Updated: Tuesday, 11 Jan 2011, 6:18 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 11 Jan 2011, 11:52 AM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The 10 Kent County school districts accused of breaking state law by agreeing not to privatize some school services have jointly hired a lawyer to fight a lawsuit over the issue.
And that lawyer is expected to file a motion to dismiss the suit "if not by the end of this week than probably next," said an assistant superintendent for the Kent Intermediate School District.
Five plantiffs recruited by the legal arm of the free-market think tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy took the districts, their school boards and their unions to court, arguing their contracts that agree not to privatize violate the law.
Mackinac Center Legal Foundation director Patrick Wright has said state law prohibits school systems from "bargaining away their right to privatize non-instructional services."
Court records show the 10 districts and their school boards -- the Kent ISD and the Byron Center, Comstock Park, Godfrey-Lee, Godwin Heights, Kenowa Hills, Lowell, Northview and Rockford districts -- have hired Craig Mutch to represent them.
Hiring one lawyer for all the districts will save money, Kent ISD assistant superintendent Ron Koehler told 24 Hour News 8, thought he said it's not clear exactly how much the districts will have to spend to fight the suit.
At the time the suit was announced, another assistant superintendent at Kent ISD said the contracts did not violate criminal law or the school code.
And the districts that made the agreements had not planned to privatize anyway, Kent ISD Superintendent Kevin Konarska said at the time.
"If they changed their mind because of circumstances they could have because it's (the privatization clause in the contract) not enforceable," he said.
The language was included to acknowledge sacrifices made by staff, leaders said when the suit was filed, including teachers contributing toward the cost of their health care.
Koehler noted that those contracts, like the move to hire a single lawyer, were aimed at saving money for taxpayers.
Mackinac Center spokesman Michael Jahr said he was glad the districts are doing "what they can to minimize costs," but said all the defendants could avoid all costs by acknolwedging they broke the law and striking the language from their contracts.
The Kent County Education Association has also retained a lawyer: Gregory Steimel of the Michigan Education Association, a statewide union.
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