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Court bars City from paying Mayor's election contest lawyers

Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 12:00 am News Flash Archive

Circuit Court Judge Margaret Carey-McCray yesterday ruled that the City of Greenwood may not pay Mayor Carolyn McAdams' attorneys any costs or fees associated with defending the mayoral election held in June 2013.

The Court's opinion and ruling may be seen here: Judge McCray Decision

Sheriel Perkins filed a contest against Mayor McAdams in June 2013 after McAdams was declared the winner. McAdams' attorneys Mark Garriga and Lem Montgomery of Butler Snow removed the case to federal court, where it languished for 15 months until sent back to the Leflore County Circuit Court for trial.

The City Council of Greenwood then voted on December 16, 2014 to hire the same attorneys who represent Mayor McAdams, the law firm of Butler Snow in Jackson. The Council claimed that it wanted the law firm to defend the "municipality's interest in the election contest," and various city election officials who might be accused of wrongdoing or mistakes in the conduct of the election.

The Council attorney Don Brock Jr. obtained an Attorney General's opinion that stated that the city could hire attorneys to defend the "municipality's interest in the election contest."

Perkins then filed suit in Circuit Court to block the city's hiring of the lawyers to defend against her contest. Perkins pointed out to the court that no actual city officials or workers had been sued, or have any liability or exposure in the election contest, which is a private lawsuit between two private parties. The only two parties named, or entitled to representation before the court, are Perkins and McAdams in her private capacity.

In her Opinion, Judge Carey-McCray sided with Perkins. She found that the Attorney General had misinterpreted state statute, and that there is no authority for the city to hire attorneys to defend an election contest, nor is there any lawful authority for the city to reimburse the Mayor for her costs in defending her own election.

The Court held that "the Attorney General's opinion rationalizes what would unquestionably be the expenditure of public funds for a private purpose.... In this case, what the City of Greenwood has resolved to do is financially assist Mayor McAdams in marshalling evidence and retaining legal services to defend against Ms. Perkins' claim...."

The Court therefore barred the City of Greenwood from paying attorneys' fees and costs in the election contest.

The Taxpayers Channel has been unable to confirm whether or not Butler Snow or either of the Mayor's attorneys have actually been paid any fees by the city thus far.

In the Greenwood Commonwealth on May 21st, McAdams disputed that her legal fees were being paid by the city. The matter is confused by the fact that McAdams and the city claim that the city has "legal costs" in defending the election contest alongside McAdams and in addition to her own legal fees.

But now the Court has ruled that NO legal fees may be paid by the city in this election contest, whether they are McAdams' legal fees or, as claimed by the city unsuccessfully, its own legal fees.

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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