SARDIS, MS (WMC) - Some community members in a Mid-South town are up in arms after a registered sex offender was knowingly chosen to be the grand marshal of a Christmas parade.
The Chamber of Commerce in Sardis, Mississippi, has been putting on a Christmas parade for years, but this year, the choice of grand marshal has divided the town.
Carolyn Whaley owns The Eclectic Emporium on Main Street in Sardis. The Christmas parade went right past her shop Tuesday.
Whaley said everyone in Sardis knows that Michael Saripkin, the grand marshal, is a sex offender.
“Everybody knows that; it’s a small town,” Whaley said. “It doesn’t bother me. He’s a very nice, friendly man. He has donated more money, helped the fire department, helped the police department, encouraged businesses to come here.”
Other Sardis residents don’t think Sairpkin was the best choice given his past.
“I didn’t like it,” said one man who did not want to be identified. “I don’t think it’s very proper for a sex offender to be a grand marshal of a parade and I just thought it was wrong.”
Records show Saripkin, a businessman, was convicted of sexual battery in 1990 and statutory rape in 1997--both in Tennessee.
Saripkin was again convicted in 2013, this time in Mississippi, for inappropriately touching a child as a person of trust. It’s unclear what his relationship to the child was.
District Attorney John Champion said he does not believe it is illegal for a sex offender to be a grand marshal in a parade, but he would have to research it.
The Sardis Chamber of Commerce is responsible for choosing the grand marshal and putting on the parade.
Sardis Alderman Michael Price said the city had nothing to do with the parade--it was done solely by the chamber.
“It wasn’t a city event,” Price said. “City doesn’t authorize the Christmas parade. The chamber has been handling that for years. It wasn’t a city function.”
WMC Action News 5 reporter Janice Broach reached out to the mayor and chamber for comment. The mayor was not in, and no one answered the door at the chamber.
However, chamber members said over the phone that they were aware Saripkin is a sex offender and chose him as the grand marshal anyway.
The chamber said Saripkin has done a lot for the city has brought business to the area. They said what he has done in the past is not what counts, but what he’s doing now.
Broach went to Saripkin’s home but was asked to leave.
The chamber also mentioned in a statement that Saripkin was in a private vehicle in the parade that was driven by a member of the chamber.