Lawsuit claims hospital tax collected ‘illegally’

Published 9:21 pm Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Chilton County resident has filed a lawsuit claiming taxes for an under-construction hospital have been collected “illegally.”

Roy Burnett filed the suit June 9 in the Circuit Court of Chilton County.

In a cover letter, addressed to Chilton County Commission Chairman Allen Caton, Burnett writes that a 1-cent sales and use tax being collected to fund the construction of a new hospital “were levied and are being collected as the result of an invalid act of the legislature…due to the fact the legislation originated in the Senate rather than the House of Representatives.

“I am due a refund of these taxes from the county. All other persons and entities that paid the illegal and void taxes are also due a refund.”

The suit is intended to serve as a class action complaint.

The suit requests the court to: certify the action as a class action, enjoin the defendants from collecting or expending the funds, declare the act unconstitutional and refund money to the plaintiff and the class.

The suit also requests that the court award the plaintiff’s counsel reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses, award the plaintiff a reasonable amount for his service as class representative, require defendants to pay all costs of the action and award plaintiff “such further and additional relief as may be just and equitable or otherwise authorized by law.”

Attorneys listed on the suit are Jeffrey M. Sewell and French A. McMillan of Sewell Sewell McMillan LLC of Jasper.

The tax to fund the hospital went into effect Aug. 1, 2014, after receiving support from the Chilton County Commission, passage of an act of the Alabama Legislature and an overwhelming vote in a referendum of county residents.

Senate Bill 462, which authorized the referendum, was introduced by Sen. Cam Ward during the 2014 Regular Session of the Legislature.

Ward could not be reached for comment Friday.

Caton said he could not comment on pending litigation.