Hattiesburg mayor not responding to council request for public documents

Hattiesburg mayor not responding to council request for public documents

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - When the Hattiesburg City Council amended a decades-old ordinance to require Mayor Johnny DuPree to get approval before making changes to employee pay, the council was presented with outdated documents on salary ranges for employees.

Since then the council has made an official request to the human resources director and the mayor for updated documents, but the mayor told the CFO he would not provide that information because the council did not work with him before passing that ordinance.

"I wish I could understand why he would think that way, other than to keep us from knowing what's going on," council president Kim Bradley said.

Bradley said he did not think the mayor had made any unethical changes to salaries after the amendment passed on March 17, but he did not expand on his thoughts about the mayor's actions prior to that vote.

"We are responsible for the money," Bradley said. "It's not for him to run and do what he wants to do. That's the form of government we have."

The most recent documents on record with the council are from 2008, although Bradley said there are different version floating around, so the information is unclear.

"It needs to be updated," he said. "It needs to be corrected."

Hattiesburg Civil Service Board Member Mitzi Russell said several firemen have approached the board with concerns that they have not been paid properly for several years under this ordinance. But, she said, the board's hands are tied because they are not able to see the salary ranges for each fiscal year due to the documents being outdated.

"We are trying to get down to the discrepancies about how firefighters are being paid," she said.

Russell said the board requested the mayor have the updated documents presented to them by their May 11 meeting. CFO Sharon Waits said the documents had not been updated when this story was published, and she said the mayor was not working on updating the information to her knowledge.

The amended ordinance went into effect in mid-April, and according to the city's quarterly manpower report, the mayor made $127,340 in changes to employees' salaries between January 1 and March 31. The majority of those increases were for "professional development" within the police department.

According to Lieutenant Jon Traxler, professional development pay is given when an officer "meets all the requirements for them to receive the increase in pay depending on their position and time within the department."

Traxler said "there are things the officer has to complete" to get the raise, which he said was approved by the city council.

Bradley also requested monthly manpower reports in addition to the updated documents, but neither have been granted. In an April council meeting, the mayor said he would have to check to see if those documents are public record before he processed the request, but Bradley said it is all public information.

Several calls to the mayor's communications director were not returned.

To view the letter from Bradley requesting the reports, click here.

To view the letter from Bradley to the mayor, click here.

To view the letter from the Civil Service Board, click here.

To view the recent changes to salaries, click here.

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