COLUMBIA — Attorneys representing the Business Loop Community Improvement District have filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate a sales tax election held in December.
Two defendants in the lawsuit filed by Jen Henderson seeking to invalidate a sales tax election held by the Business Loop Community Improvement District have filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler to dismiss the suit.
Attorney Richard Reuben filed the lawsuit on Jan. 8 on behalf of Jennifer Henderson, a resident of the district who opposed the sales tax. The lawsuit argued that the election should be deemed invalid because of the lack of secret ballots, a secure ballot box, adequate notice of the election and a neutral election administrator, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The CID conducted the election by mail-in ballot from Dec. 1-10. The sales tax passed on a 4-3 vote.
Attorneys Caleb Colbert and Jeffrey Parshall are representing the district in the lawsuit. They filed the motion to dismiss on behalf of the district's executive director, Carrie Gartner, and its board chairman, Tom May, who are both named as defendants in the case.
The motion to dismiss argues that:
- The CID was lawfully created and approved by the Columbia City Council.
- There is no statutory authority that allows Henderson to challenge the vote.
- The general election laws in Chapter 115 of the state statutes, which Reuben cited in his petition, do not apply to the CID.
"The election was conducted lawfully, and we intend to vigorously defend both the election process and the outcome," Gartner said in an email statement. "Other than that, we cannot comment on pending litigation."
Reuben was unavailable for comment on Thursday.
A hearing on the case was originally scheduled for Feb. 8, but that will be delayed because Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler has recused himself, according to records on Missouri Casenet. Presiding Circuit Judge Jodie Asel will reassign the case.
Henderson has been opposed to the sales tax since shortly after it was discovered she was a resident of the district. Property owners who helped form the district had attempted to draw boundaries that excluded residents, hoping they could pass a sales tax on their own.
The community district's board opted not to hold an election after they learned of Henderson's residency. But weeks later, KBIA reporter James Gordon discovered that there were 14 more residents of the district, and the board opted to go ahead and call for a vote.
A total of 15 ballots were mailed out to residents during the election. Fewer than half of the residents cast ballots.
The board anticipates collecting $200,000 and $225,000 in proceeds per year from the passed tax. The tax is scheduled to take effect April 1.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.