Another deadline has passed in the legal saga of the now-defunct Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, and neither the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota nor the bankruptcy case it spawned appears to be closer to completion.
TiZA, the ACLU and John Hedback, the trustee appointed to oversee the charter school's bankruptcy, filed letters with the U.S. District Court this week stating that 45 days after being ordered to find a way to settle the cases, there have been talks but no resolution.
Monday was the deadline.
"There is no progress," said Chuck Samuelson of the ACLU. He added that talks with former TiZA executive director Asad Zaman have been at a stalemate for months. "I'm absolutely convinced nothing is going to happen with him."
Zaman said he could not discuss the specifics of the cases, but he accused the ACLU of holding up the settlement for financial reasons.
"I don't know why the ACLU is dragging its feet," Zaman said. "It seems to be all about the money, not some lofty constitutional principle."
Zaman referred other questions to Shamus O'Meara, TiZA's attorney, who did not respond to calls seeking comment Friday.
A letter from Hedback, the trustee for TiZA's bankruptcy, said they were working toward settling the ACLU's claims for $2 million in legal fees.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the school in 2009 alleging teachers and administrators mixed religion into taxpayer-funded student instruction. Before closing this summer, the charter had campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine with high test scores and long waiting lists of students.
The lawsuit's 30-plus claims also alleged TiZA's directors, its landlord and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota had "blurred" lines of control. Those overlaps resulted in millions of taxpayer dollars going to religious groups.
The school declared bankruptcy in August after losing its sponsor as legal costs began to pile up.
A recent bankruptcy court filing ordered Hedback to pay $171,237 in back rent and other expenses to the Minnesota Education Trust for TiZA's former school properties - the same group the ACLU said in its lawsuit had too close of ties to the school and local religious organizations.
The ACLU wants the school "to confess to teaching religion" using taxpayer money, Samuelson said. "Otherwise we'll go to trial, and we think we will prevail. We think it is important we have a bright-line decision," he said, referring to a settlement that will clearly state that the school violated the separation of church and state.
Samuelson said he expects the cases to go before a magistrate in coming months if there's no resolution.