Supremes to settle mayor/council fight

Just before the deadline, Mayor Johnny DuPree has officially appealed a circuit court decision ordering him to resubmit his department heads to the Hattiesburg City Council.

The state attorney general has given his opinion and a circuit court judge has ordered action, but DuPree still does not agree. If DuPree is going to resubmit his department heads to the council, he wants the Mississippi Supreme Court to tell him to do it.

"You know, this has statewide implications," DuPree says. "It's not just for Hattiesburg. In '09 when I run again and I'm reelected, I don't want to have to go through this again. And there are many other mayors who may have to do the same thing when they're reelected and this shouldn't have to happen."

DuPree says the statute that led Judge Bob Helfrich to rule against him needs to be clarified.

"He basically ruled on half the statute and not the full statute," he says.

The mayor says he is appealing the ruling because he believes the law is too ambiguous. But councilmen who are plaintiffs in the case say they are skeptical.

"I don't buy that," says Kim Bradley. "I read last week that the mayor and [city attorney] Mr. Lawrence were going to act in the best interest of the citizens of Hattiesburg and I don't feel like that this is in their best interest.

"We have a sitting circuit judge who ruled or ordered that the returning mayor has to put his directors up.  And he has chosen not to do that, and I am disturbed by it," Bradley says.

"I think that this is a ploy by the mayor to delay the inevitable," says Carter Carroll, council president. "The law is not ambiguous as to what the mayor stated in his deposition. The mayor stated that he does not have to put up the directors and the law is quite clear. The statute is quite clear. It says he does have to put up the directors and that has been validated by two attorney generals."

But DuPree says: "People that come to work for the city as directors, shouldn't have to leave a job and only know that they have a job for four years."

Carroll says their attorney is writing a letter to the Mississippi Supreme Court asking it to speed up the appeal process.