mayor.
Pelahatchie’s aldermen were not immune to the pay cuts either as they saw their pay be cut by 50 percent.”

(note: their original salary was $500/mo, hers was $1000/mo. They are now all $250/mo)

Mar 29, 2018
Is it about race? Pelahatchie mayor and aldermen in power struggle

“One of the mayor’s priorities has been to finish construction on a recreational facility for children in the community called Milltown Park.

The project includes playground equipment; ballfields; a half-mile, 10-foot-wide asphalt diversified use trail; and a 3,536-square-foot FEMA Community Safe Room capable of protecting 612 people, according to the town’s comprehensive plan.

The board approved a Princess Ball fundraiser to help with completion of the project, but not before Warren asked if the mayor planned on cleaning up afterward.

“I mean who asks that — the mayor to be personally responsible for cleaning up?” Beechem asked later.

In another matter, Warren said she’s OK with the mayor having access to the town vault as long “as nothing was taken,” drawing a gasp from some of those attending the meeting.”

April 24, 2018
The Strange Case of a Black Mayor’s 75% Pay Cut in Mississippi

“While some might assume Beechem’s difficulties stem from racial tension, the board is diverse: It is comprised of one white woman, two black men and two white men. All were elected or re-elected to four-year terms at the same time as Beechem’s election; three were incumbents. The board has hastily announced rule changes and salary cuts, presented new hires without consulting the mayor, and has often overridden her vetoes of their decisions. (The board can either accept or override a mayoral veto.)

But it’s the slashing of her pay that has garnered the most attention.”…..

“Inside the town hall, a middle-aged white man approached Beechem as he came in to pay a utility bill.

“Are you surviving all this stuff you have to go through?” he asked the mayor. Beechem said she was “hanging tough” and sticking to the laws.

“You hang in there…I just want you to succeed and be the best mayor we’ve ever had,” the man added before leaving town hall.”

May 30, 2018
Rankin’s First Black Mayor Faces Setbacks

“Beechem became Rankin County’s first black mayor in July 2017. A couple of months into her tenure, she raised questions about checks that seemed off to her and reached out to the state auditor’s office for clarity. The formal state investigation into the town began a month later, she said.

The state auditor says that Pelahatchie officials had been transferring drug-seizure funds to the town’s utility account, the fire department and the town’s regular checking account to prevent overdraft, and to pay salaries of people outside the police department. Those funds legally can only go toward law-enforcement uses.”

“The board of aldermen has not been open to the media, with all five aldermen either ignoring this reporter’s past calls or hanging up at the mention of Beechem.”

May 23, 2018
Pelahatchie mayor contacts auditor over misspent drug forfeiture funds

“Beechem, the town’s first African-American mayor and also an accountant, said when she was given access to the city’s bookkeeping, she became suspicious.

And when town officials told her there was nothing to see, she contacted the state auditor’s office for guidance.

On Monday, the office issued a demand for $500,000 in what they say was misspent drug forfeiture funds.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said town aldermen and the former city clerk used the funds on utilities, firefighting, employee salaries and other expenses, which is in violation of federal and state law.

The brunt of the payments, or a total of $421,688.10, were made between January 2015 to June 2017, before Beechem took office, according to the state auditor’s office.”

June 8, 2018
Pelahatchie town officials fight back against mayor, race allegations

“Beechem, also an accountant, has repeatedly expressed “no confidence” in the board, former city clerks and their ability to conduct town finances.

“The board and the city clerks have failed or refused to provide my office with relevant information regarding town expenditures and information needed to make an informed decision to these expenditures,” Beechem has explained in several mayoral vetoes.


Marie Harper, an African-American resident and a distant relative of Beechem, said the mayor’s election represented a change of conventions that the board is unwilling to accept.

“They (Board of Aldermen) don’t want to see change or hear the voice of the people. After she was elected, we finally realized that we don’t have to be spectators. We can participate,” Harper said of the town’s African-American community.

Nov 10, 2018
Pelahatchie mayor takes legal action against aldermen, city clerk

“The notice is a first step before a possible civil injunction is filed in Rankin County Chancery Court.

The notice claims Warren, Jones and Lyle are violating state statutes that establish a separation of powers between the board and the mayor.

Included are a wide range of violations, according to Bellender, such as the board’s decision to reduce Beechem’s salary, alleged private meetings between aldermen and city employees and the unauthorized signing of checks and “other unauthorized actions.”

April 16, 2019
Pelahatchie resignations pile up: City attorney No. 4 latest to leave. Who’s next?

“An argument breaks out at Pelahatchie City Hall.

Days later, someone resigns.

For the small Rankin County town, it is a scenario that has played out frequently since first-time Mayor Ryshonda Harper Beechem took office in June 2017, and a seemingly endless power struggle between her and the Board of Aldermen began.

