MOSS POINT, Miss. (WLOX) - A Moss Point alderman is suing the city’s mayor over a dispute that happened last year, saying his constitutional rights were violated.
Ennit Morris filed the lawsuit against Mayor Mario King in circuit court earlier this month saying he suffered physical, emotional and mental distress over a dispute with the mayor.
Because the lawsuit names King as mayor acting in his official capacity, it is essentially a claim against the city itself, said city attorney Amy St. Pe.
In the nine-page complaint, Morris details an incident from a Dec. 4, 2018 board of alderman meeting where he said he was assaulted by the mayor:
“This abuse culminated during the December 4, 2018, alderman meeting while the board was in executive session, when the defendant King ordered the police (who was service as a sergeant-at-arms) to arrest and/or forcibly remove the Plaintiff from the executive session meeting. In following this order, the police officer placed his hand(s) on the Plaintiff as if he were going to physically remove the Plaintiff from the meeting. At that time, the city attorney ordered the police officer to unhand the Plaintiff, and instructed the Defendant King that his action/order was out of line and improper. The Plaintiff further alleges that the Defendant King has further engaged in a campaign to exclude the Plaintiff from meetings and events which are part of the Plaintiff’s public duties.”
Morris is now asking the court to award him $1 million in damages plus attorney fees. In his complaint, Morris alleges that his constitutional rights were violated, citing the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee the right of assembly, the right to freedom of speech and the right to due process of law, respectively.
While acting in his official capacity, the complaint alleges that the mayor also demonstrated unreasonable use of force and unreasonable search and seizure, which caused Morris physical, emotional, and mental distress.
While the December meeting was the catalyst of the dispute between the two elected officials, Morris claims that King has interfered in the alderman’s ability to serve the city since the current administration was voted in.
The city hasn’t yet filed its response to Morris’ complaint. In the meantime, the alderman is continuing to serve on the board.
According to St. Pe, there are no attorney general opinions that state Morris must step down from his elected position if filing a lawsuit against the city. However, there is an attorney general opinion that says he can be forced to leave any executive session where the alderman’s case against the city is being discussed.
Because St. Pe represents the city, including the board of alderman that Morris serves on, and because she was a witness to the original dispute, she will not be a legal counsel in the lawsuit. Instead, an attorney will be appointed by the city’s liability company.