Alabama Supreme Court upholds decision against Marion County Commission

MONTGOMERY - The Alabama Supreme Court has upheld the December 2017 ruling of former 25th Judicial Circuit Judge John Bentley that went in favor of five Marion County municipalities.
Winfield, Guin, Brilliant, Gu-Win and Twin sued the Marion County Commission in 2015 over the manner in which the commission began redistributing a two-cent sales tax. On Dec. 18, 2017, Bentley, now retired from the bench, ruled that the Marion County Commission must pay $657,344 to the towns. Attorneys for the Marion County Commission appealed and last week the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed, with no further opinion, Bentley’s ruling.
The attorneys for the county commission have 14 days to file an application for rehearing, according the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure. The application for a rehearing “must state with particularity the points of law or the facts the applicant believes the court overlooked or misapprehended,” according to procedure.
The attorneys for the county commission did not return calls seeking comment on the matter.
“It’s not often that a rehearing results in a reversal of the original opinion,” said Eddie Jackson of Jackson, Fikes, Hood and Brakefield, the law firm representing the five Marion County towns.
The lawsuit is over a two-cent county sales tax, commonly referred to as the hospital tax that was levied in 1949 for the building of hospitals and clinics in Marion County.
When the county was divesting itself of ownership of the hospital in Hamilton (now North Mississippi Medical Center-Hamilton), an act was passed by the state Legislature in 1981 (Act 81-744) which allows for the revenue from the hospital tax to be distributed in a specific manner.
The suit notes that payments continued unaffected from 1981 until May 2015. In June 2015, the county began distributing the money differently, giving about 18 percent of the funds to the municipalities, according to the suit.
The suit also claims that since then, the county has distributed the two-cent hospital tax arbitrarily and that doing so is a violation of the 1981 act.
Marion County Commission Administrator Brooke Slatton told the Journal Record in 2017 that the reason the amount paid to the municipalities changed was because the county had only been paying interest on the county’s bond issue rather than paying on the principal.
According to Slatton, state auditors told the county to change the payments and make sure that the principal was being paid on.
The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief to recover a total of $490,772.32 from the county, as well as future funds that would be paid under the act.

Bentley
Retired 25th Judicial Circuit Judge John Bentley

from the bench, ruled that the Marion County Commission must pay $657,344 to the towns. Attorneys for the Marion County Commission appealed and last week the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed, with no further opinion, Bentley’s ruling.

 


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