Jones County Deputy Bradley Boyd was fired under the authority of Sheriff Joe Berlin by Chief Deputy Mitch Sumrall, after Boyd refused to dismiss a DUI ticket for then twenty-year-old Brian Blackledge. Blackledge is the son of Pastor Nate Blackledge. Blackledge was charged with DUI on 12-21-2022 between the hours of 10:00pm and 10:30 pm and booked into the Jones County Detention Center at 10:47p.m.
The Blackledges and the Sumralls are friends on Facebook and clearly familiar with one another. However, there is no evidence to suggest that special treatment was requested by Brian Blackledge, Nate Blackledge, or anyone on their behalf.
Prior to running this report, a video segment of Sheriff Berlin on the “Buck Naked Truth” Podcast
(see video below) was published. In the podcast Berlin explained how Sumrall takes control when dealing with ticketing during an election year. Sheriff Berlin said of Chief Deputy Sumrall,
“Well he’s my, he’s my, uh , savior I guess you could say. Mitch can turn a bad situation into a good situation just like that. Whereas I can’t. If its bad for me its just gonna get worse, you know uh, and he knows how to deal with people. He ran for constable forever. So, he’s dealt with the public before. He knows, ya know, he knows, Hey, y’all need to stop writing so many tickets because it’s coming up on election time. He knows that aspect of it. I don’t.”
HPNM reached out to former Jones County Deputy Bradley Boyd for a comment. Boyd would not comment under advice of his legal counsel. HPNM also reached out to Boyd’s Bay Springs attorney, Tom Tullos. When asked about Boyd’s firing, Tullos stated,
“We have filed and gone into the appeals process and want a hearing as soon as possible.”
HPNM reached out to the Jones County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Lance Chancellor about the hearing date. Chancellor directed HPNM to Jones County Chief Administrative Officer Danielle Ashley, who also serves as the Jones County Supervisors’ attorney. Anticipating future litigation, Ashley would not comment on Boyd’s firing.
Sheriff Berlin discusses how Chief Deputy Sumrall handles the ticket fixing for election years.
According to Mississippi Case Law, the firing appears to be legal. In the matter of Frank v Flowood (See case summary at bottom of article), Frank was fired for giving a DUI to a prominent doctor. Frank was forced to resign, and later sued the City of Flowood. Frank’s case relied an an argument under the “McArn Exception.” The McArn exception allows an employee to sue for wrongful termination if the employer terminates the employee for reporting or refusing to participate in an employer’s criminal acts. The case summary states,
“Daniel Frank alleges that he was forced to resign from his position as a police officer for the City of Flowood, Mississippi, because he refused to drop charges against Melissa Laseter for driving under the influence (DUI) and assault on a law enforcement officer. Frank argues that his constructive termination was wrongful and actionable under the McArn exceptions to the employment at will doctrine.”
The appeal court ultimately concluded,
“¶ 33. The circuit court correctly held that Frank’s wrongful termination claim does not fit within either of the McArn exceptions to the common law rule of employment at will. We therefore affirm the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the City.”
Nonetheless, Boyd’s firing, has gained much attention within law enforcement and legal circles, especially given Sheriff Berlin’s public comments about Chief Deputy Sumrall and his election year ticket handling.
Frank v. Flowood case summary