By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mum’s the word on the U.S. Department of Justice’s visit to Tupelo this week in regards to police department hiring practices.
“We have to decline comment at this time,” said Department of Justice spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa on why the agency is meeting with current and former city employees.
A federal official interviewed Mayor Jack Reed Jr., Police Chief Tony Carleton and Personnel Director Cassandra Moore on Wednesday morning, said city attorney John Hill, who was present during at least one session.
“We had a very cordial meeting. It was a swapping of information,” Hill said. The Justice Department official “stated it’s their policy to make no comment, and since it’s their policy to make no comment, we feel it’s appropriate to follow suit.”
Hill identified the federal official as Toni Michelle Jackson, who is a senior trial attorney for the agency.
Jackson will meet with three previous Police Department employees today: former Assistant Chief Robert Hall, former Capt. Cliff Hardy and former Officer Latana Williams.
“They will meet with them separately tomorrow at different times,” said Jim Waide, a private attorney who has represented all three individuals in their conflicts with the city – each involving allegations of racial discrimination.
Waide said he had no information about the nature of the interviews or why the Justice Department is here.
It’s unclear who else might be interviewed in the agency probe. Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis said she was invited to speak to the federal official Wednesday but declined.
“I felt uncomfortable doing it,” she said.
Hill had said on Monday that this week’s meetings will determine the need for further investigation by the federal agency. But he said Wednesday he doesn’t know when he’ll learn the agency’s intentions.
“I think we’ll hear back from her,” he said, “but I don’t know when or of what nature.”