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City of Grenada v. Harrelson

April 30, 1998

CITY OF GRENADA, MISSISSIPPI
v.
VANNIE HARRELSON, IRENE WILLIAMS AND WILLIE WILLIAMS IN THEIR CAPACITY AS THE CITY OF GRENADA ELECTION COMMISSION; VALLERIA BLAYLOCK IN HER CAPACITY AS CITY CLERK OF CITY OF GRENADA, MISSISSIPPI, AND THE "INTERVENORS" LOUISE HUBBARD, JOHN HANKINS, PAULETTA WILLIAMS, STANFORD AMOS, DORA W. STEWART AND STEVE ROBINSON



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/29/96 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. C. E. MORGAN, III COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: GRENADA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

Before Pittman, P.j., McRAE And Roberts, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pittman, Presiding Justice, For The Court:

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

¶1. The City of Grenada (hereinafter "the City") is a special charter municipality. The City Charter provides for the election of 7 city councilmen from wards described in Section 4 of the Charter. Elections for mayor and aldermen were to take place on the first Monday of May, 1996. Qualification for and participation in those elections was to open on January 2, 1996 and close on March 9, 1996. Primary elections were to be held on April 18, 1996. In preparation for the election, the City determined that the election procedures and election districts adopted by the City Council in 1992 were not properly adopted. Under Miss. Code Ann. § 21-17-9 (1990) any amendment to a City's Charter must be published for three weeks in a newspaper or posted in three public places for that length of time to give notice to the public of the amendment. Thereafter, if 10% of the electors request a referendum election on the proposed amendment, an election must take place to permit the electors to approve or disapprove the amendment. Miss. Code Ann. § 21-17-9 (1990). After a 1990 census, the City Council determined that new ward lines needed to be drawn because the 1986 ward lines had become malapportioned in violation of the one-person one-vote rule. Those lines were redrawn and the plan was adopted by the City Council. There was no written ordinance evidencing the amendment. The City submitted the plan and the minutes of the December 2, 1991 meeting in which the plan was adopted, to the Justice Department for preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. No legal descriptions were submitted to the Justice Department. The Justice Department returned a non-objection letter to the City.

¶2. The City filed a Complaint seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief on December 22, 1995. It sought declaratory judgment that:

(1) The election districts set forth in the 1986 Charter Amendment were the last properly adopted districts for the City;

(2) The election districts set out in the 1986 amendment to the City Charter no longer comply with applicable law and regulations; and

(3) That future city elections cannot proceed until an election process and election districts can be adopted by a properly adopted amendment to the City Charter utilizing a process in compliance with Section 21-17-9 of the Mississippi Code of 1972.

The City also asked the circuit court to enter a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction and/or a permanent injunction against the defendants from conducting elections until such time as an amendment to the City Charter, utilizing the required procedures of Miss. Code Ann. § 21-17-9, could be adopted and implemented. The defendants in this case, and the appellees here, are the three members of the Election Commission and the City Clerk. Thereafter, six citizens and registered voters of Wards 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 moved to intervene and this motion was granted.

¶3. The circuit court held its first hearing on January 12, 1996. At that hearing, the City Clerk of Grenada testified that it is part of her job to know where the ward lines are. The only evidence she could find showing the ward lines was a map that had been published in the newspaper before a special mayoral election in 1994. She attempted to compare the map to the ward lines set out in the City Charter and found that they did not match up. The ward lines in the Charter were based on the amendment made in 1986. Bill Williams, Jr. ran for city councilman in 1992, and testified that he ran based on the ward lines established by the map published in the newspaper. At the Conclusion of the hearing, it was decided that all parties would attempt to get the 1992 amendment passed in compliance with state law before the elections so that the Judge would not have to enjoin the elections.

¶4. Another hearing was held on January 24, 1996. At that hearing, the parties had received all of the information the Justice Department had on the 1992 redistricting. The parties left that hearing intending on attempting to adopt the amendment in compliance with state law and holding the elections as scheduled.

ΒΆ5. The third and final hearing in this case was held on March 29, 1996. At that hearing, the Mayor testified that the City Council had adopted the new ward lines as set out in 1992, and had published the amendment in the newspaper. Thereafter, more than 10% of the electors had objected to the amendment, making a special election necessary. Also during the publication time, the Mississippi ...


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