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Bibb School Board Pays Attorneys' Fees For Map Dispute | News

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Bibb School Board Pays Attorneys' Fees For Map Dispute

The Bibb County School Board voted Monday to pay $38,000 in attorneys' fees from a lawsuit filed over the summer.

Last June, board member Gary Bechtel, along with Lester Miller and Brenda Sutton, who were running for school board positions, filed a suit challenging the voting districts the county would have used in the election.

Those maps were based on the census conducted in 2000, rather than the most recent 2010 census.

The suit was filed against the school board and the board of elections, The county eventually agreed to use the redrawn maps.

At a federal court hearning Monday morning, the parties argued over who would be responsible for paying the plaintiffs' costs.

The judge encouraged them to settle the matter out of court.

The plaintiffs were asking for $60,000 in fees-- $38,000 from the school board, and $22,000 from the county.

School board attorney Patrick Millsap told board members Monday night that if they agreed to pay the $38,000, it would be a lot cheaper than fighting the suit any further and it wouldn't be an admission of guilt.

Board members voted unanimously. Bechtel did not take part in the vote because of his role in the suit.

Miller, Bechtel and Sutton argued that using the decade-old  election maps violated the Constitutional guarantee of "one man, one vote."

The new maps were drawn up by the Georgia General Assembly last winter and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The 14th Amendment guarantees that voting districts should be roughly the same size.

Because the county's population has shifted in the past decade, the lawsuit argued that votes in some of the larger districts carry less weight than those in the smaller ones.

For example, according to the lawsuit, the smallest of Bibb County board of election districts under the old map had about 22,400 people; the largest had more than 29,000.




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