- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - Jackson County Sheriff Charles Britt withdrew Monday from the sheriff’s election, days after a secret audio recording was released where he complained an opponent sparked an investigation into how the department disposed of some diesel fuel.

Britt, named to the post by supervisors after former Sheriff Mike Byrd was convicted on state and federal charges, says he’ll stay in office through the election.

The recording was released by a lawyer for deputy Louie Miller after Britt fired Miller last week.

“I have decided that I will not allow individuals or groups of individuals with little or no morals to attack the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, my family, my friends or supporters,” Britt wrote in a public letter. “To allow this organization, which has improved so much, to be dragged through the political mud by Louie Miller, a disgruntled employee, is unacceptable to me.”

Miller’s lawyer says the firing was politically influenced, while Britt says Miller was fired after a proper investigation by the sheriff’s office.

“It was the right decision for the right reasons,” Britt wrote, saying facts will be released as appropriate.

Britt wrote that he has asked county supervisors to assign a lawyer to handle Miller’s firing and the fuel disposal.

Six other candidates are seeking the post in a nonpartisan special election Nov. 4. The winner will serve the remaining year on Byrd’s term.

Miller’s lawyer released a conversation that Louie Miller secretly recorded on Sept. 11 in which Britt admits making the decision to dispose of the fuel but chastises the deputy for not properly documenting its disposal. The sheriff also used vulgar language to describe one of his opponents, Scott McIlrath.

McIlrath is the chief investigator for District Attorney Tony Lawrence.

The Mississippi Press reported (https://bit.ly/1rhrMp2) Britt later called McIlrath to apologize.

On Saturday, Britt said he didn’t know who received the fuel, only that it was a “little old man who owned a farm.” The fuel, which had degraded while in a storage on Singing River Island, was used to kill weeds along a fence line on Ronnie Hamilton’s farm.

Miller’s lawyer released text messages showing Hamilton was solicited by Britt’s campaign for a $250 donation on Sept. 8, had hosted fundraising dinners, and provided supplies for other fundraisers.

The attorney said he didn’t believe contributions were made in exchange for the fuel, but said it was false that Britt didn’t know who received the diesel.

___

Information from: The Mississippi Press, https://www.gulflive.com


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