Open meeting violations alleged in school funding hearing - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Open meeting violations alleged in school funding hearing

It began as a status hearing for the budget battle and ended with major allegations. 

New accusations against Memphis City Council members surfaced Thursday in Chancery Court after the Council cut nearly $70 million from the Memphis City Schools budget.
"There is absolutely no way that they came together in an hour and reached a resolution like that," Rainbow PUSH attorney Javier Bailey said.  "They met on those issues prior to coming into that room."

Bailey is accusing council members of having backdoor, late night meetings during budget talks.

"The Open Meetings Act, passed by the State Legislature, requires that public notice be given for each and every meeting particularly if funding, spending public dollars is an issue," Bailey said.

Bailey supbpoenaed all correspondence between council members during budget talks, but Council Attorney Allen Wade said it was too much, too soon.

"I'm blocking the subpoenas because they were given to me on a Friday to respond on a Monday and the rules give me 30 days to respond," Wade said.

So Bailey will now subpoena records for the last week of May, and Rainbow PUSH is considering recalling any council member who may have violated the open meeting laws.

Wade says Rainbow PUSH has no standing.

"The school board is the real party in the interest of this case," he said.

LaSimba Gray said Rainbow PUSH disagrees.

"We have parents with children in the school system," Gray said. "I have a granddaughter in the school system.  So, we have every right to fight for them to have an adequate education as promised by our city."

The school board had its new attorney, Dorsey Hopson, in the courtroom, and charter schools could also join the case.

"Ultimately, whether those cases are consolidated or whether they're joined is up to the courts," Hopson said.

If the judge sides with Rainbow PUSH, the council would have to redo the budget by August 1st.  The school board claims that's the date the state could cut $423 million in school funding as a result of council cuts.

The next hearing on the matter is on July 11th.

Click here to send an email to Kontji Anthony.

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