Legal fees piling up for district voting appeal

Legal fees piling up for district voting appeal

On Wednesday, attorneys for the Fayette County Board of Commissioners and Fayette County Board of Education each presented oral arguments opposite attorneys for the Georgia Conference of the NAACP at the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The county and school board are seeking a reversal of the decision by District Judge Timothy Batten, who found in favor of the NAACP, which led to the establishment of district voting in Fayette County.

The newly established majority-minority fifth district elected the county’s first black commissioner, Pota Coston, in November’s election. Coston got nearly 70-percent of the vote in the district. In the fifth district for the Board of Education, the Fayette County Democratic Party supported a white candidate, incumbent Leonard Presberg, who also won.

Fighting to overturn the ruling of Judge Batten hasn’t been cheap. The school district has spent $308,857 in legal fees thus far. Around $234,000 of that money has been spent since March of this year and paid to Parks, Chesin, and Walbert, the firm hired by the board as “special counsel” for this case.

Prior to hiring special counsel, the district had been represented in the case by Harben, Hartley, and Hawkins. That firm was paid a total of $34,700 going back to August, 2011.

Numbers provided by the Board of Education show bills from Harben, Hartley, and Hawkins were significantly smaller than those from special counsel Parks, Chesin, and Walbert.

The largest single billing from the former was $9,811 in July, 2014.

Parks, Chesin, and Walbert billed the district for about $52,000 on May 15, 2014 and again for about $120,000 on May 28, 2014. They again billed the county for nearly $4,000 in July and another $57,000 in August.

Legal expenditures also show a $40,000 insurance policy.

In all, about $246,000 in legal fees were paid between May and August of this year, the vast majority of that going to Parks, Chesin, and Walbert.

Josh Akeman

Josh Akeman is the managing editor of the Fayette County News, Today in Peachtree City, and East Coweta Journal. He is a graduate of Fayette County High School and the University of Georgia.