Lawsuit over Warren County road, gate filed in federal court|[06/02/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 2, 2007

A simmering dispute over a gate and short roadway in Warren County has exploded into a federal lawsuit filed last week in Jackson.

The 11-count complaint accuses all members of the board of supervisors, plus their attorney and three other individuals and the Paw-Paw Island Land Company of criminal conspiracy, malicious prosecution and waste of public money.

The plaintiffs, the Issaquena and Warren Counties Land Company and its 19 owners, say they were targeted in violation of their constitutional rights to land ownership.

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They are represented by Lisa A. Reppeto of one of Jackson’s largest law firms, Watkins, Ludlam, Winter and Stennis, and are asking for at least $6 million in damages.

Supervisors had a closed session Thursday, citing a discussion of litigation. They made no announcement about hiring counsel and an answer had not been filed.

The conflict began in 2002 after the plaintiffs bought from Anderson-Tully Company property that can be reached from Mississippi 465 near Eagle Lake via Paw-Paw Road.

According to the complaint, which tells only one side of a dispute, a locked gate had blocked the private road then owned by plaintiffs for 30 years.

The suit alleges there was a network of friends who chose to use the power of their offices to force the owners to disclaim or sell the road.

The suit says John Lindigrin of Paw-Paw Island Land Company, the supervisors, board attorney Paul Winfield, Warren County Prosecutor Ricky Johnson and surveyor Joseph G. Strickland all engaged in various ways to try to force the plaintiffs to give up their ownership of the road.

Their methods included trespassing, threats, false criminal charges and other means that amounted to harassment and racketeering, the complaint says.

Although some matters are pending, the plaintiffs say almost all matters have been dropped by defendants or resolved in the plaintiffs’ favor in state courts.

The complaint also says the plaintiffs are acting as &#8220private attorneys general” in trying to protect the public treasury from abuses by supervisors. Board actions &#8220had a significant cost to the taxpayers of Warren County (and) no potential benefits to its citizens,” the plaintiffs say in a statement.

&#8220These actions have violated our civil and constitutional rights and cost us thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs and legal fees, with no benefit to the citizens of Warren County,” it continues.