April 24, 2013 10:51:01 AM
William McGovern, the man who legally challenged the city's process for developing municipal facilities improvements, died Monday, sources confirmed Tuesday. He was 73.
Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt confirmed McGovern died of natural causes at approximately 1:30 p.m. at OCH Regional Medical Center. Attorney Charles Yoste, who represented McGovern's legal challenge against the City of Starkville, confirmed a home address for McGovern provided by Welch Funeral Home.
Nina Welch, a funeral home spokesperson, said Tuesday memorial services have not yet been arranged.
"I've known Bill and his wife for about 35 years. He was a great American who believed in America and the values this country stands for," Yoste said of McGovern. "That's why he was involved in this litigation. He got up there and put his name out there for others."
Starkville TEA Party Chairman Jane Vemer said she learned of McGovern's passing during a Monday gathering for GOP mayoral candidate Dan Moreland.
McGovern first filed a bill of exceptions appeal in circuit court in June, the same month aldermen approved a construction and renovation plan which does not raise local tax rates. He later filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission accusing the city of violating the state's open meetings law. The bill of exceptions was voluntarily dismissed and replaced by an objection filed with the Oktibbeha County Chancery Court.
He objected to the city's plan to issue certificates of participation as a financing mechanism for the project. His complaint also stated the city left pertinent information blank in its approved plan.
Oktibbeha County Chancery Judge Jim Davidson's December ruling stated "due process requirements of law" were met by the city and allegations of open meetings violations were "collateral and have no bearing upon the ultimate decision."
The MEC ruled the city failed to strictly comply with the state's Open Meetings Act and simply warned officials about their actions.
Yoste filed an appeal on McGovern's behalf with the Miss. Supreme Court on Jan. 9, but Starkville's legal counsel contested that the motion was filed after the 20-day appeal deadline, which ended Jan. 7. The high court granted City Attorney Chris Latimer's dismissal, nullifying the appeal.
Again, Yoste filed another motion on McGovern's behalf in February, this time asking the court to reconsider the appeal. The court denied his request.
As of Feb. 21, the city spent $44,989.77 to fund litigation costs and defend its municipal facilities plan. Additional costs incurred from the second Supreme Court appeal were not readily available Tuesday.
That same month, STP officials confirmed they acted as middle-men for donations to McGovern's cause. Members said they collected private donations from both STP-involved residents and those not affiliated with the group, then funneled the funds to Yoste to help reduce McGovern's financial burden. The organization, spokespersons said, did not use its own money for donations.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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