BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - A Hancock County contractor is planning to file a lawsuit against the City of Bay St. Louis, claiming Councilman Lonnie Falgout used his influence as a city official to slander the contractor and cause damage to his business.
The letter of intent to sue was sent to the city Tuesday by the Kirby Law Firm in Gulfport on behalf of Keith Marquar and his business, L&L Marine Construction.
The notice says the lawsuit will seek $2.5 million in damages.
According to the document, Marquar was hired to build a bulkhead and pier on Elaine Dr. adjacent to property owned by Falgout. The notice claims Falgout filed objections with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and Army Corps of Engineers to stop the construction.
When those efforts failed, the document claims Falgout tried to strong-arm Marquar into abandoning the project. When Marquar refused to halt construction, the notice claims Falgout said he would use his position as a city official to destroy Marquar and his business.
"Councilman Falgout has made good on that promise," the document reads.
The notice claims Falgout contacted clients of L&L Marine Construction, demanding they fire Marquar. Marquar said the councilman has also spread false information by word of mouth, email, and social media that there are open complaints against the business with the city building department, DMR, and the state Board of Contractors. The notice claims no such complaints exist.
According to the document, Falgout assaulted Marquar on Jan. 23, 2017. Marquar claims Falgout flagged him down on the way to a job site and shouted threats at him. The notice says Marquar pushed Falgout when the councilman got in his face. Marquar claims city employees that were present that day can back up the statement he made to police.
The notice says L&L Marine Construction has, to date, lost $500,000 in contracts because Falgout's misuse of public position and "personal vendetta" against Marquar.
In a statement sent to WLOX News Now, Falgout said, "I have been made aware along with the rest of the Bay St. Louis City Council and City Attorney of the pending litigation by Keith Marquar of L & L Construction. Therefore, I cannot publicly discuss the specifics and/or merits of this case as advised, I sincerely look forward to defending this matter while protecting and continuing to assist, help and ensure citizens' rights for my constituents and property owners of Ward 6."
Mayor Les Fillingame confirms the city has received the notice of intent to sue.
"All we know of this case to this point is in the notice of claim," Fillingame said. "Of course, we will plan to answer that claim as quickly as possible, but there is just really none of it that we were aware of prior."