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Judge: City Council Can Sue Mayor Wilder


Mayor L. Douglas Wilder may soon have to answer for his Sept. 21 blitzkrieg attempt to move School Board out of City Hall.

Circuit Court Judge Margaret Spencer decided Monday to allow City Council to join the School Board's lawsuit against Wilder and his deputy Chief Administrative Officer Harry Black, greatly expanding the territory of that lawsuit to consider the lawful or unlawfulness of the mayor and his lieutenant's actions against the School Board.

The judge decided not to allow council's lawyers argue that Wilder's failure to appoint a chief administrative officer who was approved by City Council, as the city charter requires, meant that Black's 83 official actions as the de facto chief administrative officer since March were illegal.

Buddy Allen, the head of city Council's outside legal team, says the judge's decision "was fine with us" noting that most importantly, the legal "missile that we wanted to land, it landed. He hasn't dodged anything yet."

The two issues that Spencer allowed City Council to join the School Board suit involved the validity of council's ordinance granting a lease for use of City Hall space to School Board for $10 a year, and the lawfulness of actions taken by Black and Wilder in their decision to ignore the $10-a-year lease and attempt to move the School Board out of City Hall.

Scott Oostdyk, one of the mayor's team of lawyers, says today's ruling also met with their desires: a final answer to the authority of the mayor. That authority, Oostdyk maintains, does allow Wilder the broad powers he used in dealing with the School Board.

"We're just down to what the law means -- the law is just the law," Oostdyk says. The mayor's decision not to sign the council ordinance ordering him to negotiate a $10 lease with School Board was within Wilder's power and authority, Oostdyk says.

That authority may not have to wait until Nov. 30 when Judge Spencer is scheduled to rule on this suit, says Oostdyk: "I can tell you there will be a charter controversy settled in 10 days."

Another City Council lawsuit, challenging the mayor's authority to hire and fire council's legislative staff, comes up for a hearing Nov. 5.

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