Judge weighing decision in bond issue petition

MERIDIAN — A judge will decide whether Lauderdale County officials erred in not calling an election on $14-million bond issue after a petition was filed by opponents.

Chancery Judge Larry Primeaux heard arguments yesterday from county officials and opponents to the bond issue. Primeaux said he would rule later on whether the June approval of the bond issue is valid.

Primeaux told hearing participants that the issue was not the judgment of the board of supervisors in passing the bond issue in June, but to determine if the legal process was followed correctly.

County officials have said the purpose of the bond issue is to fund recreational projects and improvements to the county courthouse, although it contains language that it could also fund roads and fire protection projects.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Wilson argued a petition drive rejected by the board of supervisors should have been accepted, even though the required number of valid signatures was not procured by the deadline set by the board.

On April 1, the board passed a notice of intent to pass the bond issue and set May 6 as the deadline for a petition calling for an election. At the time, opponents said there were more than 1,500 signatures, but some were later found to be invalid. Petitioners continued collecting signatures and later took them to the board, which in a 3-2 vote, decided against including them in the final count.

Opponents argued that for two weeks after the May 6 petition deadline, supervisors posted the names of people who signed the petition online and in the chancery clerk’s office and allowed individuals to remove their names from the list.

“In this instance, the Lauderdale board did not begin to even look at it on the date of the deadline,” Wilson said. “They waited an additional two weeks before they sent them to (Circuit Clerk) Donna Jill Johnson’s office to certify, which she did in short order.”

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