New issues surface in Hattiesburg mayoral election

Governor Phil Bryant signed an order on Tuesday, setting September 24 as the date for the special election for Mayor of Hattiesburg.

Voters will head back to the polls to choose from Johnny DuPree, Dave Ware, and three other candidates.

City government is currently working on getting an election commission together before the special election. City Attorney Charles Lawrence, along with the 5 election commissioners who were in charge of the previous elections face new issues.

Council president Kim Bradley addressed the latest election related issues. In a prepared statement, Bradley went after City Attorney Charles Lawrence and Mayor Johnny DuPree.

"The revelation about the request for an NCIC report on a Hattiesburg citizen by City Attorney Charles Lawrence is the latest in a series of events that demonstrate that our election process has been poisoned. The problems are not isolated to the election. In my eight years on this Council, the relationship between the Administration and the council has been adversarial, more often, than not. The Council, more than once, has been forced to play detective to find the truth, because it was not offered to us. The cloudiness surrounding this new twist in the Hattiesburg elections reminds me very much of last year's scandal in the municipal court, when the police department's investigation and report was hijacked by you, Mr. Lawrence, and by you, Mayor. The report on the courts was white-washed or watered-down, but ultimately, the true story did come out. The true story of this unfortunate event also will come out."

Then, Councilwoman Deborah Delgado spoke out.

"Though there might have been challenges with the past election, I hate to see those instances blown up into a big storm… Everything you see written in the media, or broadcast in the media, is not the gospel," Delgado said.

When the council meeting wrapped up, DuPree addressed Bradley's statement.

"Mr. Bradley said something about Hattiesburg being the brunt of jokes, well he's got the wrong friends, because Hattiesburg's not the brunt of jokes for the friends I have. People still believe Hattiesburg is the best place to live, and they want to come to Hattiesburg. It is the best place to live," DuPree said.

Sources say City Clerk Eddie Myers turned his letter of resignation in on Monday, the same day the mayor sent a letter to Attorney General Jim Hood, alleging that two city council members threatened City Clerk Eddie Myers with public humiliation, if he did not resign his position.

The letter, dated August 19, says Carter Carroll and Mary Dryden demanded Myers resign, and threatened him with public humiliation by a vote of no confidence if he did not step down.

Dupree reported the allegations to the Attorney General's Public Integrity Division, requesting an investigation as to whether any crimes, such as extortion, or violations of Mississippi Code, may have been committed.

Meanwhile, Dryden responded today to DuPree's letter, saying after polling the Council, it was apparent there would be a 4-1 vote of no confidence if and when it came to a vote. The letter says:

"Because of a longstanding friendship, Carroll wanted to talk to Myers in person, and give him the opportunity to make choices about his future since he has expressed on several occasions thoughts of retiring."

Dryden said she accompanied Carroll, because Myers was a neighbor, and she considered him a friend.

Another issue brought up at the meeting deals with rounding up an election commission before the special election. According to Attorney General Jim Hood's opinion, the current election commissioners could be held over, if municipal government cannot agree on new election commissioners before the upcoming special election.

That could be a point of contention, since the mayor appoints commissioners, but the council has to ratify them. They will meet on Wednesday at 5:30 to discuss plans for an election commission.