Appeals court reverses Vollor, blocks path of county surveyor|[01/31/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has reversed the injunction issued in 2006 by Warren County Circuit Court that allowed county surveyors to inspect land off Mississippi 465 for violations of county development ordinances.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, which also says the county must pay all the legal expenses and costs for both parties, the state appellate court said Kenneth D. Blakeney, Rose C. Blakeney and Issaquena and Warren Counties Land Company were not served with proper notice before an injunction hearing on Oct. 2, 2006, before Circuit Judge Frank Vollor.

At the hearing, the Blakeneys argued for a dismissal of the matter, saying the county had not properly established the court’s jurisdiction, a request Vollor denied. The county had sought the injunction to allow surveyors to inspect land owned by the Blakeneys to determine whether the county’s flood plain and subdivision ordinances had been violated.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

In September 2006, county surveyors visited the property three times in four days, the facts of the opinion said, after county supervisors sent letters to IWCLC to have gates at the end of Paw Paw Road removed. Each time they were turned away by either Rose Blakeney or their attorney. Sheriff’s officials had refused involvement until a court order was obtained.

The Blakeneys claim they were not served the complaint filed by the county in circuit court and did not receive notice of the hearing until the Thursday before the hearing. The appeals case said that until notice was properly served, the court had no power to rule.

The attorney for the group said the decision was a proper one, but did not say where the decision leaves the circuit case.

“We’re happy about this decision,” attorney Lisa Reppeto said.

Judge T. Kenneth Griffis wrote the concurring opinion, which carried nine of the court’s 10 judges. Judge Tyree Irving dissented without a separate opinion. The amount Warren County will have to pay had not been established. The ruling may be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The circuit court action was among the first salvos fired in what became an explosive series of suits involving the county between two landowner groups, IWCLC and Paw Paw Island Land Company.

Most serious of the allegations leveled against the county was civil racketeering, filed in federal court. In that case, the county has been represented by attorney Ken Rector, who has requested the allegations be dismissed.

Pending were the circuit court cases in which Rector and board attorney Paul Winfield represent the supervisors as plaintiffs seeking to enforce the subdivision and flood plain ordinances and a chancery case in which the two represent the county as defendants.

The county became involved in the dispute between the landowner groups when IWCLC accused supervisors of attempting to use their powers of office to side with the Paw Paw group. District 5 Supervisor Richard George, board president, has said that’s not the case, saying the county has a duty to enforce both its subdivision ordinance and flood-plain ordinance when property anywhere is developed or new construction undertaken. The subdivision law requires a plat showing roads and drainage plans, plus specifications. The flood plain law requires a permit verifying that any new building is above levels prone to being inundated.