Judge sides with councilmen in mayor appointment debate

Judge sides with councilmen in mayor appointment debate

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A special judge has ruled with two Hattiesburg City Councilmen regarding Mayor Johnny DuPree bringing forth his appointment nominees.

Judge Breland Hilburn issued the following ruling Tuesday saying, "After consideration of the law, agreed facts and arguments of counsel, it is the decision of the Court that a Writ of Mandamus should be issued requiring the defendant to comply with his duties as Mayor of the City of Hattiesburg. An executed order to this effect has been mailed to the clerk of the court this day."

According to sources, if the mayor does not comply with the judge's order, he will face jail time and/or a fine due to contempt of court.

Councilmen are waiting to see the finished copy of the order, which has been put in the mail by Judge Hilburn, according to City Council President Kim Bradley.

"Common sense tells me that what the mayor was doing was wrong, and it was just a game to try to preserve his friends and, I guess, assure that they had a job," said Bradley of the mayor's sudden submission of 11 nominees last week.

The suit was filed by City Council President Kim Bradley (Ward 1) and Ward 3 councilman Carter Carroll due to the mayor's failure to present his nominees for department head appointments to the city council.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, who was represented by city attorney Charles Lawrence, asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed Monday in Forrest County Circuit Court.

The Hattiesburg City Council approved seven of Mayor Johnny DuPree's 11 appointments presented last week.

All of the approved positions were hold-overs from the mayor's previous term. The four appointments that were not approved did not receive a motion for a vote. Those include one judge pro-tem, chief of police, public defender and city attorney. Each individual in those positions was a new appointment. The city clerk position, which had a nominee that was rejected by the council ten months ago, also must be filled.

Each council member expressed concern with not being able to meet with the mayor's proposed appointments before voting last week. Although the mayor is not required to allow these interviews, council members said he had done so in the past before a vote was held.

It has been over a year since the mayor's period of submissions could begin.

Lawrence said even though it has been that long, "he's not the only mayor that has taken over a year with regards to nominating appointments."

Bradley did not show much confidence in the mayor obeying the judge's order, and said, "If history repeats itself, I'm sure we're going to be petitioning the Supreme Court sometime next year to rule on this, which is wrong."

Bradley was referring to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the mayor to bring forward his appointments immediately in a nearly identical situation to the one today. According to Bradley and Carroll's attorney, Robert Gholson of Laurel, it took the mayor two years and four months to bring forward his nominees during that term.

"I believe that we're all held accountable some way or another," said Bradley when asked what his message is to Hattiesburg residents that see the disagreement between the council and the mayor. "This is the only way that we could hold this man [DuPree] accountable.We certainly can't do it in conversation with him."

City attorney Charles Lawrence was unavailable for immediate comment.