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Manatee County School Board Awarded Nearly $300,000 to Cover Legal Fees in Contract Dispute With a Charter School

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According to a report from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, an administrative law judge has ruled that the Manatee County School Board is entitled to receive approximately $300,000 in legal fees and related costs in a dispute over the early termination of a contract.

The case centers around a charter school operated by Lincoln Memorial Academy Inc. Below, our West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys provide an overview of the long running dispute between the school board and the privately operated charter school.

Southwest Florida School Board Signed an Agreement With a Charter School 

Located in Southwest Florida, Manatee County has a population of nearly 400,000—more than twice the amount of people it had three decades ago. The fast population growth resulted in a strong demand for new schools. Many of these schools are charter schools.

In Florida, most charter schools are public schools that are run by private entities/organizations who have signed contracts with the relevant school board. In this case, the Manatee County School Board entered into an agreement with a private company to operate a charter school called Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto, Florida.

Contract Termination: Allegations of  Gross Mismanagement 

For a number of different reasons, the relationship between the Manatee County School Board and Lincoln Memorial Academy turned sour. In July of 2019, the school board took action and terminated its contract with the private company.

According to the school board, the contract was terminated because of gross financial mismanagement. Among other things, the board alleged breach of contract because Lincoln Memorial Academy failed to pay salaries on time, fell behind on payroll taxes, and missed payment with vendors.

The charter school sued to block the early termination. However, in September, a Florida judge backed the school board’s decision—finding that the charter school breached its contractual obligations through its gross mismanagement of funds. As a result, at least for the time being, Lincoln has reverted to a traditional public school.

Administrative Law Judge: Award of Legal Fees and Court Costs 

At issue in this most recent decision was the school board’s attorneys’ fees and its court costs. Pursuant to the structure of the contract and the conduct of the parties, a Florida administrative law judge determined that the Manatee County School Board was entitled to financial compensation for reasonable legal fees. They were awarded a judgement of $297,987. Lincoln Memorial Academy Inc. is reportedly appealing the decision.

Call Our Florida Contract Litigation Attorneys for Immediate Assistance

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida business lawyers are skilled and results-focused advocates for our clients. If you or your company is involved in a contract dispute, you need a top-rated attorney on your side. To arrange a completely confidential initial consultation, please contact us today. From our offices in West Palm Beach and Miami, we represent businesses and organizations in Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, and throughout Florida.

Resource:

heraldtribune.com/news/20200224/nearly-300000-awarded-in-manatee-charter-school-fight

https://www.turnpikelaw.com/who-pays-the-attorneys-fees-understanding-the-american-rule/

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