Redacted info from Tupelo ethics report leaked on Web

TUPELO – Several paragraphs redacted from the Tupelo ethics report have been leaked, prompting criticism from the mayor and city attorney.

It’s unclear who originally released the material, taken from five edited pages in the 133-page report. In all, 14 pages were edited, and several more were removed from the appendices.

Also unclear is how many people have seen the leaked data, which make a number of allegations, including a lack of adherence to municipal vendor bidding results; making city employees do work for private residents; misrepresentation of facts; and favoritism with regard to a particular department head.

The Daily Journal obtained its copy of the redacted information in an e-mail from the administrator of the Internet site TupeloVoice.com, which had received its copy from another source.

The mayor and City Council agreed last year to make public only a redacted version of the report, which was delivered Sept. 30 by hired consultant Cindy Brown and claims numerous deficiencies in Tupelo’s government.

They did so to protect the municipality and council members from potential lawsuits in case allegations against people in the report are untrue.

A full version was sent to the State Auditor’s Office for review. The office has read the report but hasn’t yet decided whether to investigate, a spokeswoman there said.

City attorney Guy Mitchell said he’s concerned about the leak, but he had long feared it because of the “strange and ridiculous way” the report was delivered. Mitchell was referring to Brown’s e-mailing the report to certain council members before delivering hard copies.

“I don’t know what we can do about it if we can’t determine the source,” Mitchell said. “If it’s not the council themselves then it’s no liability on the part of the council.”

Mitchell said the leak could have come from a number of sources: someone in the auditor’s office, ethics consultant Cindy Brown or one of the three council members who retained an unedited report – Nettie Davis, Doyce Deas or Smith Heavner. He said it’s unlikely any of those people did it, though.

Neelly also expressed disappointment. He said it’s unfortunate the information is circulating because of its potentially slanderous nature.

“I’m all for freedom of information,” he said, “but I believe everybody has a right not to have false things said about them.”

On Thursday, TupeloVoice.com had requested information from readers about the report. On Friday, its administrator got an e-mail with the redacted paragraphs. The administrator, who does not want to be named, told the Journal he didn’t know the sender’s identity.

He said he plans to post the information on his site, probably this weekend.

Due to legal concerns, the Daily Journal will not publish the redacted material until it can fully verify its accuracy.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

 

Emily Le Coz/Daily Journal