By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson told the Daily Journal this morning that the Tupelo mayor has pressured him to get the city’s new deputy police chief re-certified in a way that violates his own ethics.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. acknowledged that he had talked to the sheriff about the situation surrounding Robert Hall, but said he didn’t consider his discussions anything more than “asking a friend for help.”
Johnson made the statement after his speech to the Lee County Board of Supervisors. He appeared to defend himself against accusations of racial inequality levied by members of the Coalition of African-American Organizations. The group said Johnson had little diversity in the upper echelon of his staff and demanded a remedy by the Board of Supervisors.
Johnson didn’t respond directly to the racial allegations. Instead, he said the attack was based solely on his chairmanship of the state Board of Standards and Training.
The board makes decisions about whether law-enforcement officials can obtain certification or re-certification. And it likely will hear the case of Hall, who was hired earlier this year after having resigned from the force in 2007.
The city hasn’t yet applied for Hall’s re-certification. But Johnson said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. has repeated “demanded” that Johnson help Hall get re-certified. The demands were made by phone call, visits and letters, Johnson said. And he said to honor the requests would violate his own ethical standards.
Johnson also said he has heard rumors that he personally has prevented Hall from getting his re-certification, which he deemed untrue.
“I will not be harassed or intimidated by any group to do anything other than what I believe is right,” Johnson told the group of more than 50 people at the Supervisors meeting.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Reed said he had discussed the matter twice with Johnson, once in the sheriff’s office and once at a meeting where they both were speakers.
“I have treated our talks as confidential conversations between two people who care about the city,” the mayor said.
Read more about this story in Tuesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.