MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - A Moss Point alderman has filed a tort claim against Mayor Mario King claiming he was assaulted and threatened during an executive session last month.
The claim filed by Ennit Morris says the mayor has repeatedly disrupted Board of Aldermen meetings, threatening board members with bodily harm and arrest when the elected officials asked about money spent by King’s administration.
That tension came to a boiling point during an executive session on Dec. 4, 2018, according to the tort claim. Mayor King reportedly ordered police to arrest Morris during that meeting. The claim states that the officer, who was acting as sergeant-at-arms, placed his hand on the arm of the alderman as if he were going to physically remove Morris from the room.
“Fortunately, the Board Attorney, Amy St. Pe, rose to the occasion, ordered the police representative to unhand Alderman Morris and instructed Mayor King that he could not do this,” the tort claim states.
The mayor disputes that claim, saying that Morris was the one who was out of line.
“Alderman Morris did become quite passionate about a topic we were discussing at the executive session on December 4th,” said the mayor in a written statement to WLOX. “After numerous requests for him to follow the city’s procedural ordinance, I felt the only way to continue discussions in a productive way was to remove Alderman Morris from the room. Per the city’s procedural ordinance, I asked him to leave at his own will. He refused that request. I then asked an officer to remove him.
"As the officer approached him, Alderman Morris threatened to sue the city if he was removed. When the city attorney heard the threat, Amy St. Pe did what she was supposed to do – take into account the liability of the requested action and offer advice to the mayor and Board of Aldermen. Her advice was not to have him removed after he threatened to sue us.”
Morris is now asking King for $500,000 in damages he said were sustained as a result of the assault, outrage, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“If he ever felt that my actions during board meetings were disrupting, he has never approached me, filed any ethics complaints against me or taken any other action expressing his concerns,” the mayor continued in his written statement. “I have an open-door policy, and if he or any other members of the board have issues with me, as professionals, co-workers and city leaders, I encourage them to come talk with me, as I have done with them time and time again. I welcome and encourage this open-door policy on any and all matters regarding city business, and I appreciate all concerns, ideas and recommendations from all individuals who are a part of the Moss Point governing process.”
Morris' attorney David Frazier said the tort claim was sent to King on Dec. 21, 2018.
“Our main goal here, what we want, is some kind of injunctive or declaratory relief to require the mayor to follow the rules of procedure that the city has adopted when it comes to public hearings and the time a person has to comment," Frazier said. “The concern is that at the meeting in question, the mayor directed police to take Alderman Morris and basically throw him out. The officer put his hand on Mr. Morris and was going to grab him and throw him out. Fortunately, Amy St. Pe, to her credit, she spoke up and prevented what could have been a disastrous outcome.”
The city has 90 days to respond to the claim, Frazier said. If there is no response within that time, Morris would have grounds to file a lawsuit against the mayor.
Read King’s full statement below: