3 On Your Side: Nepotism within Hinds County government? - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side: Nepotism within Hinds County government?

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Precious Martin Precious Martin
Crystal Martin Crystal Martin
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A lawsuit that Hinds County filed against Motorola was abruptly settled out of court a month ago.

Judge Winston Kidd presided over the suit in Circuit Court.

WLBT's ongoing investigation into that suit has uncovered a relationship within the Hinds County government that's worth scrutiny.

Precious Martin, hired by the county as outside counsel for the suit against Motorola, is married to Crystal Martin, the attorney for the Board of Supervisors.

Is this nepotism or a conflict of interest?

"We did receive a number of calls based on the coverage on television," said Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith.

But they're not formal complaints, and Smith says that's what he needs before he investigates.

Since Precious Martin is not an employee of Hinds County, the ethics of his association with the county is not clear.

"But again there's a fine line," Smith said. "That's not something we're sure of. We do have to investigate if we are asked to do so."

Meanwhile, WLBT is still waiting for a copy of the settlement agreement between Hinds County and Motorola.

Precious Martin may have been a third or more of the settlement.

WLBT is joining blogging website www.jacksonjambalaya.com as interveners in court to get the settlement agreement made public.

Smith says he has received documents regarding a phone call to Hinds County Emergency Operations Director Jimmy Lewis, in which he was allegedly influenced to hire Hinds Supervisor Robert Graham's brother Charles.

Charles Graham was hired in December 2009, then fired in August 2010.

"We do believe part of it could be turned over to an ethics commission to make a determination as to wether or not that was a conflict of interest as well," Smith said.

Mississippi Section 25-4-105(1), Miss. Code of 1972, which is one of eight separate prohibitions in the Ethics in Government Law, reads as follows:

"No public servant shall use his official position to obtain, or attempt to obtain, pecuniary benefit for himself other than that compensation provided for by law, or to obtain, or attempt to obtain, pecuniary benefit for any relative or any business with which he is associated."

The term "relative" is defined in Section 25-4-103(q) as follows:

(i)  The spouse of the public servant;

(ii)  The child of the public servant;

(iii)  The parent of the public servant;

(iv)  The sibling of the public servant; and

(v)  The spouse of any of the relatives of the public servant specified in subparagraphs (ii) through (iv).

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