Carl Newman subpoenaed in airport case

By ANTHONY WARREN,

The former chief executive officer (CEO) of the Jackson Municipal Airport (JMAA) will testify in the Jackson airport takeover case.

Carl Newman, who resigned as CEO on March 26, has been issued a subpoena to testify in the case challenging the state’s attempted takeover of the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers Airport.

The city of Jackson is challenging the implementation of SB 2162, a bill that does away with the JMAA board and replaces it with a regional board with members appointed by the governor and other entities, essentially wresting control of the airport from the capital city.

The bill was passed by the legislature in 2016 and signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant.

According to the subpoena, Newman was slated to appear at the Walter Sillers Building on May 17, to give his deposition.

However, attorneys for the city asked for additional time, as well as a change of venue to accommodate Newman, who is now in Arizona.

Bryant is also requesting depositions from Vernon Hartley, Lawanda Harris, James Henley and Evelyn Reed, all of whom were members of the JMAA board of directors at the time of the takeover.

The deadline for discovery in the case was May 17, the day Newman’s deposition was due. Jackson and the state now hope to reschedule the deposition sometime by the end of July.

Attorneys for the city are also still seeking to interview Joey Songy, Bryant’s chief of staff. 

Motions for time extensions have been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Meanwhile, oral arguments slated for June 10 before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals have been rescheduled for July 11.

In that case, the state is appealing a decision handed down by District Court Magistrate Keith Ball, regarding the release of private correspondence related to SB 2162.

Jackson attorneys were seeking the release of all electronic correspondence between lawmakers, saying the information would help determine the state’s motives behind the takeover.

Attorneys for the state argue that releasing the information could have a “chilling effect” on lawmakers’ ability to discuss and craft legislation.

Ball ruled that correspondence between those lawmakers and third parties could be released. However, correspondence between legislators and government officials could be sealed.

For the latter communications, Ball ruled the state had to provide a “privilege log” stating what information was not being released.

The state appealed that decision to the Fifth Circuit.

SB 2162 was authored by Sens. Josh Harkins, Dean Kirby, Philip Moran, Chris Caughman and Nickey Browning, a cohort of white Republicans.

JMAA is currently served by a five-member board appointed by the Jackson mayor and city council. All members are African American.

Lawmakers have long since argued that the takeover was because of poor management. Jackson leadership has questioned whether the takeover is race-related.

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