Williamson County Schools officials and Williamson County Commissioner Barb Sturgeon have reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed seven months ago.

Sturgeon filed the lawsuit last December in Williamson County Chancery Court against School Superintendent Mike Looney, schools attorney Bill Squires and the Williamson County Board of Education. The suit was filed in reaction to Looney and Squires restricting Sturgeon from entering school property without permission from Looney.

School staff issued this ban after Sturgeon attended a November 2014 public meeting on school property with a concealed, loaded handgun. Looney dropped the ban, but Sturgeon sought a court-ordered permanent injunction to keep school staff from banning her again. She did not seek monetary damages.

The settlement unanimously approved by the school board on Monday, July 20 does not prohibit Looney, Squires or “any other school official from restricting any person access to property as allowed by law.”

But the defendants agreed to take no further action in restricting Sturgeon, in her elected office, from attending public meetings or public functions on property owned, used or operated by the school board without due process. As a county commissioner, Sturgeon frequently attends public meetings and sits on the commission’s education committee.

Under the agreement, neither plaintiffs nor defendants admit guilt or wrongdoing in this case.

All court costs have been paid, according to the settlement. All parties were responsible for their own legal fees.

The Williamson County Commission authorized a total of $60,000 for the school district to spend on legal counsel, though the cost came out to less than $30,000. The sum has outraged the community and officials, for different reasons.

Looney said he acted within the scope of his authority, and supporters accuse Sturgeon of robbing the taxpayers of thousands of dollars by not dropping a frivolous suit.

But Sturgeon’s lawsuit, and those who support her, allege that Looney went over the school board’s head by restricting her from school grounds, and the ban was for political reasons.

In February, Sturgeon’s attorney extended an offer to the school board promising to drop the charge against the board if it admitted Looney’s and Squires’ letter restricting Sturgeon was sent without the board’s knowledge or consent, and that the board was against the restriction.

This offer never came before the board for a vote. At Monday’s school board meeting, Brentwood resident Cyndi Miller condemned the board for not acting.

“Offers were presented and tabled,” Miller said during public comments.

“Sixty thousand dollars have been diverted from the school system, because you chose not to deal with it.”

Looney said he notified the board of the ban the day it was sent to Sturgeon, and that he acted on his authority as the school superintendent.

On Wednesday, July 22, Sturgeon provided a statement on the settlement.

In an email to commissioners and board members, Looney told Sturgeon he is “disappointed” by her statement.

“You were not denied due process, and you know it,” Looney wrote.

“The truth is that you were given preferential treatment. Had it been someone else, there most likely would have been an arrest at the scene of the crime. It is my understanding that the Sherriff had a very specific conversation with you well before the school board meeting, warning you not to carry. It appears that you chose to ignore the law, recognized your guilt and accepted a plea deal. Please don’t disparage us for doing our jobs and accept full responsibility for your actions. It is the Christian thing to do.”

Sheriff Jeff Long confirmed that he had spoken to Sturgeon at a county commission meeting prior to the November work session about gun carrying laws.

“I had told her at a county commission meeting when she was asking what the law and rules were in carrying a gun in county buildings,” Long said.

Sturgeon said the conversation focused only on carrying firearms at commission meetings.

“I approached Sheriff Long at my first county commission meeting as a commissioner and simply asked whether commissioners were allowed to carry firearms at commission meetings. He said ‘no.’ No other areas were discussed and Superintendent Looney was not present,” Sturgeon said.

“This matter has been resolved, and I believe that it is time for the dialogue in Williamson County to focus on what’s best for the children of Williamson County Schools, the taxpayers and the community as a whole.”

Jessica Pace covers Williamson County, Williamson County Schools and the Town of Nolensville for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Jess_NHP