Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Settlement is "Close at Hand"

Just as the local election cycle is beginning, there's a nasty little legal challenge that threatens to trip up the candidates before the finish line.

Former trustee David Tyson is suing the Richardson ISD to impose single member districts for election of its board of trustees. But there's good news on that front. The RISD filed a mediation report with the court that says "a mutually agreeable settlement was close at hand" after a recent court-ordered mediation session.
At issue was the Voting Rights Act lawsuit currently pending in this Court, as well as a Texas Open Meetings Act lawsuit currently pending in state court involving the same parties. Although settlement was not reached, Defendants believed that a mutually agreeable settlement was close at hand because Defendants agreed to what they thought were Plaintiff’s central demands.
Source: Pacer.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like all that's left are some minor details, like the timetable for transition to the new system, etc. Perhaps more substantive questions like how many single member districts there should be, whether any of them should be elected at-large, etc., might still remain, but if the "central demands" have been agreed, we can expect a settlement. Surely, Tyson knows how to take "Yes" for an answer. Right?

Not so fast. Notice that the court document quoted above is the RISD's mediation report. The Tyson side filed its own mediation report. Lack of a joint mediation report indicates that the two sides couldn't even agree on whether they made progress in the mediation session. That doesn't bode well.

Tyson's take on the mediation session:
The mediation commenced at approximately 9:00 a.m. and did not end until approximately 4:00 p.m. Plaintiff attempted to reach a consensual resolution but was unable to do so. After a full day of negotiations, the mediator declared an impasse. Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff respectfully requests that this Court accept this second mediation report describing the result of the second mediation session and consider the parties’ alternative dispute resolution obligations to be satisfied.
Source: Pacer.
Paraphrasing, it sounds like the Tyson side could be saying to the judge, "Not only do we not accept RISD's agreement on our central demands, but quit making us even talk to the RISD lawyers." If one side doesn't want to negotiate, it could be that we're heading to trial after all.


Mark Steger said...

In private correspondence, someone made me aware of a bill introduced in the Texas legislature designed to force one school district, Fort Bend ISD, to adopt a very unusual version of single member districts:

Mark Steger said...

I'm not familiar enough with the facts on the ground in Fort Bend ISD to judge, but my first reaction is to be leery of asking Austin in to dictate solutions to local problems. And if it's a general problem, the bill ought to target *all* school districts, not just one.

P.S. The bill was introduced by Rep. Ron Reynolds, who was released from jail just in time for the upcoming legislative session. I'd say "only in Texas" but I know I'd hear from Florida if I did.