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HCDC Continues Appeal of Lawsuit
it Lost to Conceal Records

by Keith Burton - GCN     Filed 8/11/05

The Harrison County Development Commission is continuing to appeal a lawsuit it lost in an effort to block revealing financial documents. This is despite a request by the Harrison County Board of supervisors to end the appeal to the State Supreme Court.

The case involves a lawsuit the HCDC lost against Henry "Tut" Kinney who sought the records over a year ago. Kinney is now a commissioner with the HCDC. The board of supervisors is concerned over the cost of the appeal and that it continues to generate ill feelings toward the HCDC, the county's chief economic development agency.

A letter from a frequent visitor to the HCDC's meetings, Pass Christian resident Dr. Frank Schmidt, was published recently in the Sun Herald. Dr. Schmidt has provided GCN his letter and it sums up the situation:

Aug. 10, 2005
Re: HCDC vs Kinney

Five years ago Harrison County Development Commission sued a local  citizen
in stead of complying with his legal and reasonable  request for   public
records concerning the rock plant on Espy Avenue  in the Long Beach
Industrial Park.

Despite a ruling in Chancery Court on February 10, 2004 in favor of  Mr.
Kinney and a reconsideration of the case  by the same Chancery Judge  on
April 9 also in Kinney's  favor, the case is still alive today and costing
the county ever more money in legal fees.

HCDC complied with the Court order to produce the records but is appealing
the order to pay Kinney's legal expenses of $8,160 and civil penalty of
$100.  HCDC  has incurred its own  legal costs of $50,000 plus so far in
pressing this case.  Remember that all expenses are borne by the county, not
any Commissoner or officer of HCDC.
Who is profiting from this ill-advised action? Harrison County through
HCDC could face a total of $75,000 or much more when the Court of Appeals
rules in this matter.

The only person gaining financially is their attorney; everyone else loses. 
Why has HCDC persisted in this misbegotten  law suit?  Could it be spite and
jealousy directed at  Kinney, the defendant?  Is this arrogant  misfeasance
in the use of taxpayer's money proper?  I think not!

There are new Commissioners who seem forthright and dedicated to their
duties.  New blood is definitely good.  The old timers (years on the
Commission, not age) should resign at once and give our industrial
development a chance to turn into a county  asset rather than an
embarrassment.  Many of  the  group have said they want to start anew.  Now
is the time for action.  They should resign now.

Frank L. Schmidt
Pass Christian, Ms.


Related:

Supervisors ask HCDC to Drop Appeal - Sun Herald - 8/7/05

New HCDC Director Close to Being Hired - GulfCoastNews  

Slippery Business IV - Judge Rules HCDC Violated Open Records Laws - GulfCoastnews.com
 

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