The family of mayor Scott Ross and city officials lashed out at a report published Thursday, which contained allegations that were “Completely and utterly false,” according to a statement released by Brian Kelley, who serves as the mayor's attorney.
The article, published in the Columbus Packet, a weekly newspaper that serves the Golden Triangle area, stated that Ross is currently receiving treatment in the Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hattiesburg, a claim denied vehemently by Kelly and others connected to Ross.
A spokesman with the Pine Grove center confirmed to the Daily Times Leader that Ross is not currently in the facility, and has never been a patient of the facility.
The article published in the Packet also reported that Ross was admitted to rehab after “Being caught in a sexually compromised position with another human being.”
This claim is also denied by the Ross camp, which has vowed swift legal action against the Packet.
In the statement, Kelley says “Unfortunately, a local newspaper printed a story on November 4, 2010, purporting to detail circumstances related to Mayor Ross’ leave. The story is completely and utterly false. This newspaper unequivocally knew this story to be false, yet printed it in a malicious attempt to smear Mayor Ross and in a reckless disregard for the truth. Moreover, this reckless conduct and unacceptable departure from journalistic integrity was carried out despite the obvious harm which would also inure to Mayor Ross’ family. It is inexcusable.”
Ross, who took a leave of absence from his job as mayor on Oct. 28 due to personal matters, is on leave indefinitely.
West Point City Attorney Orlando Richmond re-affirmed his position that the city is built to operate at full capacity under the current conditions.
“I have made it clear that the Mayor Pro Tem (Ward 4 Selectman Keith McBrayer) is functioning and all of the city's business is being carried out as usual,” Richmond said when contacted by the DTL Friday.
In response to the previously mentioned claims published in the Packet article, Richmond added “I have concerns about false and inaccurate statements regarding the mayor and its potential impact on the city.”
The article, published Thursday, quickly ignited a firestorm surrounding the mayor's absence, which prompted the statement by Kelley on Friday. Kelley's statement also included assurances that legal action is being pursued.
“A ten day letter in accordance with Mississippi Code 95-1-5 (1972, as amended) has been sent to the owner/editor of said paper informing him that a libel lawsuit will be filed against the owner, editor and subject reporters of this newspaper. We will let that legal action speak for itself. We fully expect the aforementioned newspaper to print a full and complete retraction of the preposterous story it printed yesterday and that the retraction have the same front-page prominence given to the false publication.”