Strong Personalities Create Ocean Springs Turmoil

Janet Dudding left the clerk's office after just seven months on the job. In her letter of resignation, she criticized the lack of professionalism in the day to day operations at Ocean Springs City Hall, then wished some of her former colleagues "a plague of painful boils."

An anonymous letter to the Mayor and Aldermen accuses Dudding of being late, and often absent, and destroying morale. A memo from Public Works Director Andre Kaufman detailed a list of potential legal and ethical problems he blames on Dudding.

Kaufman accuses Dudding of moving $1.3 million out of his budget without his knowledge, or that of the mayor and board of aldermen. Dudding says it never happened.

"The only way that a budget amendment can happen is for the board to approve it in a formal meeting. It has to go to the board and they have to formally approve the amendment. That's the only way that a budget amendment can happen. So it's not true," she says.

Kaufman also accuses Dudding of not paying the city's liability insurance by its December 31st due date, even after the city received two notices. Kaufman says that resulted in a $20,000 penalty against the city.

"We were in a cash flow crunch. We were planning to pay it. It was on the docket to pay by December 31st, by January first. In the meantime, in between the first bill going out and the second bill, the second bill being the one you referred to, the liability company, the insurance company that does our insurance came down and did a walk through, did an audit of our city jail and increased our premium by 20,000 dollars. So that's what that 20,000 dollars is. That's not a delinquent payment."

Kaufman's memo also says he is considering filing a sexual harassment complaint against Dudding for calling him "sugar britches."

"He called me 'honey.' I immediately called him 'sugar britches.' It was an outrageous thing for me to say. It was an outrageous thing for him to call me 'honey.' But that's all that is," says Dudding.

Dudding takes issue with charges that she is unprofessional and mismanaged the city's money.

"It's absolutely outrageous. Everything that we have done is by the book. Everything that we have done was per recommended practices. I've got 20 years of government experience. I started out with the audit department. I'm an MBA. I'm a CPA. We did okay. We did it right. We did it the best way we could. Things were not in such good shape when we took over. Things are better now."

Mayor Seren Ainsworth says he wants to remain professional and regrets some of the comments that have come out. Alderman Danny Jalanivich says there is a morale problem at city hall, but he thinks it will get better.

Andre Kaufman and city attorney John Edwards did not comment on the situation.

In the meantime, Mayor Ainsworth has the aldermen's approval to hire some temporary help in the clerk's office.