Attorney refers to Supreme Court decision to determine mayor's timeline for appointments
Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree has been ordered by a special appointed judge to comply with his duties as mayor in bringing forward nominees for department heads.
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -
After an order from Judge Breland Hilburn did not specify a time frame for Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree to present his department head nominees, attorney Bob Gholson said he is referring to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the mayor to bring them forward "immediately."
"He's got to move forward quickly," Gholson said of the mayor's five remaining appointments to be approved by the city council.
Gholson represents councilmen Carter Carroll and Kim Bradley in this case, which was heard in Forrest County Circuit Court Monday.
The judge's order stated the mayor "is ordered to appoint and submit to the Hattiesburg City Council for information, the names of legally qualified directors for all city departments which, as of this date, have not been confirmed by the Hattiesburg City Council."
"We do expect to see some progress quickly," Gholson said, although he mentioned that he and the councilmen would take the matter back to court if the mayor does not respond appropriately.
DuPree's nominee for municipal judge pro-tem, Crystal Wise Martin (widow of attorney Precious Martin, who represented DuPree in his election trial), was not a qualified nominee, according to Mississippi Code 21-23-9.
Gholson argued this point in court Monday and said the nominee for that position must be a "qualified elector of the county where the municipality is located." Martin currently resides in the Jackson area, where she practices law.
"There are in excess of 400 people on the bar rolls in the Hattiesburg area," Gholson explained of the qualified people who should be selected by the mayor as a nominee for that position.
The other four vacant positions include police chief, public defender, city attorney and city clerk.
Mississippi Code states a mayor must present his nominees at the beginning of a new term, even if they are hold-overs from the administration's previous term. City attorney Charles Lawrence, who represented DuPree in this case, said there is no specification of what the beginning of a new term is; however, Gholson said there must be "some reason when you look at any of this language."
If the mayor does not abide by the judge's order, he will be held in contempt of court and could be fined and/or serve jail time, according to officials.
It has been 15 months since DuPree was sworn into office this term, and it has been 10 months since he presented his first round of nominees for approval by the council.
Multiple calls to Lawrence and DuPree's public relations director Chinika Hughes were not returned.