May 5, 2022 - Politics

Settlement reached in Mason dispute with state

Illustration of a gavel on a stack of cash

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The NAACP announced Wednesday a settlement is ending the lawsuit over financial control in the west Tennessee town of Mason.

Why it matters: NAACP attorneys representing Mason raised questions of racial bias after the state comptroller imposed strict regulations over the majority-Black town's finances.

  • The terms of the agreement ease the comptroller's restrictions on Mason officials.
  • NAACP leaders cheered the new agreement, telling Axios the victory would restore local control.

Flashback: Comptroller Jason Mumpower first tried to convince Mason to rescind its town charter so that financial decisions would fall to the mostly white and Republican Tipton County.

  • After town leaders refused to do so, Mumpower pursued a financial takeover, saying it was necessary to correct years of shoddy financial management by former officials.

Between the lines: The scrutiny coincides with the impending arrival of a massive new Ford facility that is sure to give west Tennessee a jolt.

State of play: The settlement cuts Mason's required monthly debt payments from more than $9,500 to $5,100.

  • It allows local officials more leeway on expenses without state approval.
  • It will also require the city to submit a spending plan to the state monthly rather than weekly.

What they're saying: "It's a win for the citizens of Mason," NAACP President Derrick Johnson tells Axios.

  • "It also sends a message that we must protect democracy and ensure that a representative government is in place."

The other side: "Mason's agreement to a new corrective action plan is a significant step in restoring the town's financial health," Mumpower said in a statement.

  • "If Mason follows this plan, taxpayers can know their leaders are being good stewards of their money."

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