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Mississippi County v. City of Osceola

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 2, 2017

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, ARKANSAS; QUORUM COURT OF MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, ARKANSAS; RANDY CARNEY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COUNTY JUDGE; MISSISSIPPI COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS; AND MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CLERK APPELLANTS
v.
CITY OF OSCEOLA, ARKANSAS; JAMES ROBERT BAKER, JR.; AND DOROTHY J. POLLOCK APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NOS. 47-OCV-2017-5, 47-BCV-2017-3] HONORABLE DAVID N. LASER, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED.

          Steel, Wright, Gray & Hutchinson, PLLC, by: Alex T. Gray, Nate Steel, and Jeremy Hutchinson, for appellants.

          McDaniel, Richardson & Calhoun, PLLC, by: Bart W. Calhoun, for appellees.

          ROBIN F. WYNNE, Associate Justice

         This is an appeal from the Mississippi County Circuit Court's judgment granting a permanent injunction of a March 14, 2017 special election. Appellants argue that the circuit court erred by enjoining the special election on the grounds that Act 81 of 1901, which establishes two separate judicial districts in Mississippi County, prohibits an ordinance that amends an existing sales-and-use tax and an ordinance that authorizes the issuance of bonds to finance a new Mississippi County Courthouse to be located in Blytheville, Arkansas.[1]Specifically, they argue that Ordinance No. O-2016-16, [2] which amends an existing sales- and-use-tax ordinance to change the indicated use of revenues, is expressly authorized by Arkansas law and does not violate Act 81 of 1901[3] because (i) Act 81 is ambiguous and should be read in harmony with Arkansas Code Annotated sections 26-74-201 et seq. (Repl. 2008 & Supp. 2015); (ii) Act 81 has been superseded by section 26-74-201; and (iii) the plain language of the "Amended Sales and Use Tax" does not violate Act 81. Appellants also argue that Resolution No. R-2016-16, which referred Ordinance No. O-2016-16 to the electors for their acceptance or rejection, is not prohibited by Act 81. Regarding Ordinance No. O-2016-17, [4] which called a special election on the question of issuing bonds for the construction of a new courthouse in Blytheville, appellants argue that the issuance of bonds is permissible and that Act 81 "has nothing to do with" the county's ability to issue bonds. Because this appeal pertains to enjoining an election, our jurisdiction is pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 1-2(a)(4) (2016) (appeals pertaining to elections and election procedures) and Arkansas Rule of Appellate Procedure-Civil 2(a)(6) (2016) (an interlocutory order by which an injunction is granted). We affirm.

         On December 13, 2016, the Mississippi County Quorum Court enacted the two ordinances and one resolution at issue in the present case.[5] Ordinance No. O-2016-16 amended an existing ordinance, No. O-2014-11, [6] which levied a 0.5% sales-and-use tax within Mississippi County (the Tax) to be used for the Mississippi County Hospital System (County Hospital Purposes), to redesignate the use of the net collections of the Tax as follows:

(i) fifty percent (50%) for County Hospital Purposes and (ii) fifty percent (50%) for one or more of the following: (A) to acquire construct, repair, improve, renovate, equip, furnish, operate and maintain new or existing County courthouses and court facilities; (B) for County Hospital Purposes; (C) to construct, reconstruct, restore, improve, maintain, alter and repair County roads, bridges, culverts and related structures[;] and (D) to pay and secure the repayment of bonds approved by the voters and issued by the County from time to time to finance capital improvements[.]

         Ordinance No. O-2016-16 also proposed to extend the levy of the Tax from its initial end date of March 31, 2020, until March 31, 2047. In Resolution No. R-2016-16, the quorum court referred Ordinance No. O-2016-16 to the voters for approval or rejection in a special election to be held on March 14, 2017.

         In a related ordinance, No. O-2016-17, the quorum court found as follows:

WHEREAS, the Quorum Court of Mississippi County, Arkansas (the "County") has determined that there is a need to acquire, construct, equip, and furnish a new County courthouse to be located in Blytheville, Arkansas, which will include particularly, without limitation, court facilities and administrative offices of the County, and any necessary land acquisition and utility, road, parking and drainage improvements related thereto or in support thereof (the "New County Courthouse"); and
WHEREAS, the County can finance all or a portion of the costs of the New County Courthouse by the issuance of capital improvement bonds (the "Bonds") in one or more series in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $22, 500, 000 under the authority of Amendment No. 62 to the Constitution of the State of Arkansas ("Amendment 62") and Title 14, Chapter 164, Subchapter 3 of the Arkansas Code of 1987 Annotated (the "Authorizing Legislation"); and
WHEREAS, the County can pay the principal of and interest on the Bonds from a pledge as collateral of fifty percent (50%) of the net collections received from the County's 0.5% sales and use tax levied by Ordinance No. O-2014-11, as amended, which will expire on March 31, 2047 (the "Tax"); and
WHEREAS, the purpose of this Ordinance is to submit to the electors of the County at a special election the question of issuing the Bonds under Amendment 62 and the Authorizing Legislation for the purposes set forth herein[.]

         Accordingly, Ordinance No. O-2016-17 calls a special election to be held on March 14, 2017, on the question of issuing the Bonds to finance all or a portion of the costs of the New County Courthouse in Blytheville, to be secured by a pledge as collateral of fifty percent of the net collections of the Tax.

         On January 11, 2017, appellees City of Osceola, Arkansas; James Robert Baker, Jr.; and Dorothy J. Pollock[7] (hereinafter "Osceola") filed a petition seeking a temporary and permanent injunction of the March 14, 2017 special election to amend Ordinance No. O-2014-11 and approve courthouse bonds. Named as defendants were the appellants herein: Mississippi County, Arkansas; Quorum Court of Mississippi County, Arkansas; Randy Carney, in His Official Capacity as County Judge; Mississippi County Board of Election Commissioners; and Mississippi County Clerk. In its petition, Osceola contended that (A) Ordinance No. O-2016-16 and Ordinance No. O-2016-17 constitute an illegal exaction on Mississippi County taxpayers; (B) Defendants violated the Arkansas Code and Arkansas Freedom of Information Act; (C) Blytheville is not a county seat of Mississippi County and thus the construction of a courthouse in Blytheville to be funded by taxation on plaintiffs Baker and Pollock and the taxpayers of Osceola, the Osceola Judicial District, and Mississippi County is unlawful; and (D) in the alternative, if the court finds that Act 81 does not invalidate the ordinances or prevent an election on such ordinances, the proposed courthouse bonds are not sufficiently secured by funds to be collected pursuant to the ...


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