No attorney general opinion yet on legality of Oct. 14 special city meeting

Published 10:47 am Friday, November 17, 2023

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NATCHEZ — City Attorney Bryan Callaway said Thursday night the Mississippi Attorney General has not issued yet an opinion on the legality of a special hearing called by Mayor Dan Gibson on Saturday, Oct. 14, and attended by three city aldermen — Valencia Hall, Sarah Carter Smith and Curtis Moroney.

Aldermen Billie Joe Frazier, Felicia Bridgewater-Irving and Ben Davis did not attend.

Callaway said he only this week completed and sent his request letter for the opinion from Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch.

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At that special meeting, the aldermen and mayor took action to close Truth Lounge on Franklin Street, the day after city police officials appealed to the mayor and board of aldermen for help dealing with what they called a dangerous situation brought about by the nightclub.

Commander Jerry Ford and City Police Chief Cal Green told the mayor and aldermen present that the lounge had become a danger to its patrons and to the citizens of Natchez. They describe a situation that took place the night before the special meeting in which police and Adams County Sheriff’s deputies were in danger of being overwhelmed by combative, uncooperative patrons of Truth Lounge. Apparently, a fight that broke out in the lounge and took 20 minutes to contain after law enforcement intervene spilled out into the streets.

City Attorney Bryan Callaway told the mayor and aldermen present on Oct 14 that state law governing special charter cities like Natchez consider three aldermen and the mayor as a quorum and they could vote and take action if a quorum of officials is present.

At the subsequent board of aldermen meeting Bridgewater-Irving moved to seek an opinion from the state attorney general as to whether that special meeting was legal. Aldermen voted unanimously to approve her motion.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, Callaway presented to each alderman a copy of the letter he sent to the attorney general’s office asking for an opinion on whether the meeting was legal.

“My request does cite other attorney general opinions defining what constitutes a quorum and a proper vote of the quorum in other special charter cities like Natchez … The attorney general has not issued an opinion. They have only received my request,” Callaway said Thursday evening.

On Tuesday,  Frazier said he agreed with Callaway that the aldermen special meeting could have a quorum with three members and the mayor present, but argued no action could be taken at the meeting.

“That’s not how I read it,” Callaway answered at the Tuesday meeting.