Court: Elected board constitutional

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 13, 1999

A&160;federal court has denied a request by two local residents to switch the Natchez-Adams&160;school board from appointed to elected.

Because the district is a special municipal separate school district, that includes both the city and the county, it is legal to appoint board members, the court ruled.

&uot;It was just a simple order of dismissal,&uot;&160;said Marion Smith, Attorney for the Adams&160;County Board of Supervisors. &uot;There are many ways you can set up a school district and the way it is done in Natchez is one of them.&uot;

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The suit was filed by plaintiffs, Robert &uot;Big Bob&uot;&160;Minor and Charles Sanders last fall. Both declined to comment on the ruling.

The Natchez-Adams School Board was arranged by the city and county officials in the 1950s to be made up of five members. Three are appointed by the Natchez Board of Alderman and two are appointed by the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

In the suit, the plaintiffs listed the current aldermen, the supervisors and the school board members as defendants and cited them for voting in board meetings for an elected school board and then fighting the idea in court. Since city residents can vote in both city and county elections and county residents can only vote in county elections, the school board does not follow the &uot;one man, one vote&uot; principle, the plaintiffs argued.

But the court decided the school board does not meet the requirements of the two-prong test that are required for it to be an elected.

The test requires a board to perform governmental functions and to also be elected in nature.

&uot;The Natchez-Adams&160;County Board of Trustees in question, clearly performs governmental functions,&uot; the court said. &uot;(But) the board is lawfully comprised of appointed members. The board is not an elected entity.&uot;

The court also dismissed Minor’s claim that the board’s composition was not fair for him personally.

&uot;He can not demonstrate that he has suffered an injury in fact,&uot;&160;the court said. &uot;He lacks standing to pursue (his claims).&uot;

Sanders, on the other hand, is a county resident.

When the plaintiffs first filed the suit, they also asked the court to postpone the district’s search for a new superintendent because they claimed the existing board was illegally constituted. The court denied the request.

Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said he still believes an elected school board is the answer.

&uot;The board of aldermen has asked the board of supervisors to put (a referendum) on the ballot in November, but we haven’t heard a response yet,&uot; he said.