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Zimmerman v. Three Rivers Planning and Development District

April 06, 1999

CARL ZIMMERMAN APPELLANT
v.
THREE RIVERS PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT; THREE RIVERS SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY; RONALD E. BELL, AS ADMINISTRATOR OF LEE COUNTY AND AS CHAIRMAN OF THREE RIVERS SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY; MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY APPELLEES



Before Bridges, C.j., Southwick And Diaz, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Diaz, J.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/10/1997

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. FRANK ALLISON RUSSELL

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PONTOTOC COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - STATE BOARDS AND AGENCIES

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: SUMMARY JUDGMENT GRANTED AS TO THREE RIVERS PLANNING DISTRICT; THREE RIVERS PLANNING AUTHORITY AND RONALD BELL: COMPLAINT AGAINST DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY DISMISSED

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - 04/06/99

¶1. Carl Zimmerman appeals a November 10, 1997 order of the Pontotoc County Circuit Court granting summary judgment in a garbage collection fee dispute to the Three Rivers Planning and Development District ("the PDD"), the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority ("the Authority") and Ronald E. Bell, County Administrator of Lee County and Chairman of the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority, and denying Zimmerman's motion for a default judgment. Zimmerman also challenges the circuit court's November 10, 1997 dismissal of his amended complaint against the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality ("the DEQ"). *fn1 In the interest of clarity, this Court has restated his assignments of error and consolidated those which raise similar issues. Zimmerman, in his thinly-veiled challenge to the Permit Board's grant of a landfill permit to the Authority in Pontotoc County, now asserts that 1) various pleading in the case below were made by an attorney who was not designated an attorney of record in this case; 2) attorneys for the Department of Environmental Quality engaged in improper ex parte communications with the circuit court Judge; 3) neither the Three Rivers Planning and Development District nor the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority are properly created agencies of government; 4) a hearing should have been held to determine the correctness of the Attorney General's opinion that the PDD is a private corporation and thus, not subject to the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983; 5) a Special Master should have been appointed to investigate Zimmerman's claims against the Authority and the PDD; 6) both the PDD and the Authority have culpability in this matter; 7) Zimmerman has standing to challenge contracts entered into by the PDD and the Authority, as well as "to prosecute improbities in office;" 8) Ronald Bell's positions as both Chairman of the Authority and County Administrator of Lee County are contrary to the separation of powers provisions of the Mississippi Constitution; 9) Zimmerman is not precluded from bringing this action by his failure to request a formal hearing before the Permit Board or to appeal the Board's decision to chancery court; and 10) the defendants in this case were not entitled to summary judgment; rather, Zimmerman was entitled to the relief he sought, including, but not limited to dissolution of the Authority and the PDD and other units of government involved in the collection and disposal of non-hazardous solid waste. Finding no merit in the various assignments of error raised, we affirm the orders of the circuit court.

FACTS

¶2. The Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority was established by Pontotoc, Calhoun, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Monroe and Union Counties pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 17-17-227 (Rev. 1996). The Authority's Solid Waste Management Plan was approved on September 3, 1993 by the Commission on Environmental Quality. On December 14, 1993, the Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board ("Permit Board") issued a permit to the Authority for construction and management of the Three Rivers Regional Landfill in Pontotoc County. At the request of the Don't Waste Pontotoc Committee, the Permit Board held a formal evidentiary hearing on the matter and voted unanimously to affirm the issuance of the permit on March 8, 1994. There was no appeal of that decision to the chancery court and the decision was made final by operation of law. Miss. Code Ann. § 49-17-29(b)(4)(Supp. 1998).

¶3. By letter dated May 21, 1993, Carl Zimmerman, who long opposed the plan to locate a landfill in Pontotoc County, notified the Board of Supervisors of Pontotoc County that trash no longer would be put out for collection at his rural home. He requested that his name be dropped from the billing system, advising the Board that nothing in Miss. Code Ann. § 17-17-61 required that anyone pay for services which were neither used nor wanted. Despite his contention that he was not "a generator of garbage or rubbish for collection and disposal" between May and October of 1993, Zimmerman was billed for solid waste fees in the amount of $47.10, including interest. On November 1, 1993, Zimmerman advised the County that he would resume garbage pick-up service.

¶4. On December 31, 1994, Zimmerman requested a hearing on the matter of the fees charged for services between May and October of 1993. Billy Neal Simmons, Vice-President of the Board of Supervisors, acting as a hearing officer, held a hearing on February 28, 1995. Based on an opinion issued by the Attorney General's Office, he found that Zimmerman owed the fees in question. Zimmerman did not file a bill of exceptions to appeal the Board's decision as required by Miss. Code Ann. § 11-51-75 (1972).

¶5. Zimmerman filed suit in Pontotoc County Circuit Court on June 13, 1995. On October 30, 1995, the circuit court quashed process as a result of Zimmerman's failure to properly serve some of the defendants. His ninety-one page amended complaint, alleging a variety of claims both related and unrelated to the garbage collection fee dispute, was filed on January 25, 1996. The District, the Authority and Bell filed a motion for summary judgment. The DEQ, added as a party to the action in the amended complaint, filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, to transfer the case to Chancery Court of Pontotoc County. On November 10, 1997, the circuit court granted the defendants' motions and denied Zimmerman's motion for a default judgment against them. Aggrieved by the circuit court's orders, Zimmerman now appeals to this Court.

DISCUSSION

¶6. Zimmerman's appeal to this Court is couched in often incomprehensible terms, invoking a panoply of creative constitutional arguments wholly unrelated to the matter of garbage collection fees actually before the circuit court. "Pro se parties should be held to the same rules of procedure and substantive law as represented parties." Dethlefs v. Beau Maison Development Corp., 511 So. 2d 112, 118 (Miss. 1987). However, when a prisoner seeking post-conviction relief is proceeding pro se, in our discretion, we will "credit not so well pleaded allegations so that a prisoner's meritorious complaint may not be lost because in artfully drafted." Ivy v. Merchant, 666 So. 2d 445, 449 (Miss. 1995). We accord that same deference to parties proceeding pro se in other civil actions.

I. WHETHER VARIOUS PLEADING IN THE CASE BELOW WERE MADE BY AN ATTORNEY WHO WAS NOT DESIGNATED AN ATTORNEY OF RECORD IN THIS CASE

¶7. Zimmerman first asserts that the motions for summary judgment and dismissal as well as other pleadings filed by the PDD, the Authority and Ronald Bell are of no force and effect because they were submitted by Michael L. Mason, an attorney with the the law firm of Crosthwait, Terney, PLLC, who was not listed on the entry of appearance form along with Tommie S. Cardin and Michael D. Caples, two other members of the firm. Zimmerman's cursory references to Rules 5(b) and 11(a) of the M.R.C.P. provide no authority for this proposition nor does his one-paragraph assignment of error set forth any meaningful argument. Thus, this Court is not obliged to entertain the assignment of error. Matter of Estate of Mason v. Fort, 616 So. 2d 322, 327 (Miss. 1993).

ΒΆ8. Procedural bar notwithstanding, there is no merit to the assignment of error. In Hirsch Bros. & Co. v. R.E. Kennington Co., 155 Miss. 242, 124 So. 344 ...


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