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City hall appeal filed with Miss. high court

January 16, 2013

By NATHAN GREGORY
citybeat@starkvilledailynews.com

The legal battle over construction of a new city hall in Starkville may not be over.

Starkville resident William McGovern appealed 14th Chancery District Judge Jim Davidson’s Dec. 18 ruling in favor of the city of Starkville’s municipal facility construction plan to the Mississippi Supreme Court Jan. 9.

The board of aldermen approved of an $8 million lease-purchase plan to fund construction of a new city hall and conversion of the current one into a revamped police station last June in a 4-3 vote. According to the agreement, the city uses a combination of budgeted funds, retired debt and projected increasing future tax revenue to make monthly payments for the first three years of the contract before phasing out tax revenue as a source after 2015. Once the 20-year-agreement is fulfilled, the city would officially own the building.

After the vote passed, McGovern filed a complaint to the Mississippi Ethics Commission and an appeal to Oktibbeha County Chancery Court on the grounds that board members in favor of the project lacked transparency throughout the process of planning its implementation and failed to alert the public of its intent.

Two weeks after the case before Davidson in Circuit Court in November, a response from MEC found the city violated three sections of state code in failing to keep minutes for public meetings, provide proper notice of meetings and strictly comply with the Open Meetings Act.

The city did not challenge the response.

A motion to immediately dismiss McGovern’s latest appeal filed by City Attorney Chris Latimer contends McGovern failed to submit the appeal within 20 days after the chancellor’s judgment and has not filed a required $100 bond in support of the appeal.

“Applying the 20-day time period from the statute (Miss. Code 31-13-5) McGovern’s deadline to file a notice of appeal expired on Jan. 7, 2013. McGovern filed his notice of appeal two days too late. Thus, McGovern’s attempted appeal is time-barred,” Latimer states in the motion.

Latimer added that McGovern said he received the judgment on Dec. 20, but the statute runs immediately after the ruling is filed and evidence exists that he knew of the ruling beforehand.

Latimer said no evidence exists proving McGovern has filed the bond required to satisfy the statute.

“A bond requirement is not a ‘minor procedural deficiency,’ but rather a mandatory requirement to perfect an appeal … Statutory appeal bonds are jurisdictional requirements, and the failure to file them is fatal to an appeal,” the statement says.

Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the plaintiff’s failure to meet the requirements should result in immediate dismissal.

“Our attorneys are confident that we have a very strong legal position, and we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will dismiss the appeal as quickly as possible,” he said.

Calls to McGovern were not returned as of press time.

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