The Bradley County School Board, at a special meeting Saturday morning, discussed strategy in the dispute over the distribution of the liquor drink tax funds. The board wound up hiring attorney Jim Logan to pursue the more than $700,000 he said earlier that was owed by the city of Cleveland.
Attorney Logan explained again in brief the statute to the board, part of which reads as follows, "One half (1/2) of the proceeds shall be expended and distributed in the same manner as the county property tax for schools is expended and distributed; provided, however, that except in counties having a population of not less than twenty-seven thousand nine hundred (27,900) nor more than twenty-seven thousand nine hundred twenty (27,920), according to the 1980 federal census or any subsequent federal census, any proceeds expended and distributed to municipalities which do not operate their own school systems separate from the county are required to remit one half (1/2) of their proceeds of the gross receipts liquor-by-the-drink tax to the county school fund."
Attorney Logan went on to say that there is really no real precedent concerning this situation, since there has not been any ruling established in a previous legal case.
He also handed to the board copies of reports conducted by the University of Tennessee's Institute for Public Service programs, CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service) and MTAS (Municipal Technical Assistance Service). CTAS and MTAS both have been compiling information on how the liquor by the drink tax revenues have been distributed thus far and are working to help find a solution to the issue.
Attorney Logan added that the state legislature is awaiting an opinion in a similar situation involving Chattanooga and Hamilton County.
He discussed the possibility of a trial, preparing for depositions, and told the board that up to this point that Bradley County has paid for his services and that if they wished for him to continue working on their behalf that they would need to approve the contract to hire him. He said he was not particularly interest in making money and said, "I love the Bradley County School system, I was educated in it. I really believe that this is what's best for Bradley County."
The board expressed and debated varied concerns over cost of litigation and the possibility of a resolution via a referendum. Vice Chair Nicholas Lillios stated that he felt it would be a better plan to get the county to pass a referendum to collect liquor by the drink taxes instead of proceeding with what could be a very lengthy litigation.
Board member Chris Turner shared a similar concern saying that since there is a lack of precedent that the probability for the board to win is low, "I can't march into litigation without having our homework."
Board member Troy Weathers stated that he feels that the school system is owed that money and that he feels strongly that the board should act quickly. Mr. Weathers moved to approve the attorney fee contract so that attorney Logan can continue his work on the school system's behalf.
Mr. Lillios offered a substitute motion, suggesting that the board drop the pursuit of past collections liquor tax monies and only work to pursue the collection of future taxes. His motion went nowhere.
The board then voted unanimously to approve the attorney fee contract and hire attorney Logan.
Board Chair Vicki Osment Beaty suggested that the board members look over the tentative resolution prepared by attorney Logan, so that they can vote on it at their Feb. 6 meeting. That resolution currently contains the following objectives, "The Executive Committee and Attorney James F. Logan, Jr. shall request that the City of Cleveland meet with and attempt to resolve any issues regarding the distribution of the aforesaid tax. Upon Failure of the Executive Committee and the City of Cleveland to resolve such issues, the Bradley County School System by and through the Bradley County School Board authorizes and requests the law firm of Logan-Thompson, P.C. to take such steps as are necessary to request a judicial ruling as to the meaning and enforceability of those provisions of state law which require that the liquor tax be distributed in like manner to the County property tax for schools is expended and distributed."
Attorney Jim Logan
- Photo2 by Tony Eubank