City suit could be &8216;contract, tort action&8217;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; City Attorney Everett Sanders said Friday he did not know what sort of precedent there was for a potential city suit against a group of citizens who earlier in the year appealed the city&8217;s decision to sell land for less than its appraised value.

&8220;That&8217;s what I&8217;m trying to find out,&8221; he said. &8220;It might be a contract action, it might be a tort action. You can&8217;t just sue anybody to sue them. You have to have a legal theory of recovery.&8221;

If the city did file a suit against the group of citizens and won, it would get compensation for the legal costs involved.

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&8220;Theoretically, we would try to get damages against them,&8221; Sanders said. &8220;(Tax money lost) could be considered lost revenue. If we are successful, they would end up having to pay.&8221;

There was no way to say how long a possible trial might last, Sanders said. Because of the legal process, it would be four months at the earliest before the city&8217;s case saw a courtroom.

The city aldermen voted Tuesday to have Sanders look into filing a suit against the group of citizens.

In May, the citizens appealed the city&8217;s decision to sell land on the bluff for less than its appraisal value.

Mayor Phillip West said at Tuesday&8217;s meeting that the citizens&8217; appeal was holding up the condominiums planned for the bluff. In doing so, they were preventing potential tax dollars, West said.

&8220;We will see if we can initiate action against them for delaying the project,&8221; Sanders said.

The citizens&8217; appeal, a legal action, carried the same weight as a lawsuit, former city attorney Walter Brown said Friday.

Since the group of citizens filed their appeal before Brown left office, the board of aldermen gave him authority to see it through.

According to circuit court documents, the citizens named as plaintiffs are Gwendolyn E. Ball, Robert E. Buie, Jane G. Gardner, Caroline B. Harrington, Nancy J. Shook, J. Neil Varnell, Sarge Preston and Lucy Preston.

Only Varnell confirmed he was still involved in the suit. Four plaintiffs, not named above, confirmed they had withdrawn. The others could not be reached.