More Than $6 Million Spent Because Of School Lawsuit

(Memphis) As the money left your pocket, it went straight into the wallets of a couple local law firms.

It all started when the city of Memphis dissolved its school charter.

“Never thought they would actually throw in the towel, but that’s what they did,” said Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner.

The decision shocked a lot of people including Joyner.

He says merging city and county schools made the district too big to manage.

So in 2012, Senator Mark Norris and State Representative Curry Todd wrote new laws letting the suburbs create their own districts.

But the Shelby County Commission didn’t think an amendment to the law allowing the suburban districts was legal so they sued landing in federal court starting a two-year legal battle that cost millions.

The Shelby County Commission sued the municipalities and spent more than $1.7 million of your taxpayer dollars in legal fees.

The suburbs raised sales taxes to pay create new districts, but because of the lawsuit, $3 million intended for the classroom went to attorneys.

That means suburban citizens paid for attorneys on both sides.

The price of legal fees was almost $5 million.

The lawsuit caused a second set of elections for school board members and to see if people still wanted to split from Shelby County Schools.

In total, the elections cost about a million dollars.

Another big cost for taxpayers came from a federal judge who appointed a special master to oversee the long, drawn out process.

Rick Masson collected $67,750 from taxpayers just for going to school board meetings and telling the judge what happened.

Mayor Joyner admits it cost too much money, but says state lawmakers are partly to blame because of the way the law was written.

“That challenge or that suit brought more attention back to the legislators that this didn’t work out the way they had intended it to work out,” said Joyner.

Senator Mark Norris wrote the law and says when he initially filed the bill it was very simple and only lifted the ban on municipal schools across the state, he says the state house added controversial items to the bill.

“I knew that we had to do what needed to be done. It didn’t occur to me that anyone would waste that much money on legal fees, but that wasn’t my decision to make and I think it’s unfortunate but that seems to be the way of the world these days,” said Norris.

The way of the world cost you more than $6 million.

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