Diamondhead Mayor Thomas E. "Tommy" Schafer has filed suit against the Diamondhead Property Owners Association and asked for a temporary restraining order to lift his suspension from its country club and amenities.
Schafer was found not guilty of assaulting POA President Robert C. Marthouse, II, in early December. Marthouse had filed charges against Schafer in September, claiming the mayor had shoved him over a chair and injured him during a Community Collaborative Committee meeting between members of the POA and city officials.
Despite the not-guilty verdict, Schafer's attorney Tim Holleman said Friday, the POA and country club have continued Schafer's suspension.
"I've said since day one when this charge was filed, it shouldn't have been filed and I was right," Holleman said. "This lawsuit shouldn't be necessary. It's ridiculous to have to resort to a lawsuit to lift the suspension.
"If you read the lawsuit -- I laid it out pretty good -- there is no penalty or fine or suspension for what they charged Tommy with, at all. … They need to abide by their own contract, by the rules which they created. You can't make up a fine or suspension. We did everything we could up-front to let them know that they were violating their own rules and regulations.
"They have to abide by their own rules."
Holleman said Schafer is also seeking to recoup some of the attorney's fees he paid in order to successfully fight the criminal case.
"We just got (the suit) and are reviewing it at the moment, so I don't have a specific comment on it," POA attorney August Rechtien said Friday. "So far there's -- in my opinion -- flaws in their argument."
The motion for a restraining order has been scheduled for Jan. 8 in Biloxi before Harrison County Chancery Judge Carter Bise.
"He's filed a much more substantial complaint, but the only thing on the eighth is to lift the mayor's suspension from the amenities," Rechtien said.
Holleman said he's confident the judge will temporarily lift the suspension until the matter is resolved.
Schafer's endgame, he said, "is just so we can all move forward and put it behind us. For whatever reasons, they've chosen not to. … Tommy did not want to file a lawsuit against them."
The city and POA formed the Collaborative Committee because a majority of the city's parks. golf courses and other recreational amenities are owned, funded and maintained by the POA with private funds generated by dues assessment to property owners pursuant to its covenants. However, the terms of those covenants begin to expire in 2020, leaving both city and POA officials looking for ways to continue funding the amenities in a way that is equitable and affordable for Diamondhead residents.
Holleman said Schafer is anxious to get back to work with the POA to resolve the situation, but he has no desire to rejoin the collaborative committee unless its meetings are made open to the public.