Spruill files motion to dismiss review of runoff results

Mayor-elect Lynn Spruill (left) has filed a motion to dismiss Democratic challenger Johnny's Moore petition for judicial review of the May 16 primary runoff for mayor

Mayor-elect Lynn Spruill is seeking to have Democratic challenger Johnny Moore’s petition for judicial review of the May 16 primary runoff results dismissed after filing a motion Friday in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.

Moore filed the initial petition in circuit court on Monday and filed an amended petition for judicial review on Tuesday.

Spruill’s argument claims Moore’s challenge does not bring into question the action of the Starkville Democratic Executive Committee in ruling on his petition for election contest. Rather, Moore’s challenge focuses on certain aspects of the primary runoff election.

Moore’s legal team is requesting the results be thrown out and a new municipal election held, or for the judge to accept absentee and affidavit ballots that were previously rejected.

Spruill’s attorney Jim Mozingo told the SDN via text message that their team is actively seeking a hearing at the earliest possible time and would be satisfied with a date next week.

“This doesn’t need to linger on, it needs to be concluded,” Mozingo said. “The Moore Campaign had a legal obligation to make its case to the Democratic Executive Committee last week and didn’t - for whatever reason. Having failed to meet that legal prerequisite, we believe that concludes the matter, as is discussed in the motion.”

Former District 1 Circuit Judge Barry W. Ford was appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court earlier this week to be the special judge tasked with ruling on the petition for judicial review.

Some of the arguments from Moore's legal team include the claim that the election agreement was not signed by the chair of the Starkville Municipal Democratic Committee, but instead was signed by Albert Gore, Jr.- the chair of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party.

Additionally, Moore claims that approximately nine affidavit ballots were improperly rejected, in addition to problems with roughly 60 absentee ballots.

The Starkville Democratic Executive Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to hear Moore’s reasons for challenging the results, but were not presented with any hard evidence to back up the claims of his legal team.

Moore’s decision to file was attributed to Moore determining the committee would not have adequate time to hear his evidence and come to a decision.

Spruill’s legal counsel says Moore waited until the last possible minute to file his petition, so that neither the committee or Spruill could assent to having the hearing at an earlier date and time.

Spruill’s team said in the motion for dismissal that Moore had the opportunity to present evidence to the committee at Tuesday’s hearing and failed to do so, leaving the committee with no choice but to act on the evidence provided to them.

In not providing evidence, the Spruill camp asserts that Moore effectively abandoned his election contest.

However, Moore’s team claims his filing for judicial review supersedes any action of the committee.

The committee affirmed Spruill as the winner of the runoff, but Moore’s legal counsel argued that the matter was now under the jurisdiction of the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court following Moore’s judicial review filing.

Spruill's filing states: “Because of Moore’s actions or failures to act, this Court has no jurisdiction to review and go behind the decision of the (Starkville Democratic Executive Committee)."