Roland plans legal challenge over municipal school lawsuit

(WMC-TV) - Despite threats from some Shelby County Commissioners, the county attorney says a lawsuit aimed at preventing the formation of suburban school districts is legal.

However, Commissioner Terry Roland said he plans to go over the county attorney's head on the matter.

He said her office has a conflict of interest and he also accuses his peers of violating ethics laws.

Roland said the county attorney's opinion isn't worth the paper on which it was written. He alleges its author favors the city in the city-county school merger.

"I have no faith in the county attorney's office up there at all, because all them folks come from the City of Memphis," Roland said.

Roland said the scuttlebutt centers on last week's emergency meeting to discuss a lawsuit to block the suburbs from forming their own schools.

He said it just doesn't add up that less than 24 hours after the unscheduled meeting, a private law firm had time to draw up two motions, 33-pages long.

"The Sunshine Law was broken because I guarantee at least three commissioners knew what was going to happen," he said.

The Sunshine Law says government matters must be discussed in front of the public and with ample notification.

The county attorney's opinion said the commission did not violate the Sunshine Law because legal matters are an exception to the rule.

The opinion says no vote was required because the law firm was given authority to act in February.

Finally, the opinion contends that the lawsuit does not violate the county charter.

Roland alleged the lawsuit interferes with upcoming election referendums in the six suburban municipalities who will vote August 2 whether or not to form their own school systems.

The opinion says that argument doesn't apply on the technicality that elections are run by the state, not the county.

However, Roland isn't done.

"When you get pushed into a corner, you do one of two things: You either cower down or you fight back and ain't nobody ever accused me of being a coward," he said.

Roland said he has written a letter asking the state comptroller to investigate if the county commission has a legal obligation to pay the law firm - since the commission did not specifically vote to pay the growing legal fees.

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