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Judge Sides With Richmond Schools, Extends Restraining Order Against Wilder

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret Spencer extended the restraining order against Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, who attempted to forcibly evict Richmond Schools and the School Board from City Hall Sept. 21, for 60 days Wednesday afternoon.

After nearly five hours of testimony, Spencer didn't rule on the legality of the move. The key issue there is whether Wilder or City Council has the ultimate authority over the management of city real estate and buildings. Spencer instead ruled in favor of the School Board in the matter of the forced eviction, stressing there was greater potential harm to schools administration and the School Board in allowing Wilder to forcibly evict the school system from City Hall. The administration attempted to do just that Friday with the help of Richmond Police. Spencer extended the restraining order to Nov. 30.

"Harm has been caused," to city schools, Spencer said.

The ruling, however, fails to address a critical impasse in city governance, and leaves in limbo the issue of whether Wilder violated the law by ignoring a City Council ordinance earlier this year that extended Richmond Schools' lease at City Hall.

State Sen. Henry Marsh, who is representing Richmond Schools, pointed to a section of the city charter that he argued clarifies the mayor's subordinate role in executing the wishes of City Council.

"At some point, the mayor should have to follow the charter and city ordinances," he said.

In his closing arguments, E. Duncan Getchell Jr., who represents the Wilder administration, asked the judge not to consider whether Wilder has authority to disregard council ordinances.

Judge Spencer said she couldn't rule on the matter Wednesday anyhow, because it was beyond the narrow scope of the hearing.

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