Diamondhead threatened to terminate city hall lease or be sued

DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - The city of Diamondhead is facing an ultimatum. The Diamondhead Taxpayers Association put the city on notice to either forfeit its lease on city hall, or the association will file a lawsuit.

Diamondhead is about a year into a three year lease of the old Baptist church it's using as city hall. But the Diamondhead Taxpayers Association wants that time cut short. The association said the lease is illegal, alleging Diamondhead bypassed the proper bidding process. The group's attorney said his clients are upset because they believe Diamondhead leaders should have shopped around for a better deal.

"Many people think the church was a bad idea," said Attorney William Kulick. "It's a nice building and all, but there are other places in the city of Diamondhead that could have been used. That could have been used less expensively. Purchased or leased less expensively."

Kulick sent the city a letter asking that the lease on the Baptist church be immediately terminated, and all of the money paid as part of that lease be returned to the city. Kulick goes on to say his clients have directed him to file a lawsuit if that money is not returned.

"Basically, my clients are interested in seeing the newly elected city council provides good government. That they do things right. There's no reason not to do it right," Kulick said. "They might end up with the church anyway as the highest and best use, and lowest and best bid. But until they do the proper bidding procedure, my clients are just watch dogging the city to make sure that they do the right thing."

WLOX spoke to Pete Kolf, the chairperson of the Diamondhead Taxpayers Association, and asked him who the group thinks should repay the money to the city. He said either the city's insurance company or the city council members -- past or present-- who voted for the lease.

Diamondhead City Attorney Sean Tindell said a recent court ruling found Diamondhead improperly entered the agreement to buy the Baptist church, which was an option under the lease purchase agreement. However, Tindell said the judge found no problem with the earlier deal to lease the building.

"Right now, Diamondhead is operating under a lease deemed valid by the court," Tindell said.

The city attorney said the city could still try to come up with a new agreement to buy the church or decide to find another property for city hall.

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