MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Shelby County Commission showdown between Commissioners Mike Ritz and Terry Roland is heating up. Ritz is chairman of the group, and admits legal bills in the municipal schools case are being paid by taxpayer dollars while the explanations for the bill are being kept from several commission members. Roland is hot, saying as a commissioner he has a right to know, and as taxpayers you have a right to know how more than half a million of your dollars have been spent.
There’s no question that the issue of municipal schools in Shelby County is the definition of a hot button issue. A river of discontent has formed a grand canyon of differences between some members of the Shelby County Commission. That’s a fancy-schmantzy way of saying a lot of politicians disagree over the lawsuit filed by the commission to stop the municipal schools.
Commissioner Mike Ritz said majority rules, but something had to be done. “We're not here to not win,” Ritz said. “We’re here to win.”
Ritz has that Knute Rockne 'winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing' spirit, especially when it comes to that lawsuit. When lawyers for the county send their bills they list reasons. Those reasons are being kept secret from other commissioners. “The attorneys are doing exactly what the chairman of the county commission asked them to do,” Ritz said. “That’s me.”
So there are some commissioners that have no idea what the lawyers did or why they’re being paid. Terry Roland is one of those commissioners. “If I touched a nerve,” Roland said “...I’m sorry.” He really isn’t sorry, but you’ve got to admit, it is a nice thing to say.
Now you might think this problem is over, now that U.S. District Judge Samuel Mays has ruled that the Municipal School plan is unconstitutional. Far from it. There is still a lot of court action ahead.
Lawyers for the commission, who are getting paid with taxpayer dough by the way, are preparing for the civil trial concerning whether the municipal schools plan set up separate and unequal schools based on race. “I asked them (the lawyers) to not disclose in their bills who we were using as expert witnesses in the civil case,” Ritz said. “That’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Roland doesn’t like that. “That’s a crime,” he says. It is his opinion, although he has asked for a federal investigation into the whole thing to see if they feel the same way.