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Residents of Black Tennessee Town Fire Back In Court Against State’s ‘Hostile Takeover,’ Calling It Racist, Unconstitutional

The Tennessee comptroller’s attempt at a hostile takeover of the predominantly Black town of Mason has been scaled down to temporarily monitoring its financial operations provided local officials could meet specific deadlines.

Mason leaders will have to balance its budget for the 2023 fiscal year by July and finalize all audits by August.

“Once the fiscal year 2021 audit is received and the fiscal year 2023 budget is approved, the Town will no longer be subject to heightened financial supervision,” the Comptroller’s Office said in a letter to Mason town officials. “We will continue to work with the Town to ensure the budget stays balanced and the Water and Sewer bank account is restored.”

However, the attempt to take over the town’s financials has spark nationwide backlash along with a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP national organization and its Tennessee chapter, argues that the financial oversight plan is in violation of the Tennessee Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Specifically, “by trying to take over Mason’s finances without proper justification and because most of the town’s leadership and residents are African-American.”

The attorneys stated in the filing that “The proposed treatment of Mason and its leadership is marked by irregularities and differs significantly from the treatment of similarly situated predominantly white jurisdictions.”

Adding, “The fact that the attempted takeover is being perpetuated now — rather than years ago, when Mason’s white leadership actually caused the financial issues complained of — demonstrates the (Comptroller’s) actions are inconsistent with typical government actions and (the Comptroller’s) own history of handling jurisdictions experiencing financial difficulties.”

Mayor of Mason Emmit Gooden (Photos from

Mason, a African-American town of about 1,500, is financially strapped and state Comptroller Jason Mumpower, a white Republican, has been pushing for the town to surrender its charter or allow his office to manage its financial affairs.

Mason officials recently refused to surrender their charter, as it would allow the town to be folded into Tipton County and it would lose control of its finances. This move by the comptroller comes at time when Ford Motor Company is building a $5.6 billion plant just seven miles away, meaning Mason’s Black residents would benefit financially.

The attempted state takeover of Mason has reached national criticism with state officials backtracking their original decisions as possible racist and economic motives have been revealed. 

“People try to tap-dance around it but the truth is this is happening because of who we are,” Virginia Rivers, the vice mayor of Mason, told the Tennessee Lookout.  “He is trying to conquer and divide us. It’s akin to a hostile takeover and it’s not hard to figure out why here, why now.”

In early March, Mumpower announced that the state would be taking over Mason, a small town in western Tennessee, as a result of financial mismanagement, citing late annual audits since 2001 and an increased deficit of over $300,000.

Mumpower threatened that the town’s leadership would need to relinquish control of the town to Tipton County or understand that the comptroller would be managing the town’s finances. The comptroller also mailed letters to property owners requesting them to oppose the town’s leadership, which is primarily Black. 

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