SALYERSVILLE – The civil case between a former Salyersville City Council member and the city was dismissed last week a little over a month before the same person rejoins the council.
In a status hearing held on Thursday, November 17, Circuit Judge Kim Childers dismissed the case between Colin Ray Jackson, Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd and the rest of the Salyersville City Council, writing on the docket sheet, “dismissed per pleading, the election and case law – case dismissed with prejudice.”
Jackson filed the complaint against the mayor and council after he was voted off the city council last year following the use of a racial slur in an open public meeting last October.
Jackson’s attorney, John C. Collins, filed the complaint in November 2021, asking the court to rule a declaratory judgment that Jackson was not guilty of “misconduct…in the performance of the duties of his office,” noting the law is ambiguous in defining misconduct, that his statements made in the meeting that led to the vote of removal did not constitute misconduct, and that he should be reinstated to that office immediately.
The complaint named Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd and city council member Jarrod Howard, Paul Montgomery, Pat Frazier and Darrell Arnett as defendants.
As some background, in the October 18, 2021, regular city council meeting, Jackson used a racial slur in open meeting referring to a leadership role within a group of slaves, and a public hearing was held on November 10, in which the charge was read, Jackson was able to rebut the claims and the council went into closed session. After closed session, now former council member Tex Holbrook resigned and the rest of the council held a vote, unanimously voting to remove Jackson from office. The vote had to be unanimous to remove a council member from office, per state laws, and any abstaining votes would have been counted as a vote with the majority.
Alexander Hyman, the attorney for the mayor and council members, previously filed 17 affirmative defenses to the complaint, among which he argued the complaint failed to state a claim or claims against the defendants in which relief can be granted. He wrote that the defendants state they fully complied with all applicable laws and regulations, and there was no evidence they hadn’t followed the legal process to Jackson from office. Hyman said Jackson failed to mitigate his damages, if any, and he assumed all risks of his own actions, failing to join necessary and indispensable parties. According to his answer, Hyman states the defendants have qualified and/or absolute immunity, including statutory immunity and/or privilege in the case. He also argued that Jackson’s complaint may be barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
In the defendants’ preliminary witness list, the mayor, individual city council members (including Tex Holbrook, who resigned prior to the vote) and the city attorney were all included as potential witnesses. Videos of the meetings in question, including the October meeting when the racial slur was used and the November meeting in which he was removed from office, notices of charges and hearing to Jackson, the official hearing record, minutes and recordings of the meetings, the letter of apology from Jackson and the statutes that specify the council member removal process were all included in the exhibit list for the defendants.
Though not available at press time, an official order will be filed in the case, further explaining why the case was dismissed, but being dismissed with prejudice means the case cannot be refiled in court, permanently dismissing the case.
Also important to note, Jackson was re-elected to the Salyersville City Council, receiving the second-highest number of votes in the race, and will take office, again, in January.