May 8, 2008…8:50 am
The Travis Childers and Jimmy R. Morgan vs Tishomingo County Lawsuit
It’s 2 in the morning, I’ve had too many cups of coffee and my bleary eyes are crossed from reading the whale of paperwork that is this lawsuit. This thing has more lives than a barn cat. And it has more pages than a Herman Wouk novel. But I will try to do a Reader Digest condensed version of it with the following disclaimers. I am not a lawyer. I shamefully confess that I always wished that I had become one (the Matlock type, not the Jim Hood type), but I didn’t. I am also not a real estate agent. So my opinions herein are to be taken with this in mind: Folks alot smarter than me (or is it I) wrote these papers and a country boy is trying to interpret them.
I am a citizen of Tishomingo County and I was surprised to hear that I, as a member of this county, had been sued by Travis Childers. What did this mean? What had I ever done to good ole Travis? So, I decided to do a little digging and with some help, I was able obtain a copy of the lawsuit. In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal how I obtained this copy. The County of Tishomingo, Circuit Clerks office, charged $89 for the copy ($0.25 per copy). I understand that this was paid for by “Concerned Citizens of Tishomingo County”, some folks on the other side of the political fence from Travis, who do have a vested interest in bringing this to light. But as most people who know me knows, I would have broached this subject whether there was an election upcoming or not.
I have had my copy for almost a week and have now read it 3 times. Tonight was the first time I read it through at one sitting, but I did it to get a full sense of the whole preceeding. And believe me, Matlock it ain’t. I also contacted some county officials, the county Attorney, and other interested parties. I did email the Childers campaign through their website, but did not get a response. I did later get an email asking for money, although it was not directly from the Childers campaign.
So, why is ole Travis suing Tishomingo County? Let’s start with a letter from the office of Carnathan and Malski dated Feb 20, 1991. It is addressed to Toy Junior Bonds and wife, Billie Bonds. In this letter, the Mississippi Major Economic Impact Authority, hereafter referred to as the State Agency, expresses a need to purchase Mr. and Mrs. Bonds property due to Nasa moving into Tishomingo County and the possible need of a buffer zone around the area for further development, or support structure. Here is a key phrase in this letter that is listed as one of the basis for the lawsuit. “If for some reason you think that you are not being offered just compensation for your property, you may present the Authority’s representative with evidence supporting your claim. This evidence will be considered in an effort to be fair, cooperative, and understanding. If an agreement cannot be reached and there are differences of opinion about the value of the property being acquired, the best way to insure equitable treatment for all is to put the matter before the courts. This is what is known as condemnation or an eminent domain proceeding. In such a proceeding, a jury will determine the amount of money you will be paid.” This phrasing was one of the legs on which the entire lawsuit stands. The lawsuit states that the state agency used a threat of eminent domain to obtain this land fraudulently from the defendants. They also claim that since NASA never came to Tishomingo County, then the agency had no right to wield the threat of Eminent Domain. Now, I am supposing, the letter addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Bonds is used as just an example of letters sent to other property owners. I did not find any reference to a similar letter addressed to Mr. Childers. In an amended complaint filed Nov. 15, 1996, the Plantiffs state that the Agency “perpetrated a fraud on the Citizens fo Tishomingo County, Ms living in the area identified as the ‘Buffer Zone’“. So I am assuming that Mr. Childers, a very very successful Chancery Clerk and Real Estate agent, would have known all the ins and outs of eminent domain proceedings and what they could do and not do. I do not know how Mr. Childers came to possess land within the area that was chosen for the buffer zone as that is not addressed at all in the Lawsuit, or if their was a tie-in with some of the other names that are sprinkled throughout the many pages of this piece of very boring legal jungle of papers.
So, bored yet? On 2-15-1996, Travis Childers and Jimmy R. Morgan filed suit in a Special Court of Eminent Domain in Tishomingo County, Ms. The claim: “That the conveyance of the aforesaid property was against the will and desire of the Plaintiffs, but that under threat of eminent domain, Plaintiffs did convey said property against their wishes.” They asked to be allowed to repurchase the property at fair market value.
The Plantiffs then filed a motion to transfer the case to Circuit Court, Tishomingo County as there were some “rights and causes of action due the Plantiffs here that are not triable in the Special Court of Eminent Domain”. This motion was in November 1996. Moving the case to Circuit Court allows the Plantiffs to allege fraud, misrepresentation, and economic loss. The order to move to Circuit Court was signed on Sep. 29, 1997.
There was a order issued on 17 Dec. 1998 signed by Judge Barry W. Ford, the case was dimissed due to no action in the previous 12 months.
In Jan 2000, plantiffs filed a motion to reinstate the case which was signed off by Judge Russell on 24 January 2000. The explaination according to the Motion to Reinstate was that the plantiffs forwarded some paperwork to the Defendant (the Agency), and he did not respond and time ran out.
On a filing on Feb. 3, 2000, the above mentioned letter is now referred to as being “a letter addressed to Plantiffs and dated Feb. 29, 1991″. This seems to imply that the land referred to in the letter now belongs to Mr. Childers and Mr. Morgan, but I didn’t see any legal papers in this suit that made that explained that connection for me.
From this point forward, there are filings and motions and refilings all the way up to March 1, 2005 when all of the property of the State Agency is transferred to Tishomingo County. An order is issued to substitute Tishomingo County as the Defendant.
Tishomingo County claims in filings that “we didn’t do anything wrong”, but the Plantiffs say that the county inherited the bad with the good and will have to pony up for the actions of the state. The amount of economic damages due to the Plantiffs is unspecified in the paperwork and has been guessed at with a wide range, depending upon who you ask.
So, Travis Childers bought, or aquired, some land in Tishomingo County. He sold it at a fair market profit and now he wants it back. The State referred to Eminent Domain proceedings in a letter and that unfairly caused some property owners to make a “bad deal” for their property. Tishomingo County now has the task of defending the lawsuit and settling this and paying any damages awarded. So, what is the big deal over a little property?
The property in question is located near the Pickwick Area. Land and construction in that area is unaware that there may be a recession going on in this country. Property is extremely valueable in that area and I have been told some outrageous prices per acre that this land may be worth. Now, remember, I am not a realestate agent, so I won’t speculate on any realestate prices. However, I do wish I owned a few acres of it. I’d sell it and take a long vacation.
So, has Travis done anything wrong? You will have to decide that. But he does have Tishomingo County sued and I wonder why, if he is running for such a high-profile office, why didn’t he just drop the suit? Is the land worth that much? Is there sentimental value? I understand that the state may have done you wrong, but now you are suing the people you propose to represent? Maybe I stand to be corrected and if I am, please email me to correct me.
As always, I’m calling it as I see it, and asking about what I don’t understand. It never hurts to have an opinion, even if it is different than mine.