Lee County, Tupelo still at odds over annexation

TUPELO – Opponents of the city’s latest annexation bid want the case thrown out of court in a legal move that Tupelo attorneys call baseless, frivolous and a waste of taxpayer money.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the last court hearing for Tupelo’s bid to annex roughly 16 square miles and 3,000 residents.
Because no follow-up hearings have been set since that time, attorneys for Lee County and the city of Saltillo want the case dismissed.
They claim it’s the city’s responsibility to set another hearing, and in not doing so, have denied annexation opponents the right to voice their objections.
Attorneys cited portions of the state code and rulings from previous cases as part of their motions, filed Oct. 12 in the Lee County Chancery Court.
“Like Tupelo’s prior annexation efforts, the city’s current annexation proceedings are procedurally defective and must be dismissed …,” one of the county’s attorneys, J. Chadwick Mask, wrote in the county’s motion.
Mask and Saltillo attorney Jason Herring said the city had nearly a year to set a follow-up hearing and didn’t; therefore, they said, the court lost its jurisdiction to act in the case.
City attorney Guy Mitchell fired back 10 days later in his own motions. He challenged his opponents’ interpretation of the law as inapplicable to annexation cases, and he criticized them for trying to avoid a trial.
Saltillo’s and Lee County’s motions to dismiss are “baseless, if not frivolous, and … a waste of taxpayer money and a drain on judicial economy,” wrote Mitchell, who also accused opponents of trying to mislead and confuse the public and the media.
In yet another motion filed Friday, Mask countered that the city – not the county – is wasting money by continually botching its annexation attempts.
“The true waste of taxpayer money will occur if this annexation effort is permitted to go forward to a three-week or four-week trial,” Mask wrote, “only to be subject to reversal on appeal because this court allowed Tupelo to avoid jurisdictional burdens and requirements … .”
The city launched its annexation attempts in August 2004, seeking to enlarge its boundaries by roughly 10 square miles, but the case was dismissed two years later due to technical errors by Tupelo.
The city revived its efforts in March 2008, this time seeking to grow by about 16 square miles. That attempt, too, was dismissed because of Tupelo’s technical issues.
But the city immediately filed a third petition to annex, in September 2008, and a hearing was held a month later.
Each effort has been opposed.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal