Couple cites political favoritism in suit against electric company head

March 9, 2009



ABERDEEN -- An Aberdeen couple has filed a lawsuit against the general manager of Aberdeen Electric Department, after a man''s oxygen was cut off, along with his electricity. 


Essie and Bular Mae Daniel March 5 filed suit in U.S. District Court after their power was turned off, despite their request their December bill be reviewed for accuracy. 


Essie Daniel suffers from a condition which requires him to receive oxygen through an electronic breathing machine. So the couple paid the bill in full, despite having contested its amount, which, according to court documents, the Daniels say, was higher than past bills. 


The lawsuit charges Aberdeen Utilities Director Adrian Garth -- Aberdeen Ward 2 Alderman Cloyd Garth''s cousin -- with favoritism toward Aberdeen citizens who are well-connected politically. 


"Favored citizens of the City of Aberdeen, Mississippi, who are not required to timely pay their bills, include employees of the City and include persons who are either political supporters or potential political supporters of certain aldermen," the suit reads. 


"With a proper hearing, (the Daniels) could have demonstrated that the bill was excessive or that cutting off the power was inappropriate in view of the health condition of the Plaintiff Essie Daniel," the suit continues. 


In the suit, the Daniels say Garth, who did not immediately return calls from The Dispatch, had their electricity turned off without any due process. 


The Daniels are asking for damages against Garth and the city of Aberdeen for mental anxiety and stress caused by the disconnection of electrical service. The lawsuit also calls for punitive damages and demands an injunction be issued requiring the city''s power company to adopt guidelines to notify citizens about the procedures for due process in relation to the payment of utility bills. 


Aberdeen Mayor Jim Ballard has yet to review the suit. 


"The lawsuit has not reached my desk yet, so it is premature for me to comment," said Ballard. 


The Daniels are represented by attorneys Jim Waide and R. Shane McLaughlin; the city attorney is Timothy Ervin. It is unknown whether or not the city will seek outside counsel in the case.