Bellevue case for incorporation dismissed without prejudiceBy BUSTER WOLFE,
Special Chancellor Michael H. Ward decided earlier this week to dismiss the Bellevue incorporation case without prejudice, placing no restrictions on another attempt at incorporation.
The motion to dismiss the case was filed by the Citizens of Bellevue incorporators and a hearing was held April 19 on both motions in the William J. “Pete” Gamble Chancery Courthouse in Purvis. The petition to incorporate Bellevue was filed in the 10th District Chancery Court on March 19, 2017.
Ward ruled on the motions April 26, and the decision was filed Monday in Lamar County Chancery Court.
Jackson attorney Chad Mask, who represents the Citizens of Bellevue group supporting incorporation of the city, filed the motion for dismissal of the case without prejudice.
Speaking for the incorporation opponents were Purvis attorney William Ducker and Hattiesburg lawyer Robin Roberts, and attorney Jerry Mills, who was hired by the City of Hattiesburg to oppose the incorporation because of the Hub City’s annexation efforts into the area.
Ducker and Mills both supported similar motions on having the incorporators – who sought dismissal of the effort – pay for the costs of the trial. Mills, who had been in other annexation hearings with Mask, said the process of checking signatures is time-consuming.
The petition for incorporating a town must have signatures of at least two thirds of the qualified electors in the area. Ducker said the incorporators filed for dismissal because they didn’t have enough signatures.
“They came forward prematurely,” he said. “They didn’t have enough signatures.”
Mills said the legal process has been expensive.
“The City of Hattiesburg has spent more than $50,000 in this case,” he said. “It puts the defenses at a true disadvantage.”
Mask countered that the opponents’ attorney would not have received compensation if it had been a complete trial with depositions, testimony and a ruling. “They are seeking something that they wouldn’t have gotten if the trial had taken a year,” he said.
The motion to dismiss by the Bellevue Incorporators follows through on a December 2017 announcement by proposed Mayor John Adcock to pull back the petitions for incorporation.
Mask is the lead attorney who filed the 4,118-page petition for Bellevue incorporation. He said in an earlier interview the group is not backing away from eventually becoming a city.
“The Bellevue folks are continuing to gather additional signatures with full intentions of re-filing their incorporation petition, probably later this year,” he said.