Stone County Circuit Clerk Jeffery O’Neal found himself in an unusual position Tuesday afternoon.
O’Neal was at the defense table in the Harrison County Circuit Court in Gulfport, ordered, “. . . to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court for his failure to prepare orders of disposition, preparing and transmitting commitment papers to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and/or posting the Court’s orders to the MEC system.”
The show-cause order was issued October 11 and signed by all four Circuit Court judges; Roger Clark, Lisa Dodson, Lawrence Bourgeois and Christopher Schmidt.
Asked by this reporter on Monday if he would discuss the matter, O’Neal suggested showing up in court Tuesday as he was busy preparing paperwork for the judges.
The case seems to arise because defendants who were waiting to be remanded to the Mississippi Department of Corrections were not being processed nor receiving credit for time served as their paperwork was not being processed by the O’Neal’s office.
The order listed 36 separate cases and said, in part, “During the months of 2019, the undersigned judges conducted hearings in the above numbered and styled cases.
“Each hearing disposed of the matter then pending before the Court. Thereafter, the duty to prepare an appropriate order fell upon the clerk for presentation to the presiding judge.
“Additionally, the clerk is statutorily required to prepare a commitment paper for those defendants sentenced to a term of incarceration with the Mississippi Department of Corrections or a copy of a probation order for those under the supervision of the Division of Community Corrections.”
The order said that was in violation of Mississippi Code 99-1-45.
It was also annotated to read; “This show cause order does not address every case in which the undersigned cannot locate the appropriate order or other filing required to be in the case file or on the MEC.”
In addition, the order said it was apparent O’Neal had not prepared and transmitted any papers to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
It is the second time this year O’Neal has been ordered to appear before the court.
In May, O’Neal was ordered by Judge Schmidt to turn in financial reports from 2016 and 2017.
The report for 2018, due on April 15, was past due as well.
That case was dismissed after O’Neal appeared before Schmidt in Circuit Court in Bay St. Louis and his attorney, Steve Simpson, met with a representative of the State Attorney General’s office and the two sides agreed to an order of dismissal.
James Bobo, a special assistant to the Mississippi Attorney General, told Schmidt copies of the 2016 and 2017 reports had been received by the Auditor’s office.
“Mr. O’Neal has purged himself of contempt,” he said at the time.
Results of Tuesday’s hearing will be reported in next week’s edition of the Enterprise.