Bibb County Board of Education Members Spend the Day in Court
Current and former Bibb County School Board members went to court this morning as two cases were being presented against the Board of Education. Questions on a lease agreement pledging nearly $600,000 a year and the superintendent Romain Dallemand’s contract were up for legal interrogation.
The court room was full as former Bibb County School District's Chief Financial Officer filed for a restraining order of a lease that he thinks is illegal.
"I feel confident,” says Jerry Lumley, whose serving as Ron Collier’s Lawyer, moments after the hearing. “I feel like it went real well for us." He brought an argument to invoke a temporary restraining order on the Bibb County School Board to pay any form of money to Central Georgia Partnership, saying that the contract was illegally negotiated and that the lack of notice for his client wasn't given efficiently.
"We don't feel that the noticed that was published was adequate and because of that Mr. Collier or other tax payers are not bared from perusing this remedy," says Lumley.
Members of the defense council say that's wrong because the bonds have already been secured.
"Because no validity of a bond or its security including this lease can be challenged after it has already been validated by the court system,” says Jim Thomas who is only representing Jimmie Samuel, not the entire school board.
Members of the board of education both former and present were called as witnesses to explain exactly how the transition took place. Former board president Thomas Barnes III and current president Susan Sykes took the stand, with similar but conflicting stories.
Regardless of their testimony, the defense says their argument is simple. "The elements for a temporary restraining order were not shown by the plaintiff," says Thomas. He says that was what they had to prove, that the evidence showed that there was reason for a temporary restraining order to be place on the project.
He quotes the law saying that it has to be a state of urgency. He believes that in this situation urgency isn’t the case. "The essence of what I argued to the judge is that it's a legal matter, not a political matter or an emotional matter," he adds.
That’s not the only case on Friday’s docket for the Bibb County Board of Education.
Thomas Defore also had his law suit against the school board heard today.
In court, his lawyer argued that the superintendent's contract extension was illegal, and that some of the provisions were discussed behind closed doors and in violation the state's sunshine laws.
Questions were raised about the exact interaction at a November and December school board meeting in which the contract was discussed.
Local leaders, including pastors and elected officials showed up to the hearings.
Some were there in support of the school board, while others support the idea of bringing clarity to both of the cases.
“We need to support them because just because someone desires for change, maybe we need to get behind the current administration," says local pastor Michael Johnson.
" I think is appropriate for these issues to be aired in a court of law and I have every confidence in the decisions of the judge on whether the cases will go forward. “ adds Gary Bechtel ,who is a former Bibb School Board member and currently serves a Bibb County Commissioner.”
There’s been no ruling on either of these cases by Judge Ennis.
WGXA will continue to follow these hearings as new information becomes available.