Judges recuse themselves from Diamondhead bond validation
By Dwayne Bremer
May 27, 2014, 18:51
All four of the Coast's chancery court judges on Tuesday recused themselves from a bond validation hearing for the city of Diamondhead.
The city is seeking to obtain a $1.2 million bond, which will be used to purchase and renovate the city hall property on Diamondhead Circle.
Under state law, if there are objections to the bond, it must be validated by chancery court.
More than 160 Diamondhead residents objected to the bond and the hearing was set for Tuesday in Hancock County Chancery Court, Diamondhead resident Peter Kopf said Tuesday.
Before the hearing could begin; however, Chancery Judge Jim Persons recused himself, citing prior business dealings with at least one of the objectors, officials said.
The hearing was moved to Judge Sandy Steckler's court in Biloxi, but Steckler also recused himself later in the day.
Fellow chancery judges Jennifer Schloegel and Carter Bise also recused themselves from the case, Diamondhead city attorney Sean Tindell said Tuesday.
Tuesday's hearing would have been the second such hearing for Diamondhead in the past year.
Last year, the city's previous mayor and city council attempted to push through a similar bond to purchase and renovate the city hall property.
Many of the objectors in the current case had objected to last year's bond. In her ruling last year, Schloegel said the city followed the state's lease-purchase law, but she denied validation, in part, because it violated the state's "lame duck" clause, excluding certain bonds and purchases in the final quarter of an administration.
Diamondhead Mayor Tommy Schafer--who took office after last year's hearing-- said Tuesday that the city council recently passed a new resolution to obtain a bond.
He said the city never objected to last year's ruling and the current bond validation is a new process.
"What was done last year was under the last administration," he said. "This is a different bond. We have scaled back the renovations. In my opinion, this is an excellent value and what is best for the city."
Kopf said the objectors are against the city obtaining the bond, but he did not go into detail about the objections.
"I would rather that come out in court," he said.
No specific date for the hearing was set by press time Tuesday.
Attorney William Kulick, who represented the objectors, said a special chancellor will be appointed by the supreme court and the case will most-likely be heard within a few weeks.