Council member files suit

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Dejerilyn King Henderson is suing the mayor and her fellow Troy City Council members, saying their actions have violated her First Amendment rights and her right to due process.

The suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court and stems in part from the recent selection process for a new fire chief in Troy.

“They didn’t like the position that she’s taken, which is a political one,” said Henderson’s attorney Eric Hutchins. “She’s been supportive of Mr. Jones and his lawsuit and she has been vocal in her criticism of the council.”

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Henderson was the only council member to abstain from a vote to appoint Michael “Buford” Stephens fire chief, effective today. Shortly after that decision, Fire Marshal Willie Jones filed a suit against the City of Troy, Mayor Jason Reeves and council members Charlie “Sarge” Dunn, Greg Meeks, Marcus Paramore and Johnny Witherington, citing what he said were violations of the Open Meetings Act during the selection process.

At the time of the filing, Henderson stood with Jones during a press conference announcing the suit and publicly supported him. The suit has since been dismissed by a circuit judge, but three local residents filed another suit against the same defendants, citing ongoing violations of the Open Meetings Act and seeking to prevent Stephens from taking office today.

“The newest lawsuit has not been served and the attorneys have not reviewed it in detail.  However, from what I can tell thus far, it looks very similar to what was already filed in state court by Mr. Jones and by Mr. Thomas, Ms. Thomas and Mr. Wingard.   All the suits were filed by the same attorney,” said Rainer Cotter III, city attorney. “As most people know by now, the Jones case was dismissed by the court and we believe proper grounds exist for the dismissal of the additional cases as well.”

Hutchins said Henderson’s rights were violated because she has been excluded from meetings to discuss Jones’ original lawsuit, even though she is a duly elected member of the Troy City Council and as such should be involved in any lawsuits naming “City of Troy” as a defendant.

Moreover, Hutchins said, city officials have “broken every law there is when it comes to litigation.”

While the judge denied restraining order to block Stephens from becoming fire chief effective today, Hutchins said he and Henderson are not dismayed.

“(The judge) has the power at any time after Stephens gets appointed to deny the appointment,” Hutchins said.

, adding “there are going to be more lawsuits filed on the state and federal level.”