As Muslim man sues Country Club Hills for discrimination, some call for mayor’s resignation | St. Louis Public Radio

As Muslim man sues Country Club Hills for discrimination, some call for mayor’s resignation

Feb 15, 2017

A Muslim man has filed a lawsuit against the city of County Club Hills, Mayor Bender McKinney and three aldermen, claiming that they discriminated against him.

In a suit filed last week in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Mohammed Almuttan, who is Palestinian,  claims he was denied a business license for a laundromat based on his nationality and religion.  He and his family, their attorney, and the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations have called for McKinney's resignation.

For the past five years, Almuttan and his family have owned Mally’s Market, the city’s only grocery store. 

The lawsuit claims that McKinney has repeatedly denied Almuttan a business license to operate a laundromat — despite the family’s adherence to city laws and regulations. It also states McKinney made the license contingent on regulations not listed in the city’s laws, like selling things the city can collect taxes on, or having the mayor himself inspect the business.

Mally's Market shares the same lot as Mally's Laundromat. Last week's lawsuit claims the Almuttan family has spent over $500,000 renovating the laundromat for business.
Credit Jenny Simeone | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

The suit includes an affidavit from former Country Club Hills police chief Clifton Ware detailing McKinney’s distaste for the Almuttan family.

“In one conversation with Mr. McKinney about Mohammed Almuttan and his family, then Alderman McKinney made the following statement to me and then Mayor Powell about [Mr.] Almuttan, his brothers and their businesses:

‘You all allowed that trash to come into Country Club Hills and open businesses, and now I am going to clean house,'” Ware wrote in a sworn statement.

Ware also said in his affidavit that McKinney pressured him to have Country Club Hills officers harass Mally’s Market employees and patrons. Ware currently serves as the chief of police in Moline Acres.

The suit also names aldermen Douglas Conce, Donald Fraser and Tiawana Thompson as defendants. It asks the court to bar the city from denying the laundromat a business license and from imposing any restriction on its hours of operation.

“It’s beyond disgraceful that the mayor of any city would call its residents trash, call them illegals, tell others in city hall that those people need to go back home,” said Jay Kanzler, the family’s attorney. “It’s an embarrassment to all of us in the larger community that is committed to finding unity — not division.”

On Wednesday, the Almuttan family, its attorney, and the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for McKinnney’s resignation.

“The mayor needs to step down, issue an apology, and the city needs to issue the business license as soon as possible,” said Faizan Syed, CAIR-Missouri’s executive director. “Frankly, one of the problems St. Louis has is that we have too many of these small townships. It leads to a lack of oversight lack of transparency, and people making their little clubs thinking they have the ultimate authority — and they don’t.”

Country Club Hills is a municipality in north Louis County. The population was 1,271 in the 2014 Census estimate. The sparsely staffed City Hall offices have been closed for at least a week, according to the current police chief, Dan Boyer. City officials and the mayor did not respond to request for comment and have yet to respond publicly to the lawsuit or its claims.

Follow Jenny on Twitter @jnnsmn