OAKLAND — A noisy legal battle between the Oakland school district and a small law firm it accused of fraud and racketeering has come quietly to a close.
Bryant & Brown, a local husband-and-wife firm, agreed to pay the Oakland school district $325,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed in December. The settlement, entered last month in U.S. District Court, includes no admission of wrongdoing. Each side will cover its own legal expenses.
The firm also dropped its defamation countersuit against the school district, the district's former general counsel, Deborah Cooksey — once a close friend of the lawyers she investigated — and its former interim superintendent, Roberta Mayor.
The Oakland school district has a new general counsel, Jacqueline Minor, and a new superintendent, Tony Smith. Neither was named in the defamation claim.
"We believe that bringing an end to this dispute was in the best interest of OUSD," said Troy Flint, the school district's spokesman, in a statement prepared by both sides.
In January, Flint said the district was seeking more than $1 million from the firm. The lawsuit stated that Bryant & Brown defrauded the district with duplicate and falsified bills and that it carelessly handled a case, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Guy Bryant and Meredith Brown, prominent community members whose children attend local schools, had performed legal services for the school district's facilities modernization project since 2001. Their attorney, Zack Wasserman, said they had made some billing errors but that the allegations were overblown. Wasserman said the firm repaid the district about $38,000 before the suit was filed.
The jointly prepared statement lists a number of the projects on which Bryant & Brown had worked for the district and said the attorneys "have been dedicated to serving the interests of OUSD as its Special Facilities Counsel."
"Going forward, as parents and residents of Oakland, we remain fully committed to our school system and the highest quality of education for its students," Brown said.