COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A panel of judges with the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday over a case challenging the formation of a special taxing district along Business Loop 70 in Columbia.
Former Business Loop Community Improvement District resident Jen Henderson filed a lawsuit in January 2016 after an election raised the sales tax in the area by a half-cent to pay for public improvements. She lost that case the same year.
Henderson claimed the CID committed constitutional violations during the election.
"We are alleging that it violated state constitutions, protection for a secret ballot. The ballot here was not secret, it required voters to put their names and addresses on it," said Henderson's attorney Richard Reuben.
"There are also statutory violations such as the length of time that voters had to consider the question. They had nine days. The state statute, the general election statute, generally requires about ten weeks," he said.
A Boone County Circuit Court judge dismissed the lawsuit that would have thrown out the result of the December election in March 2016. However, Henderson could not appeal the judgment because it was not final. She took her case to the Missouri Supreme Court, which ordered the circuit judge to issue a final ruling.
Wednesday's hearing centers on the appeal of that final ruling.
"This is a case that, depending upon what comes out, whether or not when a specialty jurisdiction imposes that tax, they have to comply with the general legal rules regarding those elections and whether somebody who believes that they didn't like my client can go to court and challenge it," said Reuben.
Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Loop CID, said in a statement Wednesday that the election was legal.
"The election was conducted lawfully and it's important to remember that the Business Loop CID has been upheld by the courts many times before this. We cannot comment on any pending litigation but we've worked with the community to develop both a corridor improvement plan and an economic development plan for the Business Loop and we're working hard to strengthen an area of Columbia that’s been neglected for decades."