Fallout continues from Harper’s on-again, off-again resignation

Published 4:41 pm Sunday, October 25, 2020

The saga involving Warren County’s youth and justice courts took another turn late Friday when a new Youth Court Prosecutor was named.

Warren County Court Judge Marcie Southerland announced she had appointed and sworn in Vicksburg attorney Lane Campbell as the county’s new Youth Court Prosecutor.

The appointment comes just days after the validity of the existing County Prosecuting Attorney Ken Harper was put in doubt.

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In a letter in mid-September to the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Harper resigned his elected position but then days later rescinded it. At the time, it appeared there were no ramifications to his status, and Harper continued to serve his role in the five weeks since.

After two executive sessions — one on Monday and another Tuesday that included County Attorney Blake Teller and Southerland — supervisors decided to not only seek an Attorney General’s opinion on Harper’s status but also decided to withhold any payment to Harper until any uncertainty is resolved.

Supervisors are seeking information on whether Harper is able to rescind his resignation letter. They are also asking if the board was even the right governmental body or agency Harper should have issued his resignation to in the first place.

Even though county officials have said they will ask for emergency action from the Attorney General’s office, an opinion could still be weeks away.

Tuesday, after supervisors decided to withhold Harper’s pay and seek the opinion, Southerland told The Post that Harper would not serve in her court until the issue was resolved. Even though he did not work a case in Southerland’s court, Harper did work a number of cases in his role as county prosecutor during the rest of the week.

In appointing Campbell, who does have statutory authority to appoint a youth court prosecutor, Southerland said Harper “is hereby relieved of serving as youth court prosecutor effective immediately.”

In the order, Southerland does allude to Harper’s questionable status as a reason for appointing Campbell.

“This undersigned County Court Judge who also serves as the Youth Court Judge finds that the Warren County Youth Court requires a Youth Court Prosecutor who is available, without interruption, to faithfully discharge the duties and responsibilities of the Youth Court Prosecutor,” the order reads. “This Court finds that in the interest of the administration of justice and in the best interest of children and their families who are served by the Youth Court, it is necessary to appoint a Youth Court Prosecutor to serve in lieu of the County Prosecutor.

“Youth Court matters are critical. The responsibilities of Youth Court are ongoing. Youth Court never stops. It’s a 24-7 job,” Southerland said in the release. “There has to be a prosecutor available at all times to handle those cases. You can’t wait for a determination of whether Mr. Harper has vacated his position.”

The order also outlines Campbell’s salary as $4,100 per month, with “all benefits provided to county employees.”

Unlike Harper, who served full time in the position, Campbell will serve part-time and can continue his private law practice.

Southerland said Campbell will serve as youth court prosecutor “until further order of this Court.”

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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