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Memphis City Schools commissioner Wanda Halbert wanted to set up a board staff conference. Instead she started a small, but curious, dialogue.

In the guise of asking for a board staff conference Monday night at the city school system's board meeting, Halbert said she wanted the staff to address some “concerns” she had about the transportation department. She did not specify what those were.

But Commissioner Sara Lewis said she had done some checking on those same concerns and that a board staff conference was not the appropriate place to deal with the “serious allegations of impropriety.” She instead suggested turning the information over to the district attorney.

“This is a serious possible violation of policy and code,” Lewis said.

Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson seemed stymied by the turn of events and made a formal request to the board.

“Any board member that has any information about the transportation department, please release it to the superintendent. If you don't want to give the superintendent that courtesy, release it to the media,” said Watson. “This must come to a stop.”

Watson later asked the board's attorney, Percy Harvey, if because Halbert is an elected official, the public -- and thus the superintendent -- have a right to any information she might have on the subject.

“And what's a reasonable time line for me to see that?” asked Watson.

But Harvey said he could not think of a legal requirement that would make the information public.

“Just because she has a document in her home or office, it's not necessarily a public document,” said Harvey. “It's not property of the school system because one commissioner has it.”

The board also voted to delay action on a proposal by the legal representation committee to establish an in house legal services division.

That proposal as the offspring of a quandary by Halbert during the KIPP debate on whether the district's outside counsel was serving the interest of the superintendent or the board.

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