The Neosho City Council and the Neosho Transportation Development District can agree on one thing: the TDD was not properly formed in accordance with state statute.
In a Tuesday evening council meeting, Steve Hays, Neosho city attorney, spoke of a letter, written by TDD board chairman Jim Cummins, in which Cummins acknowledged that the TDD had been improperly formed.
The letter, dated Sept. 20 and addressed to Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith, read, “While the NTDD acknowledges, based on legal advice, that it was not properly formed in accordance with applicable Missouri statutes, we believe, based on pertinent case law and other factors, that the NTDD is not invalid.”
Hays said that letter was the first documentation the city had received in which the TDD had acknowledged the flaw.
“That did acknowledge that creation was, in light of the reading of the statute and interpretation that recently was brought out, it was improper and that it would not meet the statutory elements of what was required,” Hays said.
However, Cummins said it was Hays who had originally filed the formation of the TDD under the wrong statute and that the TDD is still believed to be legitimate.
“I think that’s important to note, that we agree that the city attorney filed it under the wrong statute,” Cummins said.
“That does not make it invalid per the legal advice we are getting. That makes it problematic, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s automatically invalid.”
Hays said he had originally filed the petition on April 28, 2009, under subsection 2 of RSMo 238.207, which at the time was believed to be correct.
However, subsection 2 does not identify property owners, who have acted as the voters in the Neosho TDD, as qualified voters. In another section of the same chapter, RSMo 238.202, subsections 1 and 5 do recognize property owners as qualified voters.
Hays noted that he was among numerous attorneys, including those representing MoDOT, who reviewed the language of the petition on at least three separate occasions and believed forming under subsection 2 to be proper at that time.
“I’ll take responsibility to the extent that I believed what every other attorney at that time believed who was involved,” Hays said.
Richard Davidson, Neosho mayor, said Tuesday that the TDD’s acknowledgement of a flaw confirmed the city’s concerns.
“They’ve again validated our concern,” Davidson said. “Up until now they had said it was ridiculous, it was forcing them to spend money they didn’t need to spend, now it appears they acknowledge there is a problem.”
The city of Neosho filed a petition with the 40th circuit court on Aug. 21, charging that the TDD was never lawfully organized.
Page 2 of 2 - An Oct. 29 court hearing on that petition has been set, and Hays said he expects the issue will not be resolved before then.
Council members also noted Tuesday evening that the TDD had not been communicating with the council to work through the issues.
“They’re going and telling the public ‘we’re working with the city, we’re going to make this happen, and we’re going to address these concerns’ and then, it’s a concern for me as a councilman, because that’s news to me and so my point is, they’re not,” said councilman Charlie Collinsworth.
Cummins said on Wednesday that the claim the TDD has not been communicating with the city is untrue.
In their Sept. 18 meeting, the Neosho City Council proposed essentially replacing the TDD with a Community Improvement District, which, like the TDD, would collect a half-cent sales tax, though Cummins said the TDD board sees complications in changing course so far into the process.
“If we’d have started from the beginning with the city CID it probably would’ve been a great project,” Cummins said. “We’re way down the road, we’ve got commitments, we’ve got people that have financed this thing. I think we’ve got some hurdles that would have to be addressed.”
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To read more on Tuesday’s Neosho City Council meeting, see Friday’s edition of the Neosho Daily News.