APS Board Special Legislative Meeting to consider appointment of Glenn Brock as General Counsel under contract – he will not be a direct employee of APS

At tonight’s Atlanta Public School Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting starting at 7 p.m., the Board will consider a resolution to appoint D. Glenn Brock of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP as General Counsel – see resolution here.

Under the terms of the resolution, the appointment is effective immediately, but a contract has not yet been negotiated and the resolution calls for it to be negotiated by incoming Superintendent Carstarphen.

Per the AJC article (see here),

The proposed new general counsel, Glenn Brock, has represented school districts across Georgia, including the Fulton, Cobb and Clayton school districts. 

In the long term, contracting with Brock as general counsel is expected to save money, said Jill Strickland, a spokesperson for Carstarphen. “APS is reviewing how it receives legal services. We want to maximize efficiency and effectiveness,” Strickland said in a written statement. “APS, based on its size, spends too much for legal services, and we want to ensure that we are using dollars for students, as much as possible.”

The proposed resolution leaves many questions unanswered, while at the same time making the appointment effective today. Not the least of which is, what are the terms and conditions under which Mr. Brock will be operating as of today? Remember that the contract has not yet been negotiated – but, if the resolution is passed, Brock begins his service to APS immediately. Also, among the many other unanswered questions are:

  1. Will Mr. Brock continue as a partner in his current law firm? The answer is presumably yes.
  2. Will there still be attorneys serving as employees on staff at APS?
  3. Or will all (or most) legal services be outsourced to Mr. Brock’s firm?
  4. Expense savings is a reason for making this move and current APS attorneys cost approximately $90 per hour including benefits. If the routine legal matters are outsourced to Mr. Brock’s firm, what will the hourly rate be?
  5. What is the level of “savings” that is anticipated? Should the FY15 Budget be amended to reflect this savings now?
  6. And since the “savings” will be directed to students – which program budgets are being increased?
  7. How will Mr. Brock be compensated by his firm for legal work performed for APS? Does he get a cut of every hour charged to APS? If so, there is a perverse incentive here that is wide open for abuse.
  8. What checks and balances are there to limit excessive legal fees charged by Mr. Brock’s firm?
  9. If the General Counsel says it requires additional work to be performed by his own outside legal firm, who is to say otherwise?

And there are likely many more questions that need to be answered in advance of passing this resolution. Carstarphen does not begin her official duties until July 7th – why the rush to move on this appointment now? Brock is advising the transition team and remains a resource to the new superintendent for the next several weeks. As such, there is nothing lost by waiting to have a formal contract negotiated and publicly available prior to the Board voting on this.

There are three attorneys now on the Board – Jason Esteves, Eshe’ Collins and Cynthia Briscoe Brown – it will be very interesting to see their positions on this proposed arrangement – and their votes on the resolution will tell us much about the level of due diligence they are demanding prior to a vote.

Additionally, since it appears that this arrangement is being treated as a personnel matter, the Board discussion will likely be in Executive Session. However, since this is a contractual relationship – and not a matter related to an existing or future APS employee or an existing legal matter – why is this being considered in Executive Session?

There may be a reason to do this – but there is no need to do it tonight. Board members should have far more information on the relationship between APS, Mr. Brock and his firm. And if those questions are satisfied, then they also need to fully understand the controls that would be in place to prevent abuse of the relationship.

The Board should pull the resolution from the agenda and only consider it in the future when the questions are answered and the controls are put in place. Three weeks should be plenty of time to do so.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]


8 Responses to APS Board Special Legislative Meeting to consider appointment of Glenn Brock as General Counsel under contract – he will not be a direct employee of APS

  1. tom tidwell says:

    The only way this is a money saving move is if APS in-house staff are underutilized by at least 50%. Nelson Mullins average hourly rate for associates is probably in the 300s. Maybe they would give APS a discount to $200/hour but it is unlikely they can bill out associates anywhear near the $100/hour that APS currently pays its staff lawyers. The paralegals at Nelson Mullins bill out at higher rates than that.

