Officials named in lawsuit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2002

News Editor

A lawsuit filed against the Pike County Commission and the Pike County Board of Education also names several school board members and county commissioners as defendants in the suit.

The lawsuit was filed in Pike County Circuit Court on Jan. 22 by Pike County resident Jeffery Baker concerning the redistricting plan recently approved by both the school board and the commission to be submitted to the U.S. Justice Department. Baker alleges that the lines were drawn to eliminate the opposition of several of the commissioners and school board members, by moving residents of Baker Road to different districts.

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Two judges, Judge Robert W. Barr and Judge Gary McAliley have recused themselves from hearing the case. Judge Barr said he could not comment as to why he recused himself because the case was still pending. Judge McAliley could not be reached for comment before press time Monday.

Named in the suit are the Pike County Commission, the Pike County School Board, Commissioner Charlie Harris, Pike County School Board Member Linda Steed and Reynolds Hubbard.

The lawsuit has been turned over to Judge Thomas Head. As of Monday, a date for the hearing concerning the lawsuit had not yet been set.

The new districting plan was adopted for forwarding to the Justice Department on Jan. 21. At a public hearing held before the regular commission meeting that day, Baker voiced his opposition to the new district lines.

"I believe Commissioner Goodson and Harris are trying to cut out their opposition," said Baker who ran against District Five Commissioner Charlie Harris in the last election. "This puts us in a district with a majority of white voters. That road is a political road. To displace us doesn’t make sense. Terry Sneed was also displaced into district five. I asked the board and the commission to go back and reconsider this."

Sneed ran against District Four Commissioner Ray Goodson in the last election.

According to the 2000 census results, the commission was required to draw new district lines. Because districts two and five lacked enough people to remain above the required 70 percent needed to complete a district, the district lines had to be redrawn to include parts of districts four and six.

Baker was the only opposition to speak at the public hearing.

County Attorney Allen Jones said he could not comment on a pending case.

Pike County Superintendent of Schools John Key said, "We have submitted a copy of the lawsuit to our attorney for his opinion.

He has not returned to us with an opinion yet, therefore I cannot make a comment at this time."

When contacted, Jeffery Baker said he chose to not make any further comments until he had a reaction from the county or the court.

If it is determined in court that Baker has just cause for filing the suit, the U.S. Justice Department will be forced to take up the matter.