Graham Says County School-City Lawsuit Settlement "Stinks," But County Commission Approves It

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The County Commission on Wednesday approved a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Hamilton County Schools against the city of Chattanooga, though several commissioners said they were not happy with the deal and Commissioner Joe Graham said it "stinks."

Commissioner Graham was the lone no vote. He was joined by Commissioner Tim Boyd in a failed effort to defer it a week.

Commissioner Graham said he and other commissioners were told in a closed session that the city actually owed the county schools some $15 million in unpaid liquor taxes. The settlement was for $11.7 million.

The county schools also get the former Poss Homes property by Howard School and property at the North River YMCA.

The county schools agreed to pay the city $1,565,425 for past due stormwater fees. In the past, both the county and the county schools took the position that the governments should not have to pay the stormwater fee.

Commissioner Graham said the additional money owed for the liquor tax could have been used to build school additions and other education needs. He said the deal cheated school children.

He said a prior city administration had agreed to pay the full amount, then "Mayor Berke turned out to be a better lawyer than the school board lawyer."

Several commissioners said one reason to approve the settlement was to avoid high legal fees. 

The School Board and the City Council both approved the settlement unanimously.

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