County has authority on public roadways

Published 12:04 am Sunday, November 2, 2014

In June 2008, without approval by the Board of Supervisors, a section of Dunbar Road in Elgin subdivision was suddenly stripped of its timber and embankment, as were nearby residents who had been given no warning so had no opportunity to prevent the operation via contact with Board of Supervisors, sheriff, or Chancery Court for an injunction.

Extensive legal research and consultations with more than thirty Mississippi lawyers during the past six years shows that the Board of Supervisors, as agent for the public, has “full, exclusive jurisdiction and control” over a County’s public roadways (A.G. Opinion No. 2012-00119 (May 2012)).

Supreme Court of Mississippi case decisions, 1972 code statutes, and A.G. Opinions totally verify that no individual can go onto a public roadway being maintained by the County, and destroy or take anything of value. The only exception to this is that by practice, if a person wants to put in a driveway, remove a dead tree, etc., he may contact Road Manager or District Supervisor and receive permission. If Road Manager or Supervisor feels the matter should be handled by the road crew, or brought before the Board, it must be done.

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In 1935, prominent Natchez resident Elizabeth Stanton brought suit against Board of Supervisors President John R. Junkin and the Board because County crews cut timber on a public roadway which ran across her property. She lost in the local court. On appeal, the State Supreme Court upheld that decision, and ruled that according to Mississippi law, the trees belonged to the people of Adams County, so the Board was within its right as agent for the people. That decision has never since been modified in any way. In fact, A.G. Opinion 2012-00119 (May 2012) and 2013-00206 (June 2013) cite the “Junkin” case, and hold that a Board of Supervisors can do what it wants with the timber, soil, etc. on a public roadway regardless of landowner title if any, or his objection, so long as it is for a legitimate purpose; i.e. to the public benefit. The landowner cannot usurp that authority.


Lynn Wirtz