A circuit judge in Jones County is fighting a demand for hundreds of thousands of dollars by State Auditor Stacey Pickering, accusing the auditor of trying to force him out of office.
A news release from a Gulfport PR agency said:
"Judge Landrum says that Pickering, directly and through third persons, attempted to force the Judge to resign or to agree not to run for re-election before publicly accusing him of misspending. Landrum says that Pickering previously met privately with him to make this threat and later communicated the threat through others. When Judge Landrum made it clear to Pickering that he intended to run for re-election, Pickering publicly accused the Judge of misspending."
Landrum said Pickering was attempting to influence the judicial election.
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"I have not misspent any money and I have nothing to hide," Landrum said in the release. The Community Services Program has always been operated legally, honestly and to the benefit of its participants and the county. The books are open to anyone to review; in fact, the Auditor has been reviewing the accounts of Jones County for years and has never suggested that this program has been misspending money."
Pickering wants Landrum to pay $313,726, collected through an alternative sentencing program. The auditor, in a late-August news release, says the money was misspent.
Pickering said his office's investigation found $4,699.52 in fuel purchases; $82,637.77 for vehicle purchases and $197,439.50 in courtroom security officers' salaries and employer salary expenses were paid from the Community Services Program account but not associated with the program. One or more vehicles belonging to the program were utilized for private travel. The mileage and usage costs for the specific trips have been calculated by the Auditor to be $4,605.94.
Landrum said all money collected, all equipment purchased, all personnel hired and all expenses paid have been done so based on his orders and requests to the Board of Supervisors, who have followed all rules and regulations for such expenditures. The Attorney General has issued opinions in the past approving of the handling of the program, and the program has been so successful that it has actually donated surplus monies of over $125,000 to the general fund of Jones County.
Judge Landrum specifically denies breaking any law or statute. Pickering declined to comment further.
J. Ronald Parrish, Noel Rogers and Dal Williamson are challenging Landrum in the Nov. 4 election.