DeKALB – DeKalb developer Jim Mason is pushing back against a federal judge’s dismissal of his lawsuit claiming that a significant portion of District 428 students lives outside the district.
Mason, whose company Mason Properties controls more than 700 rental housing units in DeKalb, says he plans to file an appeal of the ruling next week.
However, Mason also offered to withdraw his suit seeking $135 million he says the district owes to DeKalb property owners if the board agrees to a full vetting of students districtwide to gauge residency requirements. Mason estimates the investigation would cost $60,000, the costs of which he offered to pay – but only if the investigation found his claim that at least 7% of students live outside the district to be false.
“If they reject the proposal, it proves that they don’t want to vet the schools,” Mason said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m making a point here. But after that? No, I can’t do anything. We’re in between a rock and a hard place.”
Mason’s two-year-old suit against the school district, originally filed under the name “John Doe,” was tossed out by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer earlier this month. Pallmeyer ruled that the federal court did not have jurisdiction over local tax issues and ordered Mason to pay the district’s court costs.
Mason’s latest proposal to the district was delivered by Dwayne Brown and Will Heinisch of DeKalb, who spoke on his behalf to the D-428 school board Tuesday. Mason is holding to his assertion that because more than 7% of students attending DeKalb public schools live outside the district boundaries, DeKalb property owners pay higher taxes.
District Superintendent Jamie Craven and board President Samantha McDavid declined to comment on the matter.
Brown and Heinisch read Mason’s proposal during Tuesday’s’ meeting, although the board did not reply.
In the proposal, Mason threatened further legal action against the district if his offer was rejected, including continued litigation. If the district agrees to Mason’s request to investigate all students’ residency, Mason said he would drop his lawsuit. If findings of an investigation found that over 7% of students did not live in the district, Mason would ask the district to reimburse him for the $60,000 investigative costs.
The district conducted a limited investigation of student residency earlier. Of the 20% of students examined, investigators identified about 60 students whose residency was in question.