Effective legal counsel necessary for city

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When the Natchez mayor and board of aldermen meet today, we urge them to set aside differences and remedy what we believe was an error in the heat of emotional political posturing.

Just more than a week ago, aldermen chose to select attorney Everett Sanders to represent the board. The decision was in direct opposition to Mayor Darryl Grennell’s suggestion for city attorney.

Both Grennell and the board’s de facto leader, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, chose the important appointment to make a political stand.

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Tempers flared, petty politics and a power struggle clouded an important decision for the city.

Both sides of the issue have effectively drawn lines in the sand. Perhaps it is time to call a truce and apply calm and logic to best equip the city with good, sound legal advice.

Under Sanders’ last tenure as city attorney from 2006 through 2012, his inefficient legal representation caused Natchez’s legal liability in a Roundstone Development’s lawsuit to worsen. The potential damages could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Sanders was late responding to the lawsuit and when he did, he did not follow judicial guidelines in doing so. After the initial deadline to respond, he simply requested the court throw out the case, but provided no legal evidence of why it should do so and never responded to the original lawsuit.

After the judge overseeing the case implored Sanders to properly respond, he did not. Approximately one year after the initial case was filed Sanders still had not properly responded on the city’s behalf.

That’s inexcusable.

The judge had to side with the developers simply because the city never responded to the accusation. Fortunately for taxpayers, the judge opted to withhold monetary damages until more details can come out at a hearing or trial in the future.

Errors in past judgment and representation of the city are prime reasons for aldermen to reconsider a hasty and heatedly contested decision in which one alderman abstained in the vote.

It’s well within aldermen’s rights to reject the mayor’s choice. But Natchez would be best served to have fresh and more effective legal representation on important public matters.

Our hope is that they will begin that process today.