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:
- Will Mr. Brock continue as a partner in his current law firm? The answer is presumably yes.
- Will there still be attorneys serving as employees on staff at APS?
- Or will all (or most) legal services be outsourced to Mr. Brock’s firm?
- 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?
- What is the level of “savings” that is anticipated? Should the FY15 Budget be amended to reflect this savings now?
- And since the “savings” will be directed to students – which program budgets are being increased?
- 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.
- What checks and balances are there to limit excessive legal fees charged by Mr. Brock’s firm?
- 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.
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