Jennings Arrest / City's Reaction

An attorney for the city of Meridian says he's setting the record straight about the arrest of a local civil rights advocate.

Randle Jennings was taken into custody Monday for contempt of court in Lauderdale County Court. The arrest was for failure to produce financial records that were requested by counsel for the city.

The head of the Meridian/Lauderdale County NAACP is questioning the timing of the arrest. However, the city's attorney refers to it as a self-inflicted punishment.

"He's never taken this court seriously," said Bill Ready. Jr.

Representing the city of Meridian in the lawsuit against Jennings, Ready says the reason Jennings is behind bars is because he blatantly refused to produce financial records that were requested.

"He told the judge no less than three times that he refuses to produce the documents," Ready said.

The documents requested were Jennings' financial records. NAACP President John Harris says the two weeks that Jennings was given to produce the documents prior to Monday was not enough time. Ready disagrees.

"Well, actually he got more time than the law allows," said Ready.

Generally, Ready says five days are granted for plaintiffs to gather this type information, not ten or more.

Ready also disputes concerns from the NAACP about whether Jennings' case was actually settled prior to Monday.

Ready stresses that a court order issued last April clearly indicates that the more than $4,800 that was paid at that time only accounted for a portion of the more than $12,000 that was owed by Jennings to the city.

"This is public money; this is taxpayer money," said Ready. "This money could end up never being collected."

As it stands, in order for Jennings to be released from jail, he must produce the financial records that have been requested.

The city of Meridian first filed the lawsuit against Jennings in 2007. It was for more than $12,000; that was money the city gave Jennings for an after school youth program that was never established.

When the lawsuit was filed, Jennings owed $23,322.23; this included interest, court costs and other legal fees.

In April 2011 Harris says he paid $4,821 on Jennings' behalf toward that debt. Currently, the city says Jennings owes $18,501.23