The most recent casualty was the town’s attorney, Joe Deaton, who tendered his resignation earlier this month. Deaton was the town’s fourth attorney.

His resignation follows three separate resignations in the police department and another two in the city clerk’s office. And more could be on the way out, a town official warns.”

July 2, 2019
Rope found at Pelahatchie City Hall: Mayor, alderwoman at odds again

“The mayor of Pelahatchie says a rope left hanging on a door in the break room of City Hall is a “scare tactic” that could be related to her lawsuit against town aldermen and former town officials, but an alderwoman questions if the accusation is a publicity stunt.

The first African-American mayor of Pelahatchie, Ryshonda Harper Beechem, posted to social media a picture of the rope which she said she found hanging from the break room door on Friday morning. The police department is investigating.”

Aug 8, 2019
Turmoil in Pelahatchie: Mayor’s lawsuit against aldermen aims to have them removed.

“The 39-page court document, filed in Rankin County Circuit Court Friday by Beechem through her attorney, details more than $1.1 million missing from the town’s coffers, implicating current and former aldermen, a former mayor and a former town clerk in the process.”

Aug 23, 2019
‘It is not the mayor’s fault’: Pelahatchie mayor blames board of aldermen for delay in city paychecks

“This week, no employee received a paycheck, including those who do utilize direct deposit.

Mayor Ryshonda Beechem released a statement blaming the board for the delay in paychecks

The workers are not getting paid today because the board refuse to sign the checks and the board has the authority to upload ACH for direct deposit and to sign checks. This board has ALL the power. They have taken away any and every little power I have as the Mayor. Every POSITIVE thing I tried to implement to make the town grow and develop the board denied it. They have overwritten/denied EVERYTHING.

I have encouraged the board to sign checks and put their own names beside their financial dealings. They have refused, and here we are. It is a sad day where we cannot trust the transaction of our governing authority, but this is our reality with this board. The evidence is clear; they do not trust their own financial decisions enough to stand by them personally.

My family and I are suffering as well, I have not received my pay on many occasions and I have not received it now. IT IS NOT THE MAYOR’S FAULT.”

August 30, 2019
Pelahatchie mayor suspends police chief for insubordination

“The mayor claims the chief created a hostile environment, saying there are videos from August 26 showing him saying he doesn’t have to do anything she says because he works for the Board of Alderman during a confrontation over her not signing paychecks.”

December 5, 2019
No Christmas in Pelahatchie? Political clash leaves town without decorations

“I have directed my maintenance department for several weeks to decorate the town and have not been able to get them to comply,” the mayor wrote…..
Mayor Beechem is now reaching out to the public, the people of Pelahatchie, for help, asking anyone to lend a helping hand this holiday season.”

Sept 26, 2019
3 On Your Side Investigates: Busted Budget

“The fallout from a state investigation into Pelahatchie’s finances has found its way into five different court cases, proceedings that have inflamed the tiny Rankin County town and caused a massive rift between Mayor Ryshonda Beechem and the Board of Aldermen to only get worse.

Understanding that rift means revisiting what caused it in the first place: an investigation that spanned two state auditors, involved dozens of transactions and claimed town officials broke several state laws with money moves totaling more than a million dollars.”

Jan 8 2020
No aldermen attend Pelahatchie mayor’s first State of the Town Address

May 1, 2018
James Harrell, an alderman in Pelahatchie, reportedly uses a racial slur.

This was reported by the officer who served him a letter from Town Hall, and that same officer filed an incident report. There are no news article on this, there is only the police report and no additional information. Hm. Obviously, nothing ever came of this, but it seems kind of like a big deal to me?

Officer Justin Stevens, who filed this report, has since resigned. Whether it had anything to do with this, I have no idea, but here is the article about the police chief’s resignation along with two other officers, including Officer Stevens. The police chief said his resignation was the result of his frustration with the Board of Aldermen. It’s unclear (t0 me) if Officer Stevens resigned and then came back, or if this is a different officer. There is still an Officer Justin Stevens with the Pelahatchie PD, so I don’t know the story there, but will update this when I do.

March 5, 2020
Pelahatchie receives over $500,000 in recovered funds from State Auditor

“Thursday, State Auditor Shad White released almost a half a million dollars back into the city’s drug fund account.

The city received $543,083.

That will bring the drug fund account to just over $1.2 million.

Mayor Ryshonda Beechem said she would like to use the funds to build a brand new facility for the for the Pelahatchie Police Department.

She’s says the new look would be a huge step in the right direction of making the city feel more like home.”

May 28, 2020
Pelahatchie mayor under fire from Board of Aldermen

“Pelahatchie’s mayor faces yet another threat of being removed from office.

A memo from the Pelahatchie Board of Aldermen said Mayor Ryshonda Harper Beechem has failed to properly execute the obligations and duties of her office….

