Monument contractors file claims, lawsuit against city

Published 12:53 am Friday, October 26, 2012

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, the Selma City Council took an unusual step and shut down construction of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument by suspending the construction company’s building permit.

During the construction work in Old Live Oak Cemetery, the site had become a focal point for protestors and proponents of the monument’s construction. The monument is built in honor of Forrest, a noted Confederate general and member of the Klu Klux Klan.

A little more than a week ago, the construction company, KTK Mining of Virginia, citing lost earnings and infringements on its rights, filed two claims against the city of Selma and an additional filing in federal court.

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“The action taken by the City of Selma to suspend the building permit for KTK was done without legal authority and any prior or advance notice to KTK and without any provision for KTK to appear and be heard in opposition said action,” the company cited in one claim.

In another claim filed against the city, the company said on Aug. 28, Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley came to the construction site in Old Live Oak Cemetery and confronted employees, saying that they “would be arrested if any work continued.

“In accordance with the demands of Chief Riley, who is believed to have been acting under color of law as the Chief of Police of the City of Selma, KTK employees quit the work site and caused a loaded concrete truck to be return unused.”

Aug. 28 is the same day that an alleged agreement between those protesting the construction and remodeling of the monument and those arranging the work had been reached to pause construction.

In both claims, the company said the decision of the council and Riley’s actions on Aug. 28, “have deprived KTK of its right to improve and beautify a monument devoted to American Civil War dead have abridged KTK’s rights to freedom of speech and expression under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The two claims — one against the city of Selma and another against Chief Riley — were filed on Oct. 15 in Virginia.

The company seeks $300,000 in the claim against the City of Selma for the events occurring on Sept. 25. The company also seeks $300,000 in the claim against the city of Selma for Riley’s actions on Aug. 28.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed in Mobile, claims the council’s actions “caused KTK to lose the benefit of the funds expended by it to be able to perform, and to perform, its construction contracts including salaries and wages paid to KTK employees, travel and lodging expenses of KTK employees, funds expended for construction materials …”

The federal filing also reads, “KTK has been injured and damaged … KTK demands judgment against the defendants for all money damages allowed by law … and award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.”

During the Sept. 25 council meeting, in which the council voted unanimously to suspend the building permit, council members Bennie Ruth Crenshaw, Corey Bowie, Angela Benjamin and Tommy Atchison voted for the measure. Council members Susan Keith and Greg Bjelke abstained from the vote, while council member Sam Randolph and council president Cecil Williamson were not present.

The claims and federal lawsuit were filed by the Selma law firm of Kelly and Kelly.