City of Jackson, Miss., Told to Pay Legal Costs in Dispute With Newspaper

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Hinds County Chancellor Denise Owens has ordered the city of Jackson to pay nearly $13,000 in fees to cover more than half of The Clarion-Ledger’s legal costs in its open records lawsuit.

“It is our hope that this finally settles the public records issue with the city. The court system has more pressing matters than to hear cases already firmly established by law,” Clarion-Ledger executive editor Ronnie Agnew said Tuesday.

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton vowed to fight what he called “irrelevant” records requests recently made by the newspaper.

“Everything we send in that’s a positive for the city, it never gets in print. Yet, our employees have wasted their time putting all this stuff together,” Melton said. “It’s harassment. There’s no question about it.”

Melton offered no specifics.

Clarion-Ledger attorney Leonard Van Slyke said he hopes the agreement ends months of legal wrangling. The newspaper filed a lawsuit in May seeking access to payroll records, crime statistics and other records after repeated attempts to gain access to the records were denied.

“We hope and believe that, as a result of this lawsuit, the city is now more sensitive to the need for public access to information,” Van Slyke said. “The education of the citizenry is absolutely critical to the proper functioning of a democratic government.”

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