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Appeal of municipal building to Miss. Supreme Court dismissed

February 11, 2013

The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Starkville resident William McGovern's appeal of the city's municipal facility construction plan Feb. 6.

A panel consisting of Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr. and Associate Justices Ann H. Lamar and David A. Chandler dismissed McGovern's motion to strike the Dec. 18 ruling handed down by 14th Chancery District Judge Jim Davidson Jr. in favor of the city on the grounds that the appeal was untimely because the notice of appeal was filed after the 20-day time period allowed by state statute.

Shortly after McGovern filed an appeal of Davidson's ruling to the high court on Jan. 9, Starkville City Attorney Chris Latimer filed a motion to immediately dismiss the appeal, contending that the deadline to file an appeal expired Jan. 7. Latimer also contended that McGovern failed to file the bond necessary to satisfy jurisdictional requirements.

The Starkville Board of Aldermen approved the $8 million lease-purchase plan to use certificates of participation as a funding mechanism for construction of a new city hall and conversion of the current one into a renovated police station last June after lengthy debate by a 4-3 margin. According to the agreement, the city will use 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-payment plan is satisfied, the city takes ownership of the facility.
Shortly after the board's authorization of the construction payment plan, McGovern filed an objection to Oktibbeha County Chancery Court and an appeal to the Mississippi Ethics Commission. After a Nov. 1 hearing, Davidson in his judgment refuted McGovern's allegations that the board violated the Mississippi Open Meetings Act and left relevant sections in the contract blank. Davidson said the open meetings complaint could only be properly determined by MEC and while he agreed the blank sections of the contract could create suspicion of impropriety, they do not make the contract illegal. He said the board would have been better served clarifying the certificates of participation procedure and the blank sections of the contract directly to the public before authorizing the contract.

Two weeks after McGovern and city representation held the hearing before Davidson, MEC ruled 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 and ordered the board of aldermen from refraining from further violations.

More information about the decision will be published in Tuesday's edition of Starkville Daily News.

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