Kevin Wilson settles case against Natchez-Adams School District

Published 1:54 am Saturday, July 11, 2020

NATCHEZ — A lawsuit filed against the Natchez-Adams School District in 2017 to block the district from enacting a 3-mil tax increase to fund building a new $9 million high school has been dropped.

Adams County resident Kevin Wilson originally filed the suit in 2017 after Adams County voters rejected a $45 million bond proposal to fund building a new school. The school board later announced the district would proceed with a revised plan to build a $9 million school by enacting a 3-mil tax increase, which would not require voter approval. One mil of tax is equal to $1 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

The suit to block the measure, Kevin Wilson vs. Natchez-Adams School District, along with other associated lawsuits against individual members of the school board, was dismissed in the Circuit Court of Adams County on Feb. 4, 2020, after Wilson took a settlement.

The terms of the settlement are under a non-disclosure agreement, Wilson said, however, the Natchez-Adams School District released the following statement: “In exchange for the payment of $25,000 to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, the Wilsons agreed to dismiss all appeals pending before the Supreme Court of Mississippi, the suit filed by them in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Western Division and another suit pending in the Circuit Court of Adams County Mississippi.”

Wilson said he and his wife had spent approximately $140,000 out of pocket on the lawsuits and various community members had donated approximately $10,000.

“The $25,000 (settlement), I never saw it. It went straight to the lawyer,” Wilson said. “He just took that in lieu of any other payment. I probably actually owed him more than that.”

Wilson said he decided to settle the case because he had taken it as far as he could.

“We were fixing to do opening arguments with the (Court of Appeals) and even if we won the case, it is still a loss if you’re in federal court,” Wilson said. “If they won, they still lost too.”

The original lawsuit was filed in Adams County Circuit Court on Aug. 3, 2017, by Wilson individually and on behalf of other similarly situated taxpayers and citizens of Natchez and named the Natchez-Adams School District and through its board of trustees, Amos James, Phillip West, Thelma Newsome and Brenda Robinson as defendants.

The lawsuit sought to reverse the school board’s July 26, 2017, decision to proceed with building the new $9 million high school by enacting a 3-mil tax note on property in Adams County.

On Jan. 15, 2019, the school board filed suit with the Court of Appeals, asking the court to consider whether the Adams County Circuit Court has authority to review any aspect of the school board’s decision to issue the 3-mill tax note to fund the school improvements.

Weeks before the case was scheduled to go before the Court of Appeals, Wilson agreed to settle, saying the court battle was dragging on and costing money.

“All it amounted to was we argued and fought … and spent a lot more money and most of the money being spent was either mine or the taxpayers,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t costing the school board a dime.”

Wilson said he did not feel right continuing the case, especially after he took office on Jan. 2 after being elected District 2 Adams County Supervisor.

Wilson said the case is the reason he decided to enter local politics.

“At the state auditor’s office, I was told that if you don’t like the way things are done in Adams County you need to get better elected officials, and that’s when I decided to run for something,” Wilson said. “As a direct result of that school board meeting that started that lawsuit, I became an elected official.”

Wilson said the case delayed the school board’s plans to build a new school.

“We just agreed that, basically, they are going to have to start over,” Wilson said of the settlement. “Not saying we are going to fight them if they start over.”

Natchez-Adams School Board member Phillip West said the district is now free to proceed with plans to build a new school.

“I’m just glad it is over,” West said of the legal battle.

Wilson said that if the school board proceeds with building a school he would be paying attention.

“If it is legal, there is not much we can do, but if it is illegal we are going to fight,” Wilson said. “I’m sick about it, because I don’t like the way the whole thing went down.”