Settlement reached in Mason, Tennessee, dispute with the State

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The NAACP announced Wednesday that a settlement ends the financial audit lawsuit in the west Tennessee town of Mason.

Why is this important: NAACP attorneys representing Mason have raised issues of racial bias after the state comptroller imposed tough regulations on the majority-black city’s finances.

  • The terms of the agreement relax the comptroller’s restrictions on Mason officials.
  • NAACP leaders applauded the new deal, telling Axios that victory would restore local control.

Rollback: Comptroller Jason Mumpower initially tried to convince Mason to rescind his municipal charter so that financial decisions would rest with the predominantly white, Republican Tipton County.

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

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

State of play: The settlement reduces Mason’s monthly debt payments from over $9,500 to $5,100.

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

What they say : “This is a victory for the citizens of Mason,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson told Axios.

  • “It also sends the message that we need to protect democracy and ensure that representative government is in place.”

The other side: “Mason’s agreement to a new corrective action plan is an important step in restoring the city’s financial health,” Mumpower said in a statement.

  • “If Mason follows this plan, taxpayers can know that their leaders are good stewards of their money.”

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