Hattiesburg mayor explains his plans for troubled municipal court

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The mayor of Hattiesburg issued a press release Thursday afternoon concerning the ongoing investigation into the municipal court system in which he explains his position on the matter.

The following is the full press release, unedited:

Rebuilding Hattiesburg Municipal Court Mayor Explains Personnel Decisions and Details Restructuring Plans

Mayor Johnny DuPree announced on Thursday, Sept. 27 steps his administration is implementing in efforts to restore the integrity of the City of Hattiesburg Municipal Court. He has come under criticism for his decision to fire one court employee and suspend three others without pay after an internal investigation found they engaged in improper and/or illegal conduct.

"I do not take decisions that affect people's lives and families lightly," said Mayor DuPree. "However, people of Hattiesburg must have full confidence in our judicial system," he said, adding that he took swift, decisive action against those who were found to have acted inappropriately based upon the evidence provided to him.

"From the moment I was made aware of the internal investigation by our police department, I was also made aware that an outside investigatory agency would be conducting a simultaneous investigation into any possible criminal conduct, which I fully support," he said. "If the results of this investigation by the other agencies unearth evidence, further misconduct or illegal activity, I will take fair, decisive actions to remedy any wrongdoings."

To spare Hattiesburg from such problems in the future, Mayor DuPree said he will pursue the following actions:

1. Employ a full-time judge instead of three part-time judges for efficiency and consistency;

2. Install a new software program which will allow for better accountability;

3. Consult with other judges to institute a training program for the Municipal Court staff;

4. Municipal Court will be supervised by the Municipal Court Judge and fall under the Department of Administration temporarily, until it is established as a separate department. As a separate department, the Municipal Court judge will serve as head of a department such as a director and will supervise all Municipal Court employees. The clerk of the court and the bailiff shall be under the direction of the Municipal Court judge. Further, the Municipal Court judge shall make all recommendations as it relates to personnel matters.

"The truth is that we run a clean, transparent administration, and will continue to make decisions based upon facts and evidence and will never pre-judge any matters," said Mayor DuPree. "These issues will not stop the growth of Hattiesburg, and will not distract me from providing citizens with the best leadership and services possible," he said. "This administration will strive to always operate with the citizen's best interest at heart."