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Media lawsuit dismissed

ALBANY -- The lawsuit partnered by The Albany Herald, WALB-TV and WFXL-TV against the Dougherty County Board of Education was dismissed Tuesday afternoon.

Bill Calhoun of Langley & Lee, who represented the media outlets in the case, said he was told by Willie Weaver's office that the dismissal papers were "on the way to the court" Tuesday afternoon. Weaver was representing the School Board in the case after its attorney, Tommy Coleman, recused himself.

"We have dismissed the case at this point," Calhoun said. "In settling the case, the School Board agreed that it would wait for 14 days from the date that they provided us the information regarding their contacts with the other candidates, which was last Monday. The school board has indicated that they contacted the other candidates, as they said they would, but everyone has withdrawn from consideration for the position except Dr. (Joshua) Murfree.

"Based on my conversations with the school board's legal counsel, (Tommy Coleman and Willie Weaver), the school board will wait until 14 days elapsed from the date they provided us the information regarding the results of contacting the other applicants before they make the final appointment," he added.

By Calhoun's estimation, the Dougherty County Board of Education could name Albany State University executive Murfree as its superintendent sometime Monday. Murfree would be the 14th Dougherty County School System superintendent named since 1885.

The media outlets filed an Open Records lawsuit against the School Board Feb. 4 when it failed to release the names of the other finalists after comments made by board members Anita Williams-Brown and Michael Windom indicated there were at least two other finalists. The lawsuit followed the Board's of Education voting 4-3 Feb. 3 to remain with its 5-2 vote Jan. 27 to appoint Murfree as the only finalist for the superintendent position.

On Tuesday, Dougherty County School System Attorney Coleman released information the school system uncovered on Murfree as part of its background check. The information was not given to the DCSS School Board by the Georgia School Boards Association during its background check of Murfree as part of its superintendent search, Coleman said.

The documents show that:

-- On March 19, 2003, Murfree agreed to pay Midland Credit Management $15,589.97 in outstanding principal and interest debt in a civil action filed in the State Court of Dougherty County. Murfree agreed to make $250 payments until the judgment was paid in full.

-- On Sept. 4, 2001, Murfree agreed to pay $3,825.18 to Sears, Roebuck & Co. in Dougherty County Magistrate Court. He paid the debt in full Jan. 6, 2006.

-- On Dec. 19, 2000, a dispossessory warrant was filed in Dougherty County Magistrate Court against Murfree for $691.50 claimed by Dolee Rentals Inc., which documents suggest was paid.

-- On May 3, 2005, plaintiff Murfree reached a divorce settlement with his wife, Deborah R. Murfree, in Floyd County Superior Court.

The background check did not reveal a seat-belt violation ticket by the Georgia State Patrol May 5, 2000, which was filed in the State Court of Dougherty County. The fine was $15.