In an amended lawsuit that will now proceed, a Palestine tow-truck driver claims Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor interfered with his business, disparaged his character, and violated his civil rights.
F. Lee Morris alleges that Taylor told him he was “God in Anderson County,” unjustly removed him from the county's tow rotation, and used a racial slur to disparage Morris' relationship with an African-American woman.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 22, 2018; the jury trial is set for March 26, before Judge Robert W. Schroeder III. Morris seeks unspecified damages.
On Oct. 19, Magistrate Judge John D. Love granted Morris a continuance on the lawsuit. Morris had fired his attorney and was looking for a new one. On June 6, Love allowed Jeffrey Scott Clark to be Morris' new attorney.
Morris alleges that the towing company he works for was registered with Taylor's tow-rotation list until 2011, when Morris evicted the sheriff's daughter from his residence.
According to the lawsuit, within 30 days of the sheriff's daughter being evicted from Morris' residence, Taylor suspended Morris Wrecker Service, LLC, from the tow rotation, alleging price gouging.
The complaint states Morris took in Taylor's daughter in 2011, after the sheriff allegedly evicted her from his residence. The arrangement with Taylor's daughter and Morris lasted only one month, but she came into contact with Morris' African-American girlfriend.
When Morris asked to be put back on the towing lists, Taylor said no, according to court documents.
“As far as you are concerned, I am God in Anderson County, and you will never be put back on this list so long as I am the sheriff,” Taylor is quoted as saying in court documents. Morris also claims that, as he left the sheriff's office, Taylor used a racial slur and told Morris he got what he deserved for being in an inter-racial relationship.
The county and Taylor denied Morris' claim that the sheriff and county discriminated against him because of his relationship with an African-American woman.
On Wednesday, Morris, citing a judge's gag order, told the Herald-Press he could not comment on the case. Taylor did not return phone calls from the newspaper.
Morris and his employer, Morris Wrecker Service, LLC, filed the first suit against Anderson County and Taylor on July 19, 2016, before amending it on Oct. 19.
Morris stated the tow truck company was placed back on the tow list, before Taylor suspended it again in May 2012 for allegedly failing to secure evidence during a tow.
Morris Wrecker Service, LLC, owner, Rebecca Terry, stated in a letter to the sheriff's office that she was not provided with notice of the administrative action, nor was she allowed the opportunity to be heard prior to being removed from the towing rotation list.
In answering the complaint, Taylor and the county denied they took steps to prevent Morris from pleading his case to an adjudicative body.
Morris also claims that he reported to an accident scene, only to be turned away by members of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, acting under Taylor's orders. Morris was allegedly told to leave or be arrested. Morris complained to the Internal Affairs division of the sheriff’s office to no avail, according to the amended complaint.
Aside from Taylor’s alleged refusal to place Morris back on the tow-rotation list, the complaint states Taylor ordered his deputies to harass Morris. Taylor denied that.
Morris, who stated he had been in the tow rotation since 1999, stated that Taylor repeatedly disparaged him to other members of the towing community and the people of Anderson County, calling him a “shady character.”
The suit alleges Morris Wrecker Services, LLC, was deprived of equal protection under the law. It also alleges the company was discriminated against, because the owner is female, and because of Morris' relationship with an African-American woman. The same allegations were made under state law.
Attorney Charles van Cleef of Longview, who represents Anderson County, denied all of Morris' allegations.