STOCKBRIDGE — A federal lawsuit filed by Arick Whitson against City Council member Elton Alexander and the city of Stockbridge has been settled.
The city’s insurance company, Atlantic Speciality, will pay Whitson $1.7 million in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. Of that $533,807 will pay Whitson’s attorneys fees.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017 by Whitson, owner of Georgia Championship Barbecue Company, stems from a 2016 incident in which Whitson said Alexander wanted $60 in free food from his restaurant.
Whitson claimed Alexander sent code enforcement to his restaurant and he was repeatedly harassed by the officer by performing “warrant-less inspections at BBQ Master,” issuing criminal warning notices and “summoning Mr. Whitson to meetings to discuss manufactured ‘problems’ at BBQ Masters.”
After moving his restaurant to a new location, Whitson said in the lawsuit the harassment continued, claiming the city delayed issuing him building and sign permits and denied him an alcohol permit.
The lawsuit further alleged that Alexander’s attacks continued on social media, publicly calling Whitson a convicted sex offender, accusing him of being a domestic violence offender and calling his restaurant a “dump” and “unsanitary.”
In response to the lawsuit, Alexander asked the courts to dismiss the complaint, denying all accusations. Likewise, the city denied all allegations.
In a statement to the Herald on Wednesday, Alexander again denied the accusations, stating that it was a “business decision by the insurance company to settle this lawsuit,” and that “total legal fees (city fees) would be in excess of $1 million by the end of the trial,” if the city had gone to court.
Alexander said he does not support the settlement and “does not have the authority to override the insurance company’s decision to settle this lawsuit.”
The settlement agreement states that it is a “compromise of disputed claims and is not an admission of liability” and that “all such liability is expressly denied.”
The city reached the agreement with Whitson on March 10.