Lamar Co. supervisors face lawsuit regarding 'discriminatory' litter ordinance

By HASKEL BURNS,

A Purvis property company has filed suit in U.S. District Court against Lamar County and its board of supervisors, alleging the county’s recent amendment to its litter ordinance is discriminatory against racial minorities.

The suit, which was filed Feb. 1 by Heritage Hunter Knoll, LLC, claims the ordinance – which discontinued county garbage pickup at certain duplexes in the county – has “disproportionately deprived (racial minorities) of the provision of solid waste collection and disposal services and required to privately contract for such services compared to non-minorities.”

The complaint, which is signed by attorney John B. Howell III of Watkins & Eager PLLC, goes on to say that many of the individuals who reside in properties owned by Heritage Hunter Knoll have been, are and will continue to be racial minorities – including African-Americans and Hispanics – and the ordinance has caused the company financial harm.

“As a direct consequence (of the ordinance), the Plaintiff has incurred, is incurring, and will continue to incur financial and other harm, including without limitation the loss of rental revenues and the incurrence of costs for solid waste collection and disposal provided by private contractors,” the document states.

The document names each supervisor – Steve Lampton (District 1), Warren Byrd (District 2), Joe Bounds (District 3), Phillip Carlisle (District 4) and Dale Lucus (District 5) – as defendants in the lawsuit.

Supervisors, who approved the ordinance in July, said the goal of the ordinance is to clean up some multi-family housing units that had become problematic around the county. In the past, the county handled garbage pickup, but the ordinance – which was voted against by Bounds and Lucus – required the owners of certain duplexes to begin paying for their own garbage disposal, including renting individual Dumpsters.

But the lawsuit disputes the legality of the ordinance, saying the county is required to provide for the collection and disposal of solid waste generated in the county, per Mississippi law.

“Under Mississippi Law, the costs of providing for such services may be defrayed through ad valorem tax assessments, fee assessments, or a combination of the two,” the document reads. “Plaintiff has paid such assessments on its multifamily residential properties.”

The lawsuit also alleges – although it does not state how or if the claim is substantiated – that Byrd once said the purpose of the ordinance was to address “dirty ****ing Mexicans that don’t work or pay any taxes.”

In response to the lawsuit, Board Attorney Perry Phillips issued a statement saying “Lamar County and the Board of Supervisors strongly disagree with the allegations in the complaint. We have retained legal counsel to answer the complaint and defend the lawsuit. We have no further comment because it is pending litigation.”