Hattiesburg City Court aftermath continues to play out

Published: Sep. 19, 2012 at 10:07 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2012 at 2:17 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - An internal investigation concluding there was a major lack of competence in the city court system has left the Hattiesburg City Council and Mayor Johnny DuPree at odds.

The council wants Mayor DuPree to enact a tougher punishment upon the city clerks who allegedly violated the rules and arguably the law.

"His allowing them the opportunity to take a week, or two week vacation at home without pay, and to put them back in that position again that is unacceptable," said Hattiesburg City Council President, Kim Bradley.

The council made clear its disapproval of Mayor Johnny DuPree's handling of the investigation into city court, and the punishments he gave out, by reading a letter aloud at Tuesday night's public hearing.

"They need to be thankful they are not being prosecuted from what I understand from the investigation of what was found," said Bradley.

DuPree said the level of punishment was his to determine.

"It's my decision. It's not the council's decision. They have one employee. The decision that we make, as far as the employees are concerned, don't have to be sanctioned by the council," said DuPree.

This matter is in deadlock, but the process of  finding one full time judge to take the place of three part time judges is moving forward.

"Jerry Evans is a good man for this job. He has been in the legal business for a long time. He represented the city as the city attorney back in the Morgan administration. He will do a good job," said Bradley.

"Jerry will do a wonderful job. It is a great transition for him, taking on this position and helping us do some arrangements, readjustments, realignment if you will," said DuPree.

Despite the proposed appointment of a new city judge some council members feel that may not be a complete fix. Bradley says there are options.

"We legislate, we legislate through budgets. We legislate by policies,"said Bradley.

The Hattiesburg City Council is scheduled to approve the new budget Tuesday, included in that budget is funding for the municipal court. There is talk among some council member of withholding that funding.

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