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Lafayette County officials to file lawsuit against unlawful business

Lafayette County will take legal action against J&J Wholesalers for failing to file a site plan and operating a business without a permit, which could prove to be costly for business owner Ryan Jones.

After approving the recommendation from County Attorney David O’Donnell to table a request from J&J Wholesalers for preliminary and final commercial site plan approval, the Board of Supervisors took up the matter of court action against Jones during Monday night’s lengthy meeting.

O’Donnell recommended to the board to authorize County Building Inspector Joel Hollowell to file an affidavit in Justice Court on the misdemeanor charge of failing to file a site plan before building an 8,000 square foot building. Hollowell has informed county officials that Jones has been operating a business without a permit or a site plan for the last 182 days at the location. The penalty for doing so is $50 per day and $100 per day, respectively, which means Jones is looking at a total fine of $27,300.

Continuing problem

The case against Jones has been an ongoing issue for nearly a year.

In September of last year, Jones was granted permission by the Commission and Board of Supervisors to build an 8,000-square foot building for personal use at a property he owns on Highway 7 North. Hollowell later informed officials there was a business operating there.

Keith Pearson, an Oxford attorney representing Jones, claimed in March that Jones was not operating a business, but during Monday’s meeting, he stated Jones had “sold parts for used cars” at the location. Jones claims all of the business is done online and is shipped to customers.

Pearson claimed the cars Hollowell observed were construction workers hired to do work on the residence being built inside the 8,000-square foot shop. He said the rest of the vehicles on the property all belong to Jones.

“It is a major step to authorize criminal charges,” Pearson said. “If this criminal matter is resolved in Mr. Jones’ favor, he has significant potential civil remedies against the county and possibly against certain county employees. There are a number of problems with what the county has done. At this point, $27,000 in fines is seeking to get a pound of flesh.”

Jones arrested by MDH

A solid waste system on the property has also not been operating properly and is not code compliant, according to Hollowell, and O’Donnell recommended that case is heard in Chancery Court.

Jones was arrested Monday by Lafayette County sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from the Mississippi Department of Health on a misdemeanor charge of improper disposal of waste.

The MDH alleges Jones had sewage but no working septic tank on the property on Highway 7.

He was taken to the Lafayette County Detention Center where he was booked and released on a $500 bond.

Pearson told the Board repairs to the solid waste system had been completed Monday. The supervisors weren’t convinced and decided to have Hollowell inspect the system Tuesday. Supervisors approved a motion to file a case in Chancery Court if Hollowell found the system was not in compliance. Supervisor Chad McLarty voted nay. He believes Jones should have to pay a fine for the numerous violations.

“There should be a fine of some sort, even if it is up to code,” McLarty said.