Bond Controversy/Court Action

Lauderdale County, Miss. A controversial bond issue took center stage Tuesday morning in Lauderdale County Chancery Court. The $14 million bond was passed by Lauderdale County supervisors two months ago; it's now being challenged by five plaintiffs.

Judge Larry Primeaux heard Tuesday morning from representatives for those plaintiffs and the county. Opponents of the bond are asking the judge to overturn it based on a petition deadline, which they say supervisors did not honor. Supervisors set a May 6th deadline for people to sign a petition in opposition of the $14 million dollar bond.

"In this situation we felt that they had waived their right to stand on that deadline and there is no case law that speaks to this," says Attorney Steven Wilson, who represents four of the plaintiffs." This is a very unique and novel issue."

For two weeks after the deadline supervisors posted the names of people who signed the petition on-line and in the chancery clerk's office. During that time individuals were allowed to remove their name from the list.

"The board of supervisors didn't adhere to the deadline that they set out in the resolution and when they didn't stick to the deadline 320 more signatures came in," says Wilson.

That made a grand total of 1,338 signatures, which was short of the 1,500 needed to force a countywide vote.

Marion resident, Thomas Edward Williams, is one of the five plaintiffs in the case. He represented himself in court.

"The scope was so limited for this particular bond validation hearing that it makes me not very confident that he will rule in our favor because he seemed to need to exclude so much of what I consider relevant evidence for the county taking on these kind of expenditures," says Williams. "It appears that they need to be brought forward and any objections need to be addressed in a different forum."

Because of the extensive amount of material that was submitted by attorneys and testimony that must be reviewed, Judge Primeaux says it could take him several days to make a ruling in the case.

Here's a breakdown on how the bond is to be spent:
$4 million will be used to start renovations at the courthouse;
another $4 million will pay for construction of an indoor sportsplex at Highland Park in Meridian; $3.5 million will build an outdoor community recreation project in Collinsville; the remaining $2.5 million will finance a similar complex in Clarkdale.