Hattiesburg City Council collectively scolds Mayor - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg City Council collectively scolds Mayor

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

The Hattiesburg City Council has unanimously criticized Mayor Johnny DuPree for his handling of the municipal court investigation and the punishment doled out as a result of that probe.

As originally reported last week, the Hattiesburg Police Internal Affairs division concluded there was a major lack of competence in the city court system, citing numerous examples of clerks accepting gifts and rewards in exchange for dismissing tickets, fines, and warrants. 

The 13-page report stated that judge's dispositions were being altered by court clerks. One example described a clerk scratching through a documented fine, which was ordered and signed by a judge, and then altering that fine to a lower amount.  

The full report was turned over to the mayor for disciplinary measures. However, City Attorney, Charles Lawrence, responded with an executive summary to city council members. That summary said clerks lacked professionalism, and some did not have a sufficient grasp of the jobs. 

A letter addressed to DuPree and signed by all five council members was read aloud at Tuesday's city council meeting.  In it, the board collectively said

"We are gravely concerned.  We requested results of the city's internal investigation, but instead received a report that sterilized the facts and minimized the impact of these employees' actions, attributing much of it to poor job performance. Our understanding is that one clerk was terminated, but you propose to return the other three to their jobs following a brief suspension without pay.  This council stands together in stating that this is unacceptable.  We are profoundly disappointed in the handling of this matter, and cannot sanction this approach to the disorder of our courts."

The council went on to say this is a watershed moment where justice has been compromised and that they public deserves transparency and a full and open accounting of the events and actions that have transpired. The letter concludes by saying the people of Hattiesburg are watching and waiting and we must restore honor and dignity to our municipal court system.

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