A day after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit over what it calls a 'school to jail pipeline' in Meridian, the Meridian-Lauderdale County NAACP has filed ethics complaints against more than 60 local leaders.
Sixty-four complaints were filed Thursday with the Mississippi Ethics Commission. The NAACP contends there is a pattern of the constitutional rights of children being violated in Lauderdale County.
NAACP officials say the complaints are against elected officials who represent the state and local levels in the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County, law enforcement and some in the educational arena.
"We as a civil rights advocate, community-based wise, the people we elected and the people appointed should have been the watchdogs for our children," said Randle Jennings, education chair for the Meridian-Lauderdale County NAACP. "The people that have been implicated deeply into this complaint, being the judges, Judge Frank Coleman and Judge Veldore Young. Everybody had to see the red flags when their case loads increased by thousands of percentages of points over a period of time."
The NAACP says the complaints are not connected to the recent federal lawsuit that was filed. They said it was based on findings from an investigation that the organization started seven years ago.
By filing the complaints, Meridian/Lauderdale County NAACP president, John Harris, as well as Jennings, say the civil rights organization hopes to accomplish one thing.
"Meaningful negotiations," said Jennings. "That's what we've been asking for since the beginning."
The U.S. Department of Justice said in its news release that it was willing to "engage in meaningful negotiations to remedy the identified violations, but defendants did not timely engage in such negotiations."
The Mississippi Ethics Commission has thirty days to respond to the complaints.
The DOJ is asking for public input into its lawsuit and investigation. To participate in an Oct. 25 conference call from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., dial toll-free 888-989-9731, and when prompted by the operator, provide your name and the passcode 7015490.
The public may call DOJ any time at 855-544-5131, or send an email to Community.Meridian@ usdoj.gov.