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Newell v. Jones County

January 14, 1999

ERMA NEWELL, CINDY GORDON AND BEVERLY COOLEY
v.
JONES COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI AND ENVIRO, INC.



Before Sullivan, P.j., Banks And Roberts, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice,

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 7/14/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. BILLY JOE LANDRUM

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JONES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - STATE BOARDS AND AGENCIES

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - 1/14/99

¶1. We have for review a lower court's dismissal of a complaint on the grounds that the Plaintiffs failed to follow Miss. Code Ann. § 11-51-75 as the appropriate avenue for challenging the actions of a Board of Supervisors. Because we agree with the trial court, we affirm.

I.

¶2. Jones County, Mississippi ("Jones County") along with the City of Laurel, Mississippi, advertised for the submission of bids for solid waste collection. Enviro, Inc. ("Enviro") was among those contractors which submitted bids in response to the advertisement. Enviro was the only contractor willing to also accept responsibility for billing and collecting fees.

¶3. On September 30, 1996, the Jones County Board of Supervisors issued an Order accepting Enviro's bid. Jones County and Enviro entered into a contract on December 16, 1996. *fn1 The contract was amended on April 21, 1997, to include a provision which allowed those who did not wish to pay for Enviro's services to "'opt-out' of the Solid Waste Collection and Disposal System." In order to 'opt-out' residents were required to file a form with the Chancery Clerk and to dispose of their own waste in a manner prescribed by law.

¶4. On March 20, 1997, Erma Newell ("Newell"), Cindy Gordon ("Gordon"), and Beverly Cooley ("Cooley") filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment against Jones County and Enviro. The Complaint alleged, inter alia, that Jones County violated Miss. Code Ann. § 21-19-2(2)(c), by failing to give notice of the fees to be charged under the contract prior to its adoption. The Complaint sought a declaration that the contract created an illegal monopoly and that its provisions could not be enforced against Newell, Gordon, and Cooley. Of the Plaintiffs, only Cooley had opted out of the disposal system.

¶5. After answering, both Jones County and Enviro filed Motions to Dismiss the Complaint. The Motions came on for hearing on June 9, 1997. During the hearing, Jones County argued that the Complaint was an untimely attempt to appeal the decision of the Board and that the Plaintiffs' exclusive remedy was to appeal the Board's decision as provided in Miss. Code Ann. § 11-51-75. Jones County further argued that Newell and Gordon, who had not opted out, had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and that the case was moot as to Cooley, who had opted out. Enviro argued that the Plaintiffs did not have standing to file the declaratory action because they were not parties to the contract.

¶6. On June 26, 1997, after taking the Motions under advisement, the trial court filed its findings and opinion; an Order granting Jones County's and Enviro's Motions to Dismiss the Plaintiffs's Complaint followed on July 14, 1997. The trial court found that Miss. Code Ann. § 11-51-75, provided the proper procedure for appealing the Board's decision. The trial court further found that the case was moot as to Cooley because she had opted out of the disposal system and that Newell and Gordon had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. Finally, the trial court found that the Plaintiffs had failed to allege that they suffered an injury different from any other citizen ...


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