HATTIESBURG — Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree has announced the retirement of City Attorney Charles Lawrence and Police Chief Frazier Bolton.
The announcement came at the end of the city council’s meeting Tuesday night.
Lawrence said he was retiring to focus more time on his ailing wife and also because he did not want to be the “focus of division” in the city. His retirement is effective no later than June 30, pending a replacement approved by the council.
Bolton declined comment, but DuPree said his retirement was for personal reasons. Bolton was sworn in as chief in November 2007
DuPree said Bolton would step aside as chief “within the next 30 days or so,” and that “we will re-purpose him as director of public safety, where I have specific duties for him.”
Lawrence and Bolton were among administrators at the crux of a civil complaint filed in November by Councilmen Kim Bradley and Carter Carroll over the mayor’s delay in bringing forward candidates for 17 city positions requiring council approval.
Lawrence, Bolton, Public Defender Alethea Shaw Milton and Municipal Court Judge Pro-tem Carol Jones Russell were four holdover administrators who had not been brought forward since DuPree’s re-election in 2013.
A fifth position, city clerk, had been vacant since September 2013 as well.
DuPree nominated city Purchasing Manager Verlina Underwood for Director of Administration/City Clerk, but the council voted Tuesday 3-1 with one abstaining against her appointment.
Lawrence, who has served as councilman, city judge and city attorney over the past three decades, said while his wife’s health played the major role in his retirement, the continuing wrangling between the mayor and the council over appointments also figured into the decision.
“I don’t want to be the focus of a division in the city,” Lawrence said. “I love this city too much, and this city is bigger than any one person, and to remove myself from the equation is the proper thing to do.”
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