Fight for Jackson Airport: City, JMAA Join Stallworth's Lawsuit Against State

City Attorney Monica Joiner said that if approved the city will join Rev. Jeffrey Stallworth's federal lawsuit against the airport takeover.

City Attorney Monica Joiner said that if approved the city will join Rev. Jeffrey Stallworth's federal lawsuit against the airport takeover. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— The City of Jackson and the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority announced Thursday afternoon that they would be filing a joint motion to intervene in the ongoing lawsuit filed by former JMAA Commissioner Jeffrey Stallworth in the latest stage of the fight over Jackson's airport.

A motion to intervene, if approved by the presiding judge, would place the City and JMAA as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which they say will bring no additional financial burden to either body.

"Today we want to announce that the City and the JMAA have filed a motion to intervene on the current lawsuit that is related to the illegal takeover of our airport," Mayor Tony Yarber said. "The City and JMAA are moving forward in this legal battle to preserve the property and interest of our citizens, to be sure that those certain rights under our constitution are being protected."

Yarber also confirmed that the City would not appoint any members to the board that the law created, which is supposed to take effect on July 1. He said that the current board would continue to operate after that deadline.

Dr. Rosie Pridgen, chairman of the JMAA, said that the attempt to take over the airport took a turn after the federal government changed its policy over the issuance of airport operation certificates.

"It provides that when the transfer of the airport operating certificate is disputed the FAA will not act upon an application to transfer the certificate until the dispute is definitively resolved to the satisfaction of the FAA," Pridgen said. "The JMAA board vehemently opposes any transfer of the airport operating certificate. It is unfortunate that we are having to move to the legal realm to protect our airports from this unjust, hostile legislation. However it is our fiduciary responsibilities to do what is in the best interests of our airports and this proposed legislation is being disputed."

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Republican lawmakers from outside the capital city announced in January a plan to take control of the Jackson airport.

City Attorney Monica Joiner said that the City would not discuss any strategies or details of their arguments against SB 2162, but that a part of the plan would build on Stallworth's assertions that the restructuring of the board is a violation of their constitutional rights.

"Our claims will be somewhat different than Reverend Stallworth's claims; however, they are similar in that all of the claims will show an infringement of some basic rights as well as some constitutional rights," Joiner said.

"The conflict arises out of the same issue, the same matter, the same legislation," Joiner said. "It makes sense to consolidate these in an effort to not only waste the judicial resources but all of ours."

Joiner said City employees would perform all the lawsuit work, and in that way neither the JMAA or the City would take on any extra financial burden that a lawsuit could bring.

Other city leaders expressed their invested interest in the "fight to keep" the airport.

"I have been representing the City of Jackson for 32 years now, and never in my history here have i ever seen anything as ridiculous as this is," Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said. "The very idea that people of the City of Jackson invested in this airport, own this airport, and that someone at the state capitol believes that he can take it from our citizens, and we will fight this to the bitter end."

"The airport belongs to us, and we are going to fight to keep it," Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman said. "And we are going to fight to keep it, and we are going to fight to keep it."

The federal docket for the lawsuit showed that not only had the motion been entered but that the City leaders, including the council and the mayor, along with the JMAA board members had joined the lawsuit pending approval for their motion to intervene.

Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at tim@jacksonfreepress.com. Read more about the attempted airport takeover at jfp.ms/airport.


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