A potential lawsuit looms over the City of Sheffield, surrounding its controversial smoking ban.
On Wednesday, it looked like city council was set to take up the issue at a special-called meeting, but that didn't happen.
Attorney Bennett Pugh is representing Joseph Mitchum in a potential lawsuit against Sheffield over the smoking ban that took effect in October. Council Member MaLea Scales wasn't present at the meeting on Wednesday, so Pugh told them to take it off the agenda.
"We felt like the full council needed to hear this because we need an up or down vote before we decide what to do," said Pugh. "Obviously, without a council member here, we would not get a full hearing."
Mitchum and his wife were also at the meeting and said they had hoped to put this issue past them.
"I was looking forward to putting this part of the process to an end, and it's kind of disappointing this morning," said Mitchum.
Pugh sent the city a letter saying they intended to sue because Sheffield's smoking ban stopped Mitchum from opening his cigar shop on East Second Street. Mitchum bought the building prior to the smoking ban and was told by some unnamed city council members he could still open his business, but that didn't happen.
"When you make certain steps on the word and assurances from someone, then they cut your knees out from under you. It's kind of disappointing and shocking," said Mitchum.
Pugh told the city it can either pay Mitchum $50,000 for the hardship, repeal the smoking ban to allow him to open his cigar shop, or face the music.
"They can repeal this and replace it with the business-friendly smoking ban Mayor Sanford has been introducing at every city council meeting, or I'm going to sue them," said Pugh.
The city said it cannot comment on pending litigation. On July 1st, council members will have a regular meeting where the smoking ban will be discussed and possibly voted on. If they don't repeal it or make an amendment to it, Pugh will file a lawsuit in mid-July. Since he asked the issue be taken off the agenda, he said he will wait and see how the next meeting goes before filing a lawsuit.
Pugh also said he has others interested in making a claim against the city over the smoking ban. He will file those separately from Mitchum's case.
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