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Former city councilman's attorneys question WHA CEO's power to sue

READ MORE: Former city councilman's attorneys question WHA CEO's power to sue
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The jury has not been seated, yet in the trial involving the Wilmington Housing Authority and a former city councilman is already heating up.

Attorneys brought up questions today about whether the CEO of the Housing Authority had the power to file the lawsuit in the first place.

The jury box remained empty Tuesday as attorneys for Ronald Sparks brought up concerns involving the lawsuit against the former Wilmington City Councilman. The suit filed by the Wilmington Housing Authority claims Sparks was negligent when recommending the purchase of Eastbrook Apartments after he inspected the complex back in 2005. The apartments had to be evacuated after the purchase when complaints about mold and mildew came up.

Tuesday, Sparks's attorneys did not focus on those claims. Rather they questioned the authority of the WHA's CEO to file the suit. They say Michael Krause did not ask the authority's board for approval, which the defense claims is part of the Housing Authority's bylaws.

"We would respectfully submit that it would have been a very simple thing had the Housing Authority, in fact, authorized this lawsuit, to have reflected it in its board minutes. In fact that's what it would have done, and there is nothing," defense attorney John Rogers said.

Attorneys for the Housing Authority claim Krause has the ultimate authority in the organization, which gives him the power to file this or any lawsuit.

"That's why he gets paid the big bucks: to make decisions like that," WHA attorney Gary Shipman said. "Surely he must keep his board informed, but there is no legal authority for the proposition that prior to the filing of the lawsuit that the board must authorized it."

After much debate from both sides, Judge Jay Hockenbury stepped in, deciding to hold a separate hearing wednesday morning before the actual trial begins.

Potential jurors were let go today and told to come back Thursday before the judge called for the separate hearing. It's expected the trial could go on for more than a week.

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