Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Boyd Threatens Overton Park Conservancy Funding Over Greensward Suit

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 2:34 PM

  • Brandon Dill
Legal wrangling on the Greensward parking issue re-surfaced Tuesday as Memphis City Council member Berlin Boyd accused the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) of being behind the open meetings lawsuit filed in April and threatened to pull the organization’s city funding.

Boyd pitched a resolution during Tuesday’s Parks Committee meeting that said OPC goaded residents Susan Lacy and Stephen Humbert to file the lawsuit against the council. That suit claimed the council broke state open meetings laws ahead of the March 1 vote that gave the Memphis Zoo a majority control of the 12-acre Greensward for overflow parking.

Boyd’s resolution states that “one of the plaintiffs” in the suit “has admitted to council members” that OPC provided them with the language and information for their lawsuit.

“The council does not believe it is appropriate for for city funded organizations to to use public funding, in whole or in part, to bring lawsuits against their funding body or to promote others to do so,” reads the resolution.

Eric Barnes, publisher and CEO of The Daily News and OPC board member, told council members that the park organization was never part of any conversations about the suit nor did it support the suit.

Council attorney Allan Wade said Boyd told him OPC was involved in the suit but “if that’s true, I don’t know. We can go all day long about who is telling the truth and who is not and who’s on first and all that.”

Boyd’s proposal aimed to reduce OPC’s current-year funding by $150,000, or 100 percent of the funding allocated to OPC by the city. Boyd wanted to put those funds in a special, separate account to be unlocked only by council approval.

The lawsuit was dismissed recently. However, plaintiffs have one year after the dismissal to re-file their suits. Boyd’s plan would have freed OPC’s funding if the plaintiffs in the case agreed to never file their claim in court ever again. He said he didn’t want taxpayers picking up any legal fees that would come with a future lawsuit.

“It was just a protection measure for [the council],” Boyd said.

Council member Martavius Jones disagreed with Boyd's tactic and said OPC was not the plaintiff.

“I think even if they were, this would be a way of trying to silence any kind of opposition and I think that would be very undemocratic for us to do so,” Jones said.

Boyd ultimately pulled the resolution at the urging of some council members to “let dead dogs lie.”

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