April 21, 2020 – “It was our privilege to help give the children of our county a better education. Charging a fee would be unthinkable.”
That is the collective message to the community and to Duval County Public Schools from the team of attorneys who spent more than 700 hours over eight months representing the district in its fight to get a half-cent sales tax before voters.
Instead of sending the district and taxpayers a bill, the attorneys said the community owed them nothing.
“To charge the district for helping to provide enhanced learning environments for our children, improve their security, and bolster the overall economy of our community would be unimaginable,” said attorney Hank Coxe, one of the attorneys on the board’s legal team.
The legal team included Scott Cairns, Cameron Kynes, and Hal Houston of the McGuireWoods law firm; Hank Coxe and Michael Lockamy of the Bedell, Dittmar, DeVault, Pillans & Coxe law firm; and Audrey Moran of The Law Offices of Audrey Moran.
The legal dispute ended last week when the Jacksonville City Council voted to accept a settlement agreement and place the referendum on the ballot. The council vote and the mayor’s signing of the ordinance paved the way to allow the community to decide on November 3, 2020, whether to provide funding to repair and renovate schools, improve campus safety, reduce portables, improve technology, and build new schools in areas of growth.
“I am speechless, and that’s rare for me!” said Duval County School Board Chairman Warren A. Jones. “These are veteran, high-level legal experts who normally receive hundreds of dollars per hour for their work. To know that they selflessly waived this fee on principle, and on behalf of the Jacksonville community, is beyond anything I have experienced in my more than 30 years in public office. This is unprecedented, and on behalf of our children and community, I say thank you!”
“Shock is the word that comes to mind,” said Board Member Lori Hershey, who served as chairwoman last year and guided the school community through the Master Facility Plan and referendum process. “I’m still reeling from the news that our community will now have a chance to make their voices heard on the future of our students, schools, and community. Our legal team has earned every cent of what it cost to advocate for us in the courtroom, and to hear that they are not accepting payment is astounding. I am truly humbled to know that there are people who will take on a cause without thought to financial gain, but because they truly believe in it.”
Visit ourduvalschools.org for more information about the referendum, including the Master Facility Plan, projected revenue, cost to taxpayers, economic benefits, and improved student achievement.