VOL. 130 | NO. 164 | Monday, August 24, 2015
County Commission Votes on Hiring Attorney in Schools Funding Lawsuit
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners vote Monday, Aug. 24, on hiring an attorney to be the body’s special counsel in a statewide education funding lawsuit.
The commission specifically votes on hiring the law firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard and Smith LLP to represent and advise it “on adequate and equitable school funding from the state of Tennessee.”
The national law firm has 34 offices in 21 states and is headquartered in Los Angeles.
The resolution follows a lawsuit filed by several school systems in the Chattanooga area earlier this year over the less-than-full funding so far of the state’s Basic Education Program. The Shelby County Schools system voted in June to join the lawsuit.
The BEP is the formula that determines how much local school systems get in state funding, which typically makes up the majority of a system’s budget.
The commission meets at 3 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main Street. Follow @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage of the meeting.
Also on Monday’s agenda is a resolution by commissioner Walter Bailey that would require Global Ministries Foundation to show that the federally subsidized apartment complexes it owns are safe and secure for their residents.
That proof would be a condition for the commission to approve a funding recoupment agreement between county government and Global Ministries.
The Cordova-based ministry has been under fire for living conditions at several of its apartment complexes, including the Goodwill Village apartments.
City code enforcement inspectors in April declared 45 units at Goodwill uninhabitable because of issues that ranged from bed bug infestations to leaky roofs to unsanitary conditions related to toilets.
Global Ministries chairman and founder Richard Hamlet apologized that same month. He said a prior management firm didn’t make him aware of the situation; the company has since replaced that firm with Memphis-based LEDIC Management Group.
In June, Hamlet appealed the failure of another overall inspection at Goodwill Village, Warren Apartments and Tulane Apartments by inspectors with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Monday commission session also will mark the end of commissioner Justin Ford’s one-year term as chairman.
And it ends as it began, with commissioners discussing their rules of order.
The commission votes Monday on the work of an ad hoc committee that reviewed the rules of order. Ford first resisted the ad hoc committee, seeing it as an attempt by fellow Democratic commissioners to replace him as chairman. The bulk of his support for the seat came from Republican commissioners.
The rules changes to be voted on Monday give the chairman the discretion to add an item to the commission’s agenda if it is “time-sensitive or as deemed necessary.” Otherwise an item must be submitted to the county attorney for review.
The commission could override a chairman decision by a two-thirds vote of those present and voting, instead of a simple majority.
The chairmanship remains a volatile decision for the commission as Ford exits the position.
The group elected Republican commissioner Steve Basar as its new chairman Aug. 3. But an hour after his election, the commission voted to take it back. When three more rounds of voting didn’t produce anyone with the seven votes necessary to become chairman, the commission delayed the decision until its Sept. 14 meeting.
The decision was delayed to that meeting because commissioner Eddie Jones said he will be absent for this week’s session.