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Duval School Board's Lawsuit Against City Involves Question Of Consolidation

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Will Dickey
/
The Florida Times-Union
Circuit Judge Gary Wilkinson makes a point during a hearing about a proposed school tax Monday at the Duval County Courthouse.

After months of back and forth between the Duval County School Board and the Jacksonville City Council over a potential half-cent sales tax, the dueling sides finally had their day in court Monday.

But city representatives say they shouldn’t even be there, arguing the School Board isn’t able to hire outside counsel in the first place, according to WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union.

The school district and teachers union sued the city in September for delaying a sales tax referendum to raise nearly $1.9 billion to build and repair the city’s aging schools. It’s one of two lawsuits against the city as a push in favor of the referendum. The other features Duval Schools parents and grandparents as plaintiffs.

Though the two-hour hearing didn’t draw any conclusions from Circuit Court Judge Gary Wilkinson, the hearing focused largely on one question: Is the Duval County School Board part of Jacksonville’s consolidated government under the charter?

“Right now it’s just looking at does the School Board have the authority to hire legal counsel,” School Board Chairwoman Lori Hershey said following the hearing. “There was a lot of focus on the city charter and where does the School Board fall within the city charter.”

Two motions were heard during the afternoon session — one to disqualify the School Board’s outside counsel and one to strike and drop Duval Teachers United as plaintiffs.

“We agree the board has overstepped its bounds,” City Attorney Scott Thomas said. “No one would dare dream that one of those parts of the whole could sue itself.”

An expanded version of this story that includes comments from Judge Wilkinson is at Jacksonville.com.