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Horhn: Airport Authority hires lawyer in advance of airport control fight

FRED BANKS

FRED BANKS

By TED CARTER

The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority has hired Phelps Dunbar lawyer Fred Banks Jr. to handle litigation that could arise over a possible state takeover of governance of Jackson’s airports, state Sen. John Horhn says.

Neither Banks nor the Airport Authority would confirm the hiring.

Horhn said the Airport Authority has retained the former Mississippi Supreme Court justice specifically to challenge a state takeover. “The airport has already enlisted” his services, Horhn said a day after the state Senate voted 29-18 to hand policy-making control of Jackson Medgar-Wiley Evers International Airport and Hawkins Field to a state-created governing board. Under the proposal, the governor would appoint nine representatives from the metro region, including two nominees from Jackson.

Litigation threats came up repeatedly during Thursday’s lengthy debate on the takeover bill proposed by Sen. Josh Harkins of Flowood.

» READ MORE: Lawsuits threatened as Senate passes bill for state to control Jackson’s airports

Both sides concede litigation would prevent progress on attracting a new low-cost carrier to Jackson Evers and commercially developing hundreds of acres the Airport Authority owns around Jackson Evers.

“The question is, Are the proponents willing to let the airport languish?” Hohrn said.

Fellow Jackson senator David Blount said Friday Harkins and others who want to remove the Airport Authority’s policy control  in a “hostile takeover” should know the consequences.

Jackson and its citizens “should defend their rights.” Blount said.

Hohrn said it is unclear who would initiate the lawsuits – the Airport Authority, the Jackson City Council or both.

“”They need to find out which parties have standing to file in federal Court,” he said.

The senator, who is African-American, said if it looks as if the takeover bill will pass the House, the House Black Caucus may put a slowdown on House business, as it did last week over House plans to redraw districts for the Public Service Commission.

“If there is a way to avoid the process of a shutdown again, they are willing to have that conversation,” he said of his House counterparts.

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