June 6, 2018 10:37:50 AM
Nearly two weeks after its approval, Starkville's settlement of a federal lawsuit with Starkville Pride caused a stir over an otherwise routine action at Tuesday's board meeting.
It took aldermen nearly half an hour to approve the minutes from a May 25 special called meeting after Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins argued they didn't properly reflect what happened at the meeting.
Aldermen approved the minutes 4-3, with Perkins, Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn and Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver opposed.
At the May special called meeting, aldermen approved a settlement with Starkville Pride, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist group that filed a federal lawsuit after aldermen denied a special event request in February for a March 24 Pride parade.
The minutes approved on Tuesday say the motion to approve the settlement of the Pride litigation includes authorization of the city to pay $12,750 in plaintiff attorney fees, to enter into an order of dismissal with prejudice, and authorizing the city attorney to take necessary steps to conclude the case, including acquiring a release and settlement agreement from the plaintiffs.
However, Perkins, who said he had compared the minutes to official notes from the special called meeting, said the motion approved on May 25 was that the board approved settlement of the pride litigation "based upon the proposed terms," rather than specifying what those terms are, as Tuesday's minutes did.
"The board cannot speak after the fact," Perkins said. "This motion is not proper, in my opinion. This motion is not legal, in my opinion."
Perkins and Vaughn were absent from the May 25 meeting. At the meeting, aldermen approved the agreement on a 4-1 vote, with Carver opposed.
Perkins further criticized a provision for the settlement wherein Mayor Lynn Spruill will issue a proclamation in support of LGBT History Month in October, and in support of equal citizenship and equal treatment under the law. Spruill is also to meet regularly with a liaison representing the city's LGBT community.
City Attorney Chris Latimer said the minutes properly reflected the terms of the release and settlement agreement. He said it did not include anything about Spruill's proclamations or meetings with a liaison.
Spruill, who informed The Dispatch about the additional actions after the special called meeting, confirmed that they do not require board approval, as they fall under executive actions that she can perform.
"The board is not (issuing the proclamation)," Spruill said. "The mayor is. I do proclamations all the time. Individually, I do proclamations all the time."
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, who offered the motion to approve the settlement at the May 25 meeting, said she felt Tuesday's terms accurately reflected what happened at the meeting.
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, likewise, said he felt the minutes properly reflected the meeting, but was open to adjusting them if needed.
"I have no issue, if we want to talk about the settlement or whatever, I want to make sure it's accurate and open and transparent," he said. "We approved the settlement. If the language needs to make it open and transparent, I say we need to do what we need to do."
Vaughn, however, accused Latimer of lying to him and said other aldermen came to the meeting with "hidden agendas."
"I told y'all, I don't like secrets," Vaughn said. "Don't play with me like this. Don't do stuff like this. Don't give me no secrets. I'm tired of secrets."
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