Court Ends Melton Business Battle | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Court Ends Melton Business Battle

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The Mississippi Supreme Court closed another distant chapter in the litigious mayoral career of Frank Melton this week, when it affirmed a lower court's decision to dismiss a temporary restraining order that business owner Charlotte Reeves filed in 2007 to protect her company from demolition.

In 2007, Melton told reporters that he would tear down A-1 Pallet Company, located at 1000 North Mill St. He publicly ordered city code-enforcement officers to uncover enough evidence to condemn the company.

Reeves, a Jackson resident, filed and received a temporary restraining order in June 2007 in Hinds County Chancery Court to prevent the city from demolishing any buildings on the property, until the Jackson Historic Preservation Commission could rule on the city's request to demolish buildings on the land.

The late mayor is widely remembered for leading a troop of youths and police officers to illegally demolish a home on Ridgeway Street in 2006, claiming the duplex was a site of drug sales--even though no drugs were recovered on the property at the time of the illegal demolition. State prosecutors and the federal government took turns prosecuting Melton and his bodyguards for the demolition, but a jury failed to convict Melton until the federal government dropped the case after Melton's death in 2009.

Reeves and her husband Carl Monte Reeves said it was Melton's destructive tendencies that prompted them to file the temporary restraining order, and later a motion for permanent injunction in July 2007.

"The way this man works, I expect to see demolition trucks outside my gates any given morning," Reeves told the Jackson Free Press in 2007.

The Historic Preservation Commission ordered the city to keep its hands off the property in September 2007 with a 5-to-0 decision, which the city did not attempt to appeal.

Emboldened, A-1 Pallet's owners filed another motion Oct. 2, 2008, demanding compensation from the city for revenue loss the company had suffered as a result of the city's threat. Reeves argued that many people who bought or sold recycled pallets assumed A-1 Pallet had gone out of business in the shadow of Melton's vocal demolition threats.

The city argued that Hinds County Chancery Court was no place to fight over damages, and disputed that the case needed to be filed in circuit court. Chancery Court Judge DeWayne Thomas ruled last May that requests for damages related to the injunction needed to be in Hinds County Circuit--but dissolved the company's temporary restraining order and denied its request for permanent injunction because the city had not bothered to appeal the Historic Preservation's September 2007 decision.

City attorney Pieter Teeuwissen said this morning that the city had no further plans for the property.

"The administration has expressed no interest in taking up any legal action against A-1 Pallet," Teeuwissen said. "The city does have concerns about the condition of the property, but any concerns in the future will be taken through the proper channels."

Reeves told the Jackson Free Press this morning that she was not aware of the Supreme Court's Aug. 3 decision, and would contemplate whether to further pursue her compensation claim against the city.

"We lost a whole lot of business as a result of the city's action--a lot of business," Reeves said.

The decision concludes another episode of the city's ongoing clean-up of Melton's legal detritus. The Jackson city council voted last month to reach a financial settlement of $20,000, plus demolition costs, with Jennifer Sutton, the owner of the Ridgeway Street duplex that Melton demolished in 2006.

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