Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Behind the Scenes at OUSD Lawsuit

By Chris Thompson
Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 5:44 AM

The Oakland Tribune's Katy Murphy sheds new light on a lawsuit filed by the Oakland school district, which claims that its own outside legal counsel defrauded it and cost the district a very expensive lawsuit through incompetence. Seems Deborah Cooksey, who used to work as the district's general counsel, was once really good friends with Meredith Brown, a local lawyer who runs a practice with her husband and handled a lot of district business. But that all changed a few years back, and following an investigation led by last fall, the district filed a $1 million lawsuit against Brown, accusing her and her husband of overbilling the district, often sending duplicate or falsified bills. The district also claims that Brown's firm botched a "major" case, costing it a small fortune. Brown, meanwhile, has filed a defamation suit against Cooksey and the district, claiming that this is all just a personal vendetta on the part of Cooksey, who recently quit. What this is really about, Brown claims, is that Cooksey is seeking revenge for a legal ruling Brown made as legal counsel for the district, in which she declared the schools couldn't shift funds from their capital budget to settle the massive debt during the 2003 budget crisis. That decision, she says, cost Cooksey her job, and she made it her business to open up a can of payback when she came back to the district. Cooksey didn't respond to Murphy's questions. Anyway, read the whole thing for yourself; it's fascinating.

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