The Atlanta Public School Board of Education approved on a preliminary basis entering into a contract with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP that provides for Glenn Brock, who is a partner in the law firm, to provide legal services to the district. In addition, Glenn Brock will serve as General Counsel. The approval – on a vote of 8-0 (Meister was not in attendance) was held during the Board Work Session and final approval is likely to be given during the Legislative Session later today. [Update] During the Legislative Meeting, the Board voted 9-0 to approve the letter agreement.
The letter agreement (see here) provides a summary of the working relationship and includes the
also refers to “Terms of Engagement (the “Terms”), which are incorporated herein by reference” which had not been initially released by APS.
[Update] I received the “Terms of Engagement” (that was incorporated by reference) shortly after posting this. The Terms of Engagement is a standard list of items that Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP attaches to every engagement letter and it does not include any non-standard terms or conditions that would alter the Letter Agreement. The post has been updated to reflect this.
Some of the key points in the letter are as follows:
We will represent AISS [Atlanta Independent School System] with the New Engagement and any of its related or affiliated or associated persons or entities (collectively, “Affiliates”), its officers, directors, agents, or employees (collectively “Agents”), in connection with the New Engagement.
I will serve as the attorney responsible for the handling of this New Engagement …Other Nelson Mullins’ attorneys, as well as paralegals and other professionals, may also assist me in the representation of legal matters as needed to support the day to day legal needs of the District…
This is not intended to include those type matters currently sent to outside firms (except for special education hearings which Nelson Mullins attorneys provided prior to my appointment as General Counsel.)
Our first priority will be to conduct an assessment of the legal needs of the District….Following that process, we will develop and recommend a process for delivering timely and high quality legal services to the District.
Simultaneously, I will also perform the duties of the General Counsel as outlined in the Charter, including providing leadership and management of the District’s Legal Department.
I understand and agree that all law firms currently on the approved law firm list shall remain.
However, assignments to Nelson Mullins, which is currently on said approved list, other than those described above, will require the prior approval of the Superintendent.
Nelson Mullins shall provide legal services for the blended hourly rate of $275.00. My services will be provided either at the same blended hourly rate, or at the daily rate of $2,000.00 or $1,000.00 for a half day. The Board of Education and the Superintendent may select their preference of billing for how my services are to be billed.
Based on the statement made by several Board members, they believe that adequate controls are in place to ensure the elimination of any conflicts of interest that may arise as a result of the relationship. Superintendent Carstarphen also indicated the following:
- There is an expectation that the reorganization of the legal department will save up to $1 million in the first year.
- Subsequent to the first year, the cost of the legal department should be brought in line with other like size and type districts.
- The savings will be directed to future in-school spending.
- To further manage legal spending and risks will require a combined effort between several parts of the organization. This includes the Board of Education, the Legal Department, the Human Resources Employee Relations function, and (on the recommendation of the Internal Auditor) the appointment of Jodi Merriday as the APS Ombudsman (see here) to engage the public.
My sense is that the Board thoroughly vetted this proposal and, based on the information released so far, the agreement appears reasonable.
However, it will be important to see the “Terms of Engagement” document. I have already submitted an Open Records request for the information and will report more upon its receipt.