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Greenwood demands the Granthams pay city's legal fees in discrimination lawsuit

Saturday, November 19, 2022, 3:29 pm News Flash Archive

When the city of Greenwood, Mayor Carolyn McAdams, and Betty Stigler filed their response to Barbara and Skipper Granthams' discrimination lawsuit, they made an astounding demand:

Defendants are entitled to an award of attorney's fees because this action is vexatious and was brought in bad faith.

The Granthams, who filed their lawsuit in state court, did not ask for attorney fees, which are almost never available in state court.

But the defendants had the case moved to federal court, arguing that they could because the Granthams raised some constitutional issues. Federal law allows the city to ask for legal costs from the Granthams.

It is rare for a government defendant sued for discrimination to ask for legal fees, since it has all the power, insurance coverage, and taxpayer money behind it. It also has a very bad "look" for a government entity to retaliate in such a manner against powerless, helpless citizens.

When government entities win such lawsuits, and do ask for legal fees, those requests are usually denied by the federal judge.

The Granthams had sued the city, the mayor, and Betty Stigler, Director of Community Development, who also helps enforce the city ordinances. Please see our original reporting here: Local business owners sue Greenwood officials, alleging free speech retaliation

The Granthams claimed that they and their Delta Boutique and Gifts store on Howard Street were targeted by the city in retaliation for Skipper Grantham's criticism of Mayor McAdams' appointment of Jody Bradley as police chief. Once he was removed due to lack of proper law enforcement certifications, the Mayor created a new position in the police department and appointed him to that task. Terrence Craft now serves as the police chief, so the taxpayers are paying for two top-level administrators in the police department.

Specifically, Ms. Stigler sent word to the Granthams that they could not display their pottery for sale along the front of their building on the edge of the sidewalk. There was also a dispute about illegal parking.

The Granthams told The Taxpayers Channel that they have a great deal of evidence, including lots of photographs, to prove that the sidewalk restriction has only been applied to them selectively.

The city makes all the usual boilerplate responses to the Granthams' suit. Additionally, they plead that the Granthams have "unclean hands," which if true, would defeat their complaint. "Unclean Hands" is an ancient equitable doctrine that bars a complaint from a person who has otherwise misbehaved or engaged dishonestly. The city's answer says nothing about how the Granthams have behaved with "unclean hands."

The city also claims:

While all of Defendants' decisions related to Plaintiff [the Granthams] were taken for legitimate and nondiscriminatory reasons, Defendants affirmatively plead that, if it is found that its actions were motivated by both unlawful and lawful reasons, the lawful reasons alone would have induced Defendants to make the same decisions.

The city denies almost every paragraph of the Granthams' complaint, including numerous facts that are either obviously true or that can easily be confirmed with basic research in city hall's own records.

The city's answer to the lawsuit may be seen here: Greenwood's Answer to Granthams' Discrimination Lawsuit

The Granthams are represented by attorney James H. Powell, III from Grenada. The city defendants are represented by Phelps Dunbar in Jackson.

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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