9 Investigates: Union Co. parents face tough battle in redistricting lawsuit

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

Union County Board of Education lawsuit
UNION COUNTY, N.C. —

A local education attorney said Union County parents suing the Board of Education over redistricting face a tough legal battle.
 
Tuesday Eyewitness News sat down with Gil Middlebrooks to review the claims laid out in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Union County court and lists 15 different parents as plaintiffs.
 
Middlebrooks, who represented Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools during its redistricting process and has represented Union County on other matters, said the law is not on the parents' side.
 
"The problem that they face is that the North Carolina General Assembly and statutes have made it very clear that cases like this should be solved at the ballot box, not in the courthouse," Middlebrooks said.
 
The lawsuit alleges BOE members violated policies and procedures, as well as the Open Meetings Act, numerous times in the months leading up to the controversial vote on March 4 to approve redistricting.
 
The lawsuit cites a BOE work session from Jan. 23 as an example, pointing to an audio recording of the meeting that showed Vice Chair Marce Savage make a motion to table the discussion on redistricting, a motion seconded by member Sherry Hodges.
 
The lawsuit alleges Chairman Richard Yercheck "in blatant contravention of well-established BOE policy and procedure" said the motion would not be voted on.
 
A Channel 9 review of the minutes approved from that work session also showed no mention of any motion or a second on the matter from any board member.
 
Eyewitness News also obtained an email Savage sent to fellow BOE members on Feb. 18, again acknowledging her motion to table redistricting, and asking for the BOE to amend the agenda and address the motion.
 
But Middlebrooks said none of that constitutes illegal actions by BOE members.
 
"Under the rules of parliamentary procedure, for most boards you have to challenge (Yercheck's actions) at that moment or you lose the right to challenge it later," Middlebrooks said. "If that didn't happen, then that member has waived any argument, forever."
 
BOE attorney Richard Schwartz would not comment Tuesday on the lawsuit's allegations.
 
A hearing date on the lawsuit and a possible injunction has been set for 10 a.m. on March 24 in Monroe.

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