General Hospital case appealed to Supreme Court

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, October 30, 2019


NATCHEZ — An ongoing legal dispute regarding the sale or transfer of the former Natchez General Hospital owned by the City of Natchez is in the hands of the Supreme Court of Mississippi after two local appeals were filed on the matter, officials said.

City officials plan to accept an offer from Magnolia Medical Foundation — a Jackson non-profit — to refurbish the property at 601 West Oak St. into a senior-living apartment complex.

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“We’re going through the briefing stages of it,” Natchez City Attorney Bob Latham said. “There are two different appeals that are being consolidated into one case.”

Latham said the City of Natchez filed one appeal to the Supreme Court after the city lost a suit filed by The Towers of Natchez owner Ginger Hyland and local realtor Charlotte Copeland in the Sixth District Circuit Court in Adams County in October 2017 — which disputed the transfer of the property on the basis that the city abandoned its Request for Proposals by accepting an offer from Magnolia Medical.

The RFP specifically required each responding party to post a minimum $5,000 deposit as well as a financial plan, which none of the respondents did.

District 6-2 Circuit Court Judge Debra Blackwell issued a ruling in March 2019 ordering the city to reverse its decision to sell the property and either declare the property as surplus in compliance with its resolution to dispose of the old hospital or issue another RFP.

“The Circuit Judge had remanded the property back to the city and said we could sell it after it had been declared surplus property under the provisions of the code,” Latham said. “That was our intention in the first place, we just hadn’t made it that far yet.”

A second appeal of an Adams County lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court last week by nearly 30 neighbors of the former hospital represented by local attorney Paul Sullivan, Latham said.

In a brief he gave to the Supreme Court, Sullivan stated a division of the Sixth District Circuit Court in Adams County ruled that the group of neighbors who filed the suit did not have any grounds to object to the city’s decision since none of them submitted a proposal for the property.

Sullivan stated the city’s action to accept an offer made by Magnolia Medical in September 2018 was “arbitrary and capricious” because the action had not been listed for discussion on the city’s agenda.

Moreover, Sullivan stated the city also failed to uphold the RFP when it considered “the non-conforming proposals a year after the deadline for the city to accept a proposal” when the initial RFP stated bids would be opened in March 2017 would close one month later.

Latham said the city would have 30 days to file an appellee’s brief and anticipates the Supreme Court would issue a ruling in three to six months.