  2. AN09 says:

    Tom, you are correct. Isn’t Jill Strickland (author of the Brock advertisement) the former Press Secretary for the Atlanta City Council and Chief-of-Staff to a Council Member? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

  3. tom tidwell says:

    APS has publicly stated the desire to hire Glen Brock as outside general counsel is intended to reduce costs and increase efficiency so more money can be directed to the children in the schoolhouse. Nancy Meister asked Davis how theses savings and effiiencies would be realized and he clearly backed away from this notion, saying it wasn’t just a cost issue. This is concerning on a number of levels, but most importantly, at least in my mind, it is another example of APS making aspirational statements that don’t have any basis in fact or reality.

    • Tom – you are right on point. This is another case of issuing ‘fluffy’ press releases with information that they hope will sway the public, when in fact there is no basis whatsoever for the claims made. Davis acknowledged as well that there has been absolutely no assessment made by Brock on the existing structure, its cost or its functionality. While there may be a ‘hope’ of cost savings, there is no plan, no cost savings objective or a contractual relationship that establishes the relationship between APS and Brock’s law firm that will be the signatory to the personal services contract.

      I hope this does not blow up in their faces, but I am deeply troubled by the lack of due diligence done on the issue in advance of approving it.


  4. tom tidwell says:

    Brock is already working with the transition team. The idea was floated to postpone this decision until July so the Board could be presented with a contract which presumably would answer a lot of questions regarding costs and scope of work. I did not hear a single reason why this decision could not be postponed 3 weeks, Nevertheless, every board member voted for this resolution except Nancy Meister and Steve Lee. Thank you Nancy and Steven.

  5. Beverly Fraud says:

    Another MAJOR red flag for putting politics and agenda before what’s best for children. Getting to be ALL to common with this new board.

    Brock has been long thought of as a Mark Elgart/SACS crony and when you see the efforts made by Mark Elgart to politically protect* Beverly Hall during the cheating scandal, hiring an Elgart crony does NOT bode well for “a new day at APS.” does it?

    *For those who don’t know the backstory: The largest cheating scandal in US educational history doesn’t get even a cursory glance from Elgart, but a LEGAL-so said the judge who ruled on it-replacement of the board chair who ACTIVELY CONSPIRED with Beverly Hall to hide evidence of cheating, bring Mark ‘the bully’ Elgart with guns a blazin, threatening to yank accreditation. And THESE are the birds of a feather “the new APS” wants to flock with?

  6. APS says:

    Your were right!! Brock has taken over and brought attorneys over from Nelson Mullins and intends to take the majority of the work over to Nelson Mullins and terminate the current attorneys. The public should ask for an investigation between the relationship between certain members of the Board of Education and Nelson Mullins and the new Superintendent. This arrangement stinks to high heaven as the Board members admitted at the legislative meeting conducted on June 19th that they conducted meetings, conversations and text before the vote regarding the appointment of Brock as general counsel. The Board flat out lied!

  7. AN003 says:

    I do believe that we should all do open records requests for the information re: Brock. Also, we should make sure that the information shared in Executive Session about the Brock Resolution is placed on the official board minutes and released to the public. We should request the names of those BOE members voting to close the discussion of the Brock Resolution and specific reasons for closure. Brock was not employed by APS, therefore any and all discussions relating to him are subject to Section 50-141-1 of the Open Meetings Law. We should request the citation of the exemption under which the BOE believed that the resolution should have been included in Executive Session and which legal entity advised them of such. I do believe that there is more than one attorney on the APS BOE. No petulant incoming superintendent & her lackeys are worth a situation where my professional licensure could be challenged. This BOE is certainly teetering on the edge of some questionable actions & I would be very careful and extremely thorough prior to blindly voting with the majority of this group.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: