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Ex-Klansman sues over county contract

CLARKSDALE, Miss. — A businessman who torched a Kentucky church in 1991 when he was a Ku Klux Klan leader has sued Mississippi's Coahoma County, accusing officials of rejecting his bid on a water project because of his criminal past.

Brian Tackett filed the lawsuit earlier this week in Coahoma County Circuit Court. He claims county engineer David Evans and the board of supervisors rejected his bid because of his KKK activities in Kentucky. No court date has been set for the lawsuit.

The board rejected Tackett Excavating Inc.'s $670,355 bid on Dec. 10 for another company's higher bid of $769,355.

Tackett claims Evans should not have discussed his conviction while checking work references.

"What Brian Tackett did 17 years ago was not information the board should have considered because it was in no way indicative of Tackett Excavating Inc.'s ability as a Mississippi corporation to perform its obligations under the contract," the lawsuit says.

The 39-year-old spent nearly 12 years in prison for burning the Barren River Baptist Church in Bowling Green. Tackett was the grand dragon, or second in command, of the Kentucky Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He told The Associated Press last month that the arson was ordered by the area's top Klan leader, who was angry his church had been taken over by an outspoken Klan critic.

"Since I was basically the enforcer for the Klan at that time, it was thrown on me to do something. They told me exactly what to do and ... I did what I was supposed to do," Tackett said.

Tackett described himself as an impressionable young man who fell in with the wrong crowd, but has since turned his life around and left the Klan.

Coahoma Board of Supervisors President Paul Pearson told the Clarksdale Press Register that he has no second thoughts about the board's decision to award the bid to Clarksdale-based Alan Foster Inc.

Pearson said Evans was not able to provide enough information about Tackett's prior work experience in similar types of large-scale water projects.

"As far as I am concerned, we are moving ahead with it," Pearson said of the project.

County attorney Tom Ross declined to comment on the lawsuit.