Crime

What’s going on in Moss Point? Mayor Mario King speaks out on lawsuits, ‘internal issues’

In the aftermath of mounting lawsuits and other internal strife with current and former employees in Moss Point, a local industry has canceled plans to conduct diversity and inclusion training for city employees.

Mayor Mario King made the announcement in a public Facebook post this week, during which he also included a copy of an email riddled with racial slurs and allegations that black leaders such as King discriminate against white employees.

“There are many issues surrounding the city of Moss Point that often times get lost due to false information, media spectacles, and more, which causes our city and employees to lose out on the things that are important,” King said in a public Facebook post. “Just today one of the large corporations informed us that they could no longer do a diversity and inclusion training for us due to the self-inflicted adversity ... however, this is a time where it is needed the most.

“This only makes our community more alienated than it already has been from a local, state, and national level. The culture of a small community like Moss Point often times brings this type of hate, envy, and jealousy. My goal has always been to promote a necessary change in culture, not just within the City Hall but also in our community.”

The Sun Herald learned Ingalls Shipbuilding was the industry that had originally agreed to provide the training and reached out to them to gain insight on the company’s decision to terminate the training for Moss Point employees.

“Periodically, when requested, Ingalls voluntarily provides training classes on various topics to the cities and other public entities in our surrounding area,” Ingalls spokesperson Bill Glenn said. “Some weeks back, we were requested to provide diversity and inclusion training by the city of Moss Point.

“Ingalls initially agreed to do the training, but in light of the internal issues that have arisen in the city since that time, the company made the decision not to provide the training at this time. We will be happy to provide the training at a later date,” Glenn said.

Mounting lawsuits, internal strife

The decision to cancel the training comes on heels of mounting lawsuits filed against the city and King.

Moss Point Alderman Ennit Morris filed suit in June over allegations that he has been the victim of harassment and threats when the mayor allegedly tried to have him “forcibly” arrested after Morris questioned the expenditures of King and his administration.

In a later incident at a Biloxi restaurant, tempers flared between the two men, and King allegedly spat at the alderman, prompting a disturbance that the restaurant employees reported to police.

In addition, 11 current and former city employees have filed suit against King and the city, alleging they have been victim of harassment and age discrimination from the mayor because he reportedly wants to run off non-millennial employees and harass others in an attempt to force them out of job.

Four white firefighters also accuse King in the lawsuit of harassment and racial discrimination when they say King ordered them to take down any Confederate flag or emblems on city property, though there had been no indication they had done so.

When King took office as first-term mayor two years ago, he announced the city would no longer fly the state flag because of its Confederate symbol he says is indicative of inequality among the races.

‘I’m not concerned’

In an interview with the Sun Herald, King said he is confident the city’s legal team will be able to successfully fight the allegations against the city and King as alleged in the two lawsuits.

“I’m confident in our defense team that any and all accusations and allegations brought forth against the city will be defended properly and with integrity and equity on the forefront,” he said. “I’m not concerned about any of the allegations toward me.”

King said he’s also personally recorded all of the executive sessions between employees, board members and others in the city and feels those recording and other evidence brought out at a later date will vindicate him and the city of any wrongdoing.

As far as his recordings, he said, “we keep them in our file at the city so that when we go to litigate this, we can always request any and all information that was done in executive session.”

Death threats and security

Since taking office two years ago, King said it has not been unusual for him, as a black mayor, to receive death threats and other letters or emails condemning him and his actions as the city’s top official.

In one such email King shared, it was laced with racial slurs about how a black person, referred to in the email in racist terms, “will discriminate against white people, especially older white people and even fire them.”

The email goes on to say that such leaders of color “will intimidate and provoke them (white employees) so they have a reason to fire them. They want stupid white trash or (racial slur) millennial’s they can push around. It’s the way a (racial slur) is. I’ve experienced it firsthand.”

Authorities are still trying to determine who sent the email.

King said he’s received other threats of harm to him and his family, but that’s been the case since he took over as mayor.

Such correspondence, he said, is turned over to human resources and, in turn, to the police department to investigate. In addition, he said he has personally called the police department just as a citizen would to report alleged threats and to ask for added patrols around his home to ensure the safety of himself and his family.

“I’ve had some uncomfortable situations,” he said, “but again, it is not something unusual for me. It’s been happening since I’ve been mayor.”

After the most recent email, King notified police. Police Chief Brandon Ashley said police have increased patrols around King’s house to ensure he and his family’s safety.

‘I don’t stand for foolishness’

Despite the lawsuits and other mounting tension within the city, King said he is focused on moving the city forward and improving services.

“I don’t stand for foolishness,” King said. “I believe that everybody has a role to play and I believe that government is not an employment agency. We are service agency and our job is to provide services in the most effective and most efficient way possible.”

Since he took office, he said he’s worked hard to ensure that people are paying their water bills, something they the city had not been doing in the past and a trend that ultimately led to felony charges of embezzlement against two former employees of the city’s utilities department.

As for the perceived attacks on his leadership, he said he is committed to improve the River City and bring more business to the area.

“I feel strongly that government is light years behind what corporate America is but we are still held to the same standards of business practices,” he said. “In order to continue to move Moss Point forward, my goal is to just stay focused on the mission to rejuvenate Moss Point, which is what the people elected me to do.”

As tension has increased in the city over the mayor’s alleged actions, some residents have questioned whether the Board of Alderman will step in and take action against King.

However, King is an elected official and the board, as Alderman Wayne Lennep pointed out, has no power to remove an elected official from office.

Board members like Lennep say they want the city to start focusing again on what’s needed for the city instead of spending a lot of time on the so-called “sideshows.”

Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.
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