Shelby County Commissioners spar over school merger legal fees

Legal fees - for the Memphis and Shelby County schools merger - are once again at the center of a clash between Shelby County Commissioners.
Legal fees - for the Memphis and Shelby County schools merger - are once again at the center of a clash between Shelby County Commissioners.

(WMC-TV) - Legal fees - for the Memphis and Shelby County schools merger - are once again at the center of a clash between Shelby County Commissioners.

Monday, Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland said the county's legal fees in the Memphis and Shelby County Schools merger lawsuit are too steep.

"$413,000 on this school merger, and I can promise you it's not over with," Roland said Monday.

The fight over merger legal fees began in March, after the county joined a lawsuit filed by the county school system.

"When you go to court, you have to have an attorney and those attorney fees are what they are," Commissioner Sydney Chism said.

Monday, commissioners voted to put an additional $95,000 of county taxpayer money aside for merger legal fees - bringing the total to nearly $413,000.

"We feel that we got the best attorney in the city of Memphis for that kind of litigation," Chism said.

Chism also pointed out that the county's bill is less than the bill county schools paid for their legal counsel. But Roland feels it was an unnecessary expenditure in the first place.

"We could have done all this in-house and saved all this money," he said.

Chism said Shelby County needed outside counsel because Mayor Mark Luttrell was opposed to the school merger.

"The attorney that works for him - we didn't want her to have a conflict or feel there was a conflict so we asked for outside counsel," he said.

"We've had no conflict," Roland said. "That was the reason to bring in outside counsel."

Chism said more legal fees will likely follow, but added the fees should dwindle, since the judge already ruled on the merger date - August, 2013.

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