Incoming DA Smith replacing four of six employees|[12/15/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2007

Four of the six employees in the 9th Circuit District Attorney’s Office are out of jobs, a shake-up in personnel announced Friday by District Attorney-Elect Richard “Ricky” Smith.

Dismissed were both assistant DAs, John Bullard and Mike Bonner; investigator Gary Haygood; and victims rights coordinator Georgia Lynn. The terminations take effect Jan. 7, when Smith takes office.

“These were not easy decisions to make,” said Smith, who ousted incumbent Gil Martin in November’s election. “I consider everyone in that office a friend of mine. I spent a lot of long, late nights making these decisions.”

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Bullard had served in his post since 1991, when Martin was first elected, and Bonner, since 1999. Both were notified by letter Friday that they would be replaced.

“It was a wonderful job — serving with wonderful, dedicated people,” Bullard said Friday. “It was the kind of job you could go home in the evening and feel good about what you had accomplished and what you had done for the community. I’ll definitely miss it.”

Bullard said he’s not sure what his next career move will be.

He and Martin had served 16 years together, and during that time, Bullard said, more than 7,500 criminal cases were prosecuted by their office. Bullard also noted he has tried more than 150 cases, 48 of which were homicides.

Bonner, appointed by Martin eight years ago, could not be reached for comment. Contacted Friday, Martin said he had no comment on the personnel changes.

Taking one of the assistant DA spots will be Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Dewey Arthur, who Smith said has accepted the job. Arthur, a Vicksburg native, could not be reached Friday.

“I was very impressed with Mr. Arthur’s aggressiveness and his motivation,” Smith said. “And also his knowledge and experience in trial law.”

A replacement has not been found for Haygood, who served as an investigator for 10 years. Haygood confirmed he had received a letter of dismissal, but was not available for further comment.

Lynn, an eight-year employee of the DA office, will be replaced by Smith’s legal assistant, Brenda Theriot. Lynn, who also serves as director of the Vicksburg Warren Humane Society, said she was not surprised by Smith’s decision.

Janice Harrison, an investigator for 11 years, and Pam Rushing, an office manager for nearly 17 years, were asked by Smith to remain. Both accepted.

“This is a job I have always loved very much, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of this community,” Harrison said.

Reached Friday, Rushing agreed.

Smith attributed many of the changes in his staff to his victory in November.

“To me, the vote indicated that the people are ready for a major change,” Smith said. “And I’m just trying to do what’s best for the community.”

Smith is left with selecting an assistant district attorney and an investigator. He is reviewing six or seven resumes, he said, for the second assistant DA spot and has chosen an investigator, but did not release the name Friday because the person had not been notified.

Smith said he hopes all the positions will be filled next week.

Whomever he chooses, he said, must be ready to “hit the ground running.”

The January term of the Issaquena County grand jury will convene the day Smith takes office.

“We’re definitely going to be busy right off the bat,” he said.

The 9th Circuit DA office prosecutes felony cases in Warren, Sharkey and Issaquena counties.