High court to review funds case

Published 5:10 pm Saturday, April 12, 2008

By Staff
Lawsuit involving county’s school board, commissioners prompts a review of statutes
Contributing Editor
The N.C. Supreme Court has granted Beaufort County’s request for a discretionary review of issues related to the lawsuit involving the Beaufort County Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners.
The high court’s order granting the review was filed Thursday. The county was notified Friday. The order did not indicate when the high court will begin its review.
The review is being allowed with respect to the following issues:
The high court’s decision was well-received by Neil Yarborough, the lawyer representing the commissioners in the case.
School Superintendent Jeff Moss, reached Friday evening, said he wanted to hold off commenting on the Supreme Court’s order until he has an opportunity to discuss it with the lawyers who represent the school system in the case. Those lawyers are Brian C. Shaw and Richard Schwartz.
Yarborough said the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case likely will have a statewide impact.
Although the N.C. Court of Appeals dismissed the commissioners’ appeal of the case, the N.C. Supreme Court determined the commissioners’ petition for review has merit, Yarborough said.
The high court, according to Yarborough, may invoke its power of discretionary review when in the opinion of the court any of the three following criteria are met:
In July 2006, the school board took the county to court, contending the school system’s funding from the county was not adequate to properly run county schools for the 2006-2007 school year. A jury subsequently awarded the school board an additional $765,783, upping the school system’s local appropriation for that school year from $9.4 million to $10.2 million. The county appealed the case.
The appeal was entered Aug. 9, 2006, by Judge William C. Griffin Jr. in Beaufort County Superior Court. It was heard by the Court of Appeals on Aug. 23, 2007.
In February, the Court of Appeals issued a ruling upholding the jury’s decision.
Before the case went to trial in July 2006, commissioners contended they were forced into court before they had been given adequate time to prepare for the trial.
He also contended commissioners were not given the full amount of time to prepare for trial that state law allows.
Several days after the jury reached its verdict, Commissioner Robert Cayton said the “law must be clarified” so commissioners know what they can do or cannot do in similar situations.
Yarborough said that’s what the Supreme Court will do with its review of the case.