Hattiesburg mayor submits nominees for compliance minutes before court

Mayor Johnny DuPree submits nominees for compliance. Photo Source WDAM
Mayor Johnny DuPree submits nominees for compliance. Photo Source WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree complied with a court-ordered deadline Monday for his submission of remaining nominees for department heads.

The mayor entered a notice of submission shortly before the morning's hearing, including one holdover position. Special appointed Judge Breland Hilburn said it was "discouraging that nominees were not submitted until day of court."

When asked why the mayor waited until the last minute to make the submissions, city attorney Charles Lawrence said "because he was interviewing people."

Ward 3 Councilman Carter Carroll said he was "very pleased" with the submissions but was "sad that it took until the last minute to be done."

The mayor's nominees are as follows: Carol Jones Russell, municipal judge pro tem; Ramel L. Cotton, city attorney; Shakita L. Taylor, public defender; Jimmie Gardner, chief of police; and Verlina Underwood, city clerk.

Jones-Russell is a holdover, and Carroll expects her to be approved again. However, Underwood was denied by the council last week in a 3-1-1 vote.

"He's going to have to bring someone else up on that," said Carroll of the mayor's city clerk nominee. "She isn't qualified."

Underwood is the current division manager of the Purchasing Department, and Carroll said someone that would fill a city clerk position needs direct experience in a similar role.

Underwood also served in the Purchasing Department when city fuel cards were misused and extra charges were made. Carroll said that was a concern, and Underwood and the department "had an obligation to tell the council" when funds were being misused.

The council will vote on these nominees at next Tuesday's meeting.