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Shelby County Election Commission Sued Over MCS Charter Referendum

By Eleanor Boudreau


Memphis, TN – When the Shelby County Election Commission declined to put the question of whether Memphis City Schools should give up its charter to city voters, election commission chairman and county Republican Bill Giannini said if anyone didn't like that decision, "They'd have to go to court."

Citizens For Better Education has done just that, but it took them a little longer than expected.

The group was planning on filing a lawsuit against the election commission Monday (at the latest), but the snow held them up.

Then they were going to file at 3 pm Tuesday but lawyer Allan Wade showed up at the Chancery Court and said the lawsuit would be delayed again.

Wade said State Election Coordinator Mark Goins had started a "firestorm" when he told the Shelby County Election Commission it could not hold a referendum until the Memphis City Council weighed in, but Wade said that firestorm was over.

"He [Goins] has since written a letter in which he has somewhat withdrawn his protest," Wade said.

But a spokesman for Goins said. "Mr. Wade does not accurately speak for Mr. Goins regarding the content of Mr. Goins' most recent letter."

On Tuesday Wade also said if the election commission didn't move on getting a referendum to Memphis city voters soon, "We will be filing our lawsuit."

That statement by Wade proved to be more accurate. He filed his lawsuit late today.

If the election commission holds this referendum and it passes it will effectively consolidate Memphis and Shelby County Schools.

But time is of the essence here--both for people who want school consolidation and those who don't.

Republicans in the state legislature have threatened to skip normal procedures and pass a law that would mandate the county outside of Memphis get to vote on Memphis City Schools charter surrender, too. It's possible such a law could get passed by Saturday.