City gathers police chief materials

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 4, 1999

City officials have submitted required documentation for preclearance of an appointed police chief.

The U.S. Department of Justice told city attorney Walter Brown in September that the city’s 30-year-old switch from an elected to appointed police chief was never precleared by the justice department as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In documentation to the justice department this week, Brown said the switch was approved by the state attorney general and governor in 1968, but &uot;through inadvertance or lack of understanding as to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act&uot; did not submit the necessary materials for pre-clearance.

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Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said he thought the documentation the city attorney sent &uot;should satisfy the issue.&uot;

The documentation includes board of aldermen minutes and ordinances, newspaper articles and election results.

&uot;I think he’s done a masterful job,&uot; the mayor said. &uot;It’s an excellent submission.&uot;

The mayor did not know why the material was not submitted 30 years ago, but assumed it was an oversight.

&uot;It’s probably better and more comprehensive now than they would have had 30 years ago,&uot; he said.

Natchez resident Charles Sanders submitted a complaint to the justice department 10 months ago that he suspected the switch was never precleared.

A Justice Department review will determine if the change does not &uot;have the effect of discriminating on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group,&uot; according to an Aug. 26 letter signed by Joseph D. Rich, acting chief of the voting rights section for the Justice Department.

&uot;Changes which affect voting are legally unenforceable without Section 5 preclearance,&uot; the letter states.

The justice department now has 60 days to respond to the city’s request for preclearance.

Justice department spokeswoman Chris Whatney has said similar requests from cities after the fact have been rejected before, but the majority are accepted.

Sanders said he and others had tried for a long time to get the city to change back to an elected police chief.