Wednesday night, the board brought forth a motion demanding that computer access be granted to city workers. They wanted the mayor to call the company they hired for a full system upgrade. Beechem told Alderwoman Margie Warren that the computers are already accessible to city employees.

After the board passed the motion, Beechem vetoed it. Then, before a measure to adjourn could be voted upon, the board got up and walked out of the meeting.

Beechem said the board is overstepping its responsibilities and making unconstitutional attempts to remove the mayor, who was duly elected to office.”

Time for some good news, eh?

May 22, 2020
Food giveaway in Pelahatchie draws hundreds


Notable special sessions called between May – August, 2020:

May 15th – called by board to override mayor’s veto

“1. Employment Matter: Discuss and vote on overriding the Mayor’s veto dated May 11, 2020, of a Resolution approved by the Board of Alderman on May 7, 2020 involving overtime pay and the return to work status for the Deputy Clerk Barbara Haper.”

pelahatchie may 15 2020 board meeting veto

May 27th – called by board to vacate the mayor’s office

“1. Discuss and vote on a Resolution Declaring The Office of The Mayor of Town of Pelahatchie to be vacant due to the Mayor’s failure to properly execute the obligations and duties of her office.
2. Discuss and vote on a Resolution directing BBI to immediately reinstate access to all town computers and computer systems and to take those steps necessary to make the town’s computers and computer systems accessible and functionable for use by the town’s employees.”

The second item on the agenda comes up a few times because they refuse to pay BBI approximately $220 after this, and as of the time of this writing (August 17th), they may still be unpaid. I’m not sure.

June 9th – called by mayor for emergency payment issues:

The caption on the live feed that was shared from the June 9th meeting is not coming through on the embed for some reason, but can be found here, written by Pelahatchie resident Summer Scruggs:

“So at special session tonight, Margie Ward (alderwoman Ward 3 aka my ward)
Decided she did not want to pay BBI a total of 219.00 from when the system was updated and the clerks needed training on the new system ( you remember that was when Margie thought everyone in city hall was locked out of their computers but it was really just an update)
Anyway the services had already been provided.
BBI also provides the town with other services in lieu of a clerk since board constantly without fail refuses to hire one.
So. What now? They provided a service to the town. Should they not get paid? Margie seems to think they now run the town with these outrageous bills (219.00) and did not like when the Mayor pointed out we pay the attorney over 4k a month and the lawn care guys something like 5700? I think.
So after being asked why she refused to pay this bill multiple times, the Mayor asked her, would you like me to pay it out of my 133.00 check Margie? To which Margie replied yes. That the only way it would be paid is if it came out of the Mayors salary. The mayor said she would be happy to do that. She would work for free. But asked if Margie and the board were ok with her 5 year old daughter going without so that the mayor could make sure the bill got paid, Margie simply rolled her eyes, snorted, threw her hands up and nodded.
The use of the BBI system does not benefit the Mayor. Its for the office to use. It’s the system the office runs off of.
When BBI goes unpaid, will they sue the town for their payment? Refuse to work with us again? Withdraw all their services?( because they are also providing part of the clerks job since we do not have one)
Then what? If Margie and the board Will not pay for software for the office, how will things be managed then?
We are barely struggling through as is.
Y all saw my water bill.
A little competence would have caught that but then what do the board care?
They sure don’t care about their Mayor. Their office staff. Or their town. Because it’s all struggling and crumbling. Because of them.

So is anyone still out there saying this is on the Mayor? Is anyone out there saying it’s the fault of both the Mayor and the board?
Cause all I have seen after attending the last 5 meetings is a Mayor who is struggling to be heard and a board run by a tyrant. Who doesn’t care at all what happens here. So much so that she wouldn’t agree to pay a 219.00 Bill.

This is your board, Pelahatchie. You proud of them?”

June 18th – called by board while mayor was out of town to approve raises for city employees:

July 9th – called by mayor for emergency payment issues

This article from Rankin County News details a few interesting points, namely the fact that the town is running at a deficit while approving raises and new hires.

July 16th – called by mayor for emergency payment issues

July 21st – called by mayor to discuss payment of city employees

August 3rd – regular board meeting, but including here because it was a doozy.

A recap from a friend who has been involved with this a lot longer than I have, for sure:

And live feed:

August 10th – called by board:

August 17th – called by board again, to override the mayor’s previous veto regarding the zoning commissioner drama.

Here is Mayor Beechem’s summary of tonight’s meeting:


Yeah. It’s a lot.

For anybody interested in helping: Ryshonda Beechem’s Cashapp is $RyshondaB, for personal monetary gifts. Like I said above, I plan to give her some personal $$ every time the aldermen call a special session, every time they veto one of her suggestions, every time they override her veto, and every time they act out in some other way. She’s not paid nearly enough to put up with this, and she has legal fees on top of that, so let’s help her out (for those who can).

Enough is ENOUGH.

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