Hattiesburg City Council tables appointment of judge

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It was a discussion rather than a showdown during Tuesday evening's specially called City Council meeting in Hattiesburg.

The Council tabled a motion to hire Jerry Evans as the new municipal court judge, saying more issues need to be discussed and resolved before going forward. The council also adopted its 2013 budget, but that was overshadowed by still lingering issues within the city court.

"This motion was made and second. All those that are in favor?," said City Council President Kim Bradley.

The council voiced plenty of concerns, before they voted to tabled the appointment of Evans as municipal court judge.

"I do not believe you can just stick a person in that court, and expect it to improve on its own," said Bradley.

Bradley and other council members believe the court system needs to be restructured completely, including the employees. Both Councilwoman Deborah Delgado and Bradley called for reducing the number of clerks.

"We don't need 15 clerks working in that office,"said Bradley.

Councilman Carter Carroll told Mayor Johnny DuPree he wanted the fourth clerk, who was mentioned in the investigation, to be out of the clerk's office before the appointment of any judge.

"I have grave concern on that," said Carroll.

Delgado's main concern was the judge's pay, calling the salary of more than $100,000 "unreasonable", considering the pay of city workers.

"We really need to look at what would be affordable for a city like Hattiesburg, a city with challenges where we still have people making $8.50 a hour,"said Delgado.

This all comes on the heels of a letter from the attorney of Judge Vanessa Jones, sent to Mayor DuPree and the council before the meeting. In the letter there were claims Jones was the victim of mistreatment, discrimination, and retaliation against her.

The letter states, in part, "Mister Evans, a friend of the mayor, was simply given the position. This itself is indicative of discrimination."

The mayor responded Tuesday evening.

"She says I was hiring my friend, well, Jerry Evans is my friend, but Judge Jones is also my friend as well. There's a lot of allegations in there. I guess I could go down one by one,  but I count Judge Jones as a friend, always have. This is not discriminatory. This is what we need to do."

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