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Harper asks the supervisors to let him return as county prosecutor

Ken Harper wants to return as Warren County prosecutor.

“I would like very much if you would accept the withdrawal of my resignation and we pick back up to the extent we can,” he told the Warren County Board Monday. “I would like to continue to serve in any capacity that I can. Whatever this board decides, that’s your decision.”

Harper resigned his office in a Sept. 14 letter to the Warren County Board of Supervisors saying, “Please accept this letter as my resignation as Warren County Prosecuting Attorney effective September 14, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. Sincerely, Ken Harper.” He gave no reason at the time for his resignation.

Days later, Harper rescinded his resignation before the supervisors’ next scheduled meeting.

Referring to the resignation Monday, Harper said, “I took an action that was rash, out of frustration and anger that I had about some things I’m not going to into here. It was not a well-thought-out decision and it’s caused some difficulties for everybody, especially y’all, and I apologize for that, sincerely, to the board and everyone.”

He said he withdrew his resignation three days later after talking to Board President Jeff Holland “and we moved right along as if everything was OK.”

In mid-October, Warren County Judge Marcie Southerland, who presides over youth court — the court where Harper also serves as county prosecutor — went to the supervisors and questioned Harper’s status in his position regarding the resignation.

Supervisors met with Board Attorney Blake Teller and Southerland about Harper in two executive sessions and the supervisors asked Teller to submit four questions to the Attorney General’s office concerning Harper’s status.

In the interim, supervisors withheld Harper’s pay until his status was cleared up. Southerland, a few days later, appointed Lane Campbell as youth court prosecutor and refused Harper the ability to handle any cases while his status was in doubt.

Harper told the supervisors Monday he has continued to prosecute cases in Warren County Justice Court.

“I felt like I was still the elected county prosecutor and I still feel that way,” he said.

The county’s questions to the Attorney General’s Office involved whether an elected official can resign and then rescind that resignation before any governing body accepts it and whether the Board of Supervisors was the right body to which Harper should offer a resignation. Supervisors felt a resignation by the county prosecutor would need to be presented to the governor’s office.

In response to those questions, the Attorney General’s office said it “has previously held that a resignation becomes effective upon the date specified in the resignation and that one may withdraw his resignation up until the stated effective date.”

In this case, Harper’s resignation letter was made effective at 5 p.m. on the day he issued the letter. He tried to rescind the resignation days later.

The opinion also states that the “resignation does not need to be accepted by members of the governing authorities to become effective.” Also, the resignation did not have to go to the governor’s office.

The supervisors can appoint Harper back to the position, but it would be an interim appointment until a special election.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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