By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A former Lee County Sheriff’s employee claims he was fired because of his race and for speaking to the media.
Rodricus Carltez Hurst of Tupelo filed his federal lawsuit Friday against Lee County and Sheriff Jim Johnson.
The county’s attorney, Gary Carnathan, said he hadn’t seen the documents and declined comment.
Hurst claims his civil rights were violated under the free-speech and equal-protection provisions of the U.S. constitution.
On Jan. 1, several news reporters called the Lee County jail asking if Chad Bumphis of Tupelo, a standout football player at Mississippi State University, was in jail after reports of a New Year’s Eve fight.
Hurst told a reporter for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that Bumphis was arrested but released on bond. He also said he didn’t know why Bumphis was arrested but he’d heard about a fight and told the reporter to call the Tupelo Police Department, whose officer made the arrest.
He was quoted in a Jan. 2 news article.
A white female sheriff’s employee was quoted in a Jackson newspaper about the same incident, but she was not fired – just suspended and demoted, Hurst’s lawsuit claims.
While Hurst claims the sheriff’s office has no policy about speaking to the media about arrests, he said Johnson is an MSU fan and was angry that the information might embarrass that university.
“The sheriff fired (Hurst) because the arrestee identified was a Mississippi State football player,” the action states.
Johnson said he hadn’t seen the legal documents and stands by his personnel decision.
“This is one side and one issue,” he said. “I have the personnel file and the entire reason behind my decision.”
Through his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, Hurst asks for actual damages, lost income, reinstatement, attorney’s fees, costs and other expenses.