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Referendum foes lose fight in court

(Published July 17, 2000)


Staff Writer

Opponents of last monthís school board reform referendum lost another battle July 13 when a D.C. judge threw out a court case challenging the validity of the city councilís bill.

Associate Judge John H. Bayly Jr. ruled that Dino Drudi, a Ward 5 activist who filed the lawsuit, didnít have standing to bring the suit in court and also denied standing to three members of the current elected school board.

"What plaintiff (Drudi) needs but lacks is a more certain, a more immediate, and a more palpable injury than the spectre of a new supervisory educational office or a school board seated, in whole or in part, through appointment by executive or legislative officials," Bayly wrote in his ruling.

Drudi was contesting the councilís actions, saying the D.C. City Council did not follow D.C. law that requires them to publicly read a bill twice in "substantially the same" form before finally approving it. His suit claimed that when the council gave final approval Feb. 17, members inserted three provisions that had not appeared in previous versions of the bill.

Council Chairman Linda Cropp touted the ruling as a vindication of the councilís legislative procedures.

"Our process was an open and fair process," Cropp said. "Ours is an extremely inclusive process."

Larry Gray, legislative chairman of the D.C. Congress of Parent and Teacher Associations and one of the main opponents of the measure, said he would take the issue up with the PTAs to decide on a course of action.

"It will now be an issue of whether we will re-submit, or will we take it to a higher court," Gray said.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics released and certified the final vote tally July 7. With 40,622 ballots cast ó totaling 12.2 percent of the Districtís registered voters ó the referendum passed by a mere 843 votes.

The outcome of the final tally was a disappointment to opponents of the change because they had hoped the 1,225 absentee ballots would narrow the margin of victory or possibly change the outcome. Instead, they only gained five votes over the election night tally.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator