ACLU not expecting much money out of TiZA settlement
Days after agreeing to a $1.4 million settlement in Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy's bankruptcy case, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota expects to recoup little of the millions it spent suing the now-defunct charter school.
Meanwhile, the ACLU continues to pursue a 2009 civil lawsuit against the school's leader, Asad Zaman, alleging taxpayer money was used to teach religion.
The ACLU agreed last week to a $1.4 million settlement for attorneys' fees in the bankruptcy case that grew out of an ongoing lawsuit claiming that the charter schools in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine taught Islam in the classroom. The charter school had high test scores and a waiting list before legal costs and other pressure forced it to close last summer.
The ACLU had sought nearly $2.4 million, and Chuck Samuelson, attorney for the Minnesota chapter, said he doesn't expect the ACLU or its attorneys to come anywhere near recouping the $3 million spent on the case so far. The settlement deal is with the trustee now in control of TiZA's assets.
"First of all, there isn't going to be any money," said Samuelson, who said he would "fall down in a faint if it comes anywhere close" to the $1.4 million agreement.
TiZA has a long list of creditors with claims against the schools, many of whom likely will receive a fraction of what they are owed, Samuelson said.
"They're not broke, that's the thing," he said of TiZA. "This is a good headline, but if you drop down and look at
the footnotes, we are talking about way less money."
John Hedback, the bankruptcy trustee for TiZA, said there are "substantial" assets from when the charter school entered bankruptcy, but not enough to cover claims for wages, rent, attorneys' fees and other expenses.
"Nobody is getting paid in full," Hedback said.
Zaman would not comment about the case except to say that the ACLU is being "very unreasonable."
Shamus O'Meara, TiZA's attorney, was not immediately available for comment.