Vicksburg board expands mayor’s authority in emergency situations

Published 3:39 pm Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Wednesday approved an ordinance expanding the mayor’s authority to handle emergency situations.

The ordinance replaces Section 13-2 of the city’s alcohol beverage regulations, which gave the police chief or fire chief authority to close a business if they perceive a threat to life, property or public safety exists.

The board’s action comes almost a month after the city and Refined South Restaurant Group reached an agreement resolving a federal lawsuit filed by the company in Jackson and a suit filed by the city in Warren County Chancery Court involving the April 17 closing of Jacques’ Bar by the city after a reported fight.

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The provisions of the settlement are confidential.

City Attorney Kim Nailor said state law gives the mayor of a city the authority to exercise emergency powers and the authority necessary to “fulfill his duties in the event of an emergency situation,” meaning the mayor is authorized to take the necessary action to protect life and property and public safety.

The ordinance approved Wednesday authorizes the mayor to exercise in an emergency situation the “emergency power and authority necessary to fulfill the general powers and duties,” provided in the ordinance and by state law.

The emergency situations include “any disturbance, uprising or riot or other emergency threatening life, property or public safety or emergency caused by an action against society,” including attack, sabotage, terrorism, civil unrest or any other action “impairing the orderly administration of justice.”

Under the ordinance, the mayor can restrict the movement of vehicles to aid emergency workers or to evacuate people from an emergency area, keep people away from an area and authorize “such other regulations as are necessary to preserve public peace, health and safety.”

The regulations issued by the mayor would be released to the public through the media and the mayor can authorize the police chief to close all businesses in the city where light wine and beer are “consumed or sold” for up to five days during the emergency.

After the meeting, Flaggs said the amendment “clarifies what the mayor can do under those kinds of circumstances. It’s clear now; it’s a matter of law. This is a city ordinance.”

While the ordinance does not specify that the police chief or fire chief has the authority to close a business that poses a threat to public safety, Flaggs said the police chief can still recommend closing a business.

“It just gives me the authority to back up the police chief or I can do it (close the business) as police commissioner.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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