Mayor-elect will keep his jobs in Port Gibson|Winfield is judge, city’s attorney

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vicksburg Mayor-elect Paul Winfield will continue his fifth term as city attorney and judge in Port Gibson beyond his inauguration, now set for July 3, citing purely professional reasons for not halting his legal work for the county seat of Claiborne County.

Winfield announced the decision as the Port Gibson Board of Aldermen met Monday night, Mayor Fred Reeves said.

“He announced that he wanted to stay on,” Reeves said. “We’re willing to keep him on.”

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Winfield’s work in Port Gibson was not subject to a formal vote, as the administration’s term in the town of 1,700 began in January 2008.

Reached Tuesday, Winfield said he contacted the Mississippi Ethics Commission after the election and was referred to an advisory opinion issued in 2008 regarding service in two separate governmental entities. It is not expressly prohibited in state law, though consultation was advised with the attorney general and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel regarding “incompatible office issues” and the federal Hatch Act.

Vicksburg’s charter says the mayor and both aldermen “shall devote their entire time, or so much thereof as may be necessary to the operation of the civic government and the performance of their respective duties…” The charter allows outside jobs, although most mayors and aldermen have not held other employment.

“I’m fully committed to the City of Vicksburg,” said Winfield, 35, a Vicksburg native and private attorney before his upset of Mayor Laurence Leyens in his first run for public office June 2. “But, I’m also fully committed to the City of Port Gibson,” Winfield said. “I have a professional obligation.”

Winfield said the two matters do not affect him because he’s not a federal employee and no issues should arise outside the state ethics laws. He said his annual salary as an appointee in Port Gibson is $30,000, which, in addition to the $81,033 salary for the mayor’s position in Vicksburg would push his total public job income to more than $111,000. From 2005 until 2008, he held the board attorney spot for the Warren County Board of Supervisors, with county legal invoices totaling $130,500 for fiscal years 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Separately, Winfield is among defendants named in a federal suit involving two landowning groups alleging violations against Warren County under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Each of the six counts of the federal case carries $1 million in damages.

Other defendants include the county prosecutor, surveyor and each county supervisor during the 2004-08 term. A trial date is set for Sept. 27 before U.S. District Judge David Bramlette in Natchez.

Since winning 62 percent of the 6,876 votes cast in general balloting, Winfield, one of the youngest mayors elected in Vicksburg, has overseen a transition team that has mirrored his tightly organized campaign. Calls pertaining to upcoming city business are routed to his Cherry Street campaign headquarters where communications operations have been set up. Winfield has said five people from inside and outside his campaign will assist in his move to City Hall.

Appointments including attorney, police chief, clerk, fire chief and judge are likely to top all issues in the opening days of Winfield’s administration.

An inauguration ceremony is set for 6 p.m. July 3 at the Vicksburg Convention Center. The first official city board meeting with Winfield sitting between North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman — both re-elected without opposition — is set for July 7.

Both city and county officials have decided to follow the state’s recognition of Monday, July 6, as the holiday for government employees in observance of Independence Day. 


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at