The Wayne County Board of Education held a special called meeting on Thursday. The purpose of the meeting was for the Board to hear information, and interview legal firms as part of its RFP selection process for contracted Board of Education representation and legal services, beginning July 1, 2022. The Board interviewed the following firms that submitted proposals for services:
- Sink Law, PLLC
- Brough Law Firm, PLLC & Tharrington Smith, LLP (Joint Proposal)
- Poyner Spruill, LLP
- Schwartz Law, PLLC
Each representative was given time to share information about their firm. Board members asked various questions both during and after presentations regarding proposals and how costs were being calculated.
Following its four interviews, the Board discussed pros and cons of each firm’s proposal. Much discussion centered around the number of billable hours that is currently being charged monthly to the district for its legal services, and how each firm’s rate would add up if current practices remained in place under each of the four proposals. Board members were in favor or reducing costs and were in agreement that costs could be further reduced if the Board were able to track hours in a more timely manner; if some work could be transitioned from the attorney to WCPS upper-level staff; and if the attorney could provide more training to staff as appropriate and which could help reduce costs and/or lessen attorney needs for day-to-day work. Some Board members expressed concerns about past attorney bills, and were in favor of moving on to a new firm for at least one year to see if costs can be reduced. Others felt that with continued reductions in legal costs over the past nine months, that the proposal from Schwartz Law, PLLC would be the best option financially for the Board.
The Board then took the following actions:
Strickland in favor of a firm change motioned to approve Sink Law, PLLC. Seconded by Board Member Foucht, the motion failed 2-5 [Voting in Favor: Strickland & Foucht / Voting Against: Vice-Chair Burden, Henderson, Leatham, Sanders, & Chair West]
Vice-Chair Burden motioned to approve Schwartz Law, PLLC for its legal services. Seconded by Board Member Sanders, the motion passed 4-3. [Voting in Favor: Vice-Chair Burden, Leatham, Sanders, & Chair West / Voting Against: Henderson, Foucht, & Strickland]
Upon approval of Schwartz Law, PLLC for its legal services, the board unanimously approved Option H of the firm’s proposed fee structures. Board Member Henderson abstained from the vote, which counted as a Yay vote.
The Board then approved the attorney contract for one year with the following stipulations: The attorney will provide a report notification to the Board when the Board has reached 150 billable hours; a maximum fee for food, mileage, and lodging will be set for the attorney which is based on the state per diem which Board members follow; and that the Board will request for the superintendent to notify the attorney about its plans for professional development.
The final action taken by the Board was a unanimous decision to have the superintendent look at strategies for how staff can help reduce legal fees and then provide a report to the Board within 90 days.
Based on an earlier discussion, Board Member Foucht expressed that he would like the Board to hold a retreat before the start of the next school year to look at strategies and vision for how to improve Wayne County Public Schools in the coming year, including how to reduce legal fees. Discussion then followed around potentiation time-frames and whether a Board Retreat should be held in Wayne County or out of county. While no decisions were made, Board members did agree to email Chair West dates they could be available for a potential retreat.
After no further discussion, the Board adjourned its meeting.