Natchez Police Department ethics questions raised

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017


NATCHEZ — City of Natchez officials are raising ethical questions about the employment of Natchez Police Chief Daniel White’s son at the police department.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he recently met with White regarding the employment of White’s son, Devin White, at the department and possible conflicts with state law regarding the matter.

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Grennell said he consulted a Mississippi Ethics Commission representative, who advised him that the hiring of the chief’s son could potentially violate state ethics law.

White’s son has been employed at the department for approximately three years, but White could not remember specifically when his son was hired. White said his son was previously employed at the department, left and was later rehired.

White was sworn in as chief in July 2012.

White said the Natchez Board of Aldermen approved his son’s hiring at the time he was hired.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce-Arceneaux-Mathis said she does not recall the specifics of approving the hire. She said the aldermen are given monthly hiring and termination reports, and the hiring was likely approved through that report.

“I usually look at the terminations more than I look at the hires, but I don’t know if I saw his name on a list if I would even recognize it,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.

The city, Arceneaux-Mathis said, may have established precedent prior to Devin White’s hiring with a similar situation.

Arceneaux-Mathis said when a former NPD employee’s son applied for a position, the board reviewed a policy stating the hire was not a breach of ethics if the employee was not working directly under their parent. Arceneaux-Mathis said she would have to research that policy and whether it applied to the police chief.

Mississippi Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood said he could not comment on the specific situation regarding the chief and his son.

The ethics commission has, however, issued advisory opinions on similar situations.

In a 2013 advisory opinion (No. 12-114-E), the ethics commission concluded that the son of a fire department employee could not remain employed by the same fire department if his father was promoted to chief.

“A public servant may not use his position to obtain any pecuniary benefit for his or her relative, as prohibited in Section 25-4-105(1), Miss. Code of 1972,” the opinion states. “Due to the potential for a violation of this section and the policy codified in Section 25-4-101, the employee should resign if his father is selected as fire chief.”

Per state statute 25-4-105, it would appear White and his son could not both be employed by NPD.

Grennell said he left the decision up to White, but also concluded that White and his son could likely both not work at NPD.

White said he would be seeking legal advice on the matter before making a decision about how to resolve the situation.

City Attorney Bob Latham said he has not had an opportunity to research the matter, but would look into it.