Monday, March 14, 2011

Luttrell Says He Won't Sign On to Commission Plans for New School Board.

Commission chair Chism says package is veto-proof and will be implemented; Mike Ritz agrees, says schedule will be kept, predicts Pickler won't be reappointed.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 10:08 PM

Mayor Luttrell
  • Mayor Luttrell
As it turned out, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell supplied one of the first in what will undoubtedly turn out to be a series of complications arising in the aftermath of last week’s citywide referendum on transfer of authority for Memphis City Schools to Shelby County Schools.

In a letter dated Monday and dispatched to Shelby County Commission chairman Sidney Chism and the rest of the county commission, Luttrell advised that with “great deliberation” he had chosen not to sign the package, which included an ordinance and two resolutions, that the commission recently passed in order to begin its own plan of transition to an expanded all-county school board.

Luttrell’s stated reason was that the measures — which increased the number of current SCS board members and provided for interviewing, then appointing candidates to fill the new seats — conflict with the Norris-Todd bill, passed by the General Assembly on February 11. That bill, later signed into law by Governor Haslam, provided for a 2 ½-year itinerary toward merger and prescribed a planning commission to which Luttrell and others were to make appointments.

In line with a prior advisory from Kelly Rayne, his appointee as county attorney, Luttrell described Norris-Todd as “the prevailing authority…presumed constitutional until such time that it is successfully challenged.” Luttrell said the commission’s package might also conflict with the county charter and with 1923 private acts that govern the county school board.

Informed of the letter’s contents, Chism said, “It’s political. Obviously I don’t agree. It’s obvious, too, that the bill {Norris-Todd] is unconstitutional, and it’s hard to imagine that a judge would ignore the will of the people who voted on March 8.” Chism also noted that Luttrell had not attempted to veto the commission package. “His signature doesn’t matter. He knows we would override a veto. We’re going straight ahead with our plans.”

Another commissioner who supports the commission’s merger package is Mike Ritz, a Republican like Luttrell (and like state Senator Mark Norris and state Representative Curry Todd, authors of the Norris-Todd bill). Ritz said of Luttrell, “Maybe he expects us to use the attorney we hired [Leo Bearman] to sue him. We haven’t considered anything like that yet.” Like Chism, Ritz said he doubted any additional actions were required to implement the commission’s package.

“We’re going to follow our schedule — interviewing candidates on March 23rd and appointing members on the 28th.” Ritz said that, in addition to 18 new members representing city districts, the commission would probably reappoint six of the seven current members of the county school board for the remaining seven seats.

“I doubt that [current SCS board chairman] David Pickler could get seven votes,” said Ritz, noting that three commissioners representing District 4, the outer county, had chosen to boycott the commission’s appointment procedures.

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