Supervisors nix putting issue to vote

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 1999

In an effort to avoid opening up a &uot;hornet’s nest,&uot; supervisors on Monday nixed the idea of putting the debate over whether the school board should be elected or appointed on the November ballot.

One of the three supervisors voting against the issue said that he wasn’t against the issue but didn’t want to help out two county residents who are suing the county and city over the issue. The lawsuit was denied last month but is on appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

&uot;If we were to have voted to put it on the ballot, and it had a good reception, then the court could use that as leverage for the plaintiff,&uot; said Supervisor Sammy Cauthen. &uot;So the county could end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and we can’t afford that.&uot;

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The issue was brought up at Monday’s meeting by State Rep. Phillip West who has tried twice unsuccessfully to pass legislation to change the law. West recently headed a group trying to get the matter on the ballot with a petition, but failed after not having enough votes.

&uot;We can’t do it anyway,&uot; Cauthen said. &uot;It’s a legislative matter. And there’s no telling what kind of hornet’s nest it might stir up if it were deemed unconstitutional. Because anything the appointed school board could be turned over.&uot;

West and other opponents of the current system in which the City of Natchez and the county both appoint members to the school board feel the system is unconstitutional for two reasons. First since city resident can vote for county officials too, they argue it violates the &uot;one man, one vote&uot; principle. Second they believe it is unfair that the school board can under certain circumstances raise taxes without consent of any elected officials.

Supervisors Darryl Grennell and Thomas &uot;Boo&uot; Campbell voted to put the issue on the ballot while Supervisors Cauthen, Virginia Salmon and Rose Wallace voted against it.