City votes to accept terms of settlement agreement with Starkville Pride

Mayor Lynn Spruill opens the special call meeting to discuss the settlement agreement between the city and Starkville Pride at City Hall Friday morning. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN
Staff Writer

The Starkville Board of Aldermen approved the proposed settlement agreement with the grassroots organization Starkville Pride during a special call meeting Friday morning.

The city was faced with a lawsuit shortly after it denied the group's special event to host the city’s first LGBT Pride parade earlier this year.

The settlement total both parties agreed on was $12,750. The total dollar figure is associated in majority with attorney fees and some transportation costs.

The board approved the settlement agreement during executive session with a 4-1 vote. Mayor Lynn Spruill said she would not disclose which alderman voted against the agreement. Vice Mayor Roy A'. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn were not present at the meeting.

Spruill said for the media to look at the minutes of the meeting once they are submitted to determine who voted against the settlement agreement.

When asked what was discussed during executive session, Spruill said it was a breakdown of the discussion between the two parties and how they decided on the $12,750.

"It was just giving the board the sense of how the back and forth went and what the ultimate agreement is that the current board approved," Spruill said.

Spruill said the consensus among the board was to push through this settlement to not cost the city any more additional money.

"It is a cost benefit, it is a ‘what do you think is the right thing to do to allow us to get past this and to move on to things that are much more positive for us,'" Spruill said.

Spruill said the aldermen currently have a great deal on their plate in terms of infrastructure improvements and increasing the presence of their parks and this settlement served as a distraction.

Organizer of Starkville Pride Bailey McDaniel said all their organization wanted was to celebrate Starkville's LGBT community when submitting a special event request for the parade.

"When the Board of Aldermen initially banned that celebration, we had no choice but to file a lawsuit to enforce our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and equal protection," McDaniel said. "After we sued, the City reversed its decision and authorized our parade, which was one of the best in Starkville's history." Aldermen approved the motion to deny Starkville Pride's request with a 4-3 vote.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted in favor of denying the request.

After being faced with a lawsuit, the board ultimately approved the special event request with a 4-3 vote with Spruill as the tie breaking vote and Ward 3 Alderman David Little opting to abstain.

McDaniel said now is the time to put the settlement and denial of the parade behind them and move forward.

"We are proud of this settlement and view it as an important first step toward repairing relations between Starkville and its LGBT community," McDaniel said. "In the end, we are all neighbors."