Attempt to remove Morrow from board fails – Anonymous letter accused alderman of violating residency rules 

Published 5:37 am Wednesday, May 8, 2024

A special meeting called by Batesville Mayor Hal Ferrell last Tuesday failed to remove longtime Alderman Teddy Morrow from office when his fellow board members voted 4-0 to affirm his residency and qualifications to serve as an elected official, including the right to seek the office of Mayor in next year’s city elections.

In the closed door meeting Ferrell presented a letter to the board that he said was received unsigned at his home. The contents of the letter accused Morrow of violating residency requirements and demanded his removal from office, and banishment from future Batesville elections.

Ferrell said he did not know who wrote the letter, and told City Attorney Colmon Mitchell that he had discarded the envelope. Aldermen asked if the letter’s writer had actually been the mayor or someone in his household, but Ferrell said it arrived anonymously.

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The question of Morrow’s residency was raised just as he began campaigning for mayor in the 2025 election. Morrow has been Alderman-at-Large in Batesville for 19 years, and has easily won each election.

The letter shown to the city board at the meeting reads:

“Alderman-at-Large Sherman (Teddy) Morrow has not been forthcoming with the change of his residence following the sale of his previous one.

According to the record in the Sept. 13, 2023, issue of The Panolian, Batesville’s local newspaper, his property was transferred to Robert/Kacey Neal between Aug. 28 and Sept. 1, 2023, and was recorded with the Panola County Chancery Clerk.

According to the new owners, Morrow vacated his home on Labor Day, almost eight months ago. Where does he live in Batesville? If Morrow voted in the fall elections, where was he registered to vote? If he claims the house where his daughter and her sons now reside, it was inhabitable until after the first part of 2024.

Reports are that he has been living in a family cabin in the county. Personal residency is required in Batesville to be an elected city official. Receiving personal mail at one’s business or office in town does not make it a residence.

Owning business or property in Batesville does not make one a Batesville resident.

By law, if Morrow moved out of city limits, he should have vacated his office automatically. Is Morrow above the law? He continues to be on the payroll.

Such improper behavior is deceitful and unlawful. After 18 years as Alderman-at-Large, Morrow should be familiar with the law and sworn to uphold its veracity.”

Morrow recused himself from the vote, and the other aldermen deferred to the advice of Mitchell on the subject. The attorney said he reviewed the matter and researched case law, determining that Morrow has not broken any laws or disqualified himself in any way.

Much of Mitchell’s research hinged on the intentions of an office holder. In short, if Morrow was trying to buy or build another home after his property was sold, the time that he was without a permanent residence is not a factor in his residency.

Established law says, “There must first be intent to abandon old domicile before new domicile can be established” and “intention to acquire domicile may be established by physical presence, declaration of intent, and all relevant facts and circumstances.”

Morrow said Monday that “relevant facts and circumstances” in the matter show that he had purchased property inside the city limits for a new home before his was sold, and that he has been in the process of starting that construction since.

He also said that his current voting registration is at his mother-in-law’s home, inside the city limits, and has been since the day he moved from his old home.

Morrow said the effort to keep him from running for mayor was not a worry, but he was glad the residency question was settled before next year.

Fellow aldermen scoffed at the idea that Morrow is not a resident of Batesville, each of them familiar with his residency and the plans for a new home.

They determined, according to minutes from the meeting, that “Alderman Teddy Morrow has sold his home at 209 Craig Street, his intentions are, and have been, to build a new home in the City of Batesville and he has taken the preliminary steps to do so including, but not limited to, obtaining house plans, acquiring a lot in the City, and commencing dirt work on the lot…that he is currently and has continuously domiciled in the City for over 32 years and intends to remain domiciled in the City.”

Whether Ferrell, or anyone opposing Morrow’s service or future candidacy for mayor, will take the matter to a higher board, perhaps seeking judicial relief through the courts, remains unclear.