Board searches for one attorney, considers contracts with two

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

BOLIVIA—The Brunswick County Board of Education’s search for legal representation has brought them back to where they started.

Last month, they heard from four law firms, all vying to be the board’s legal representation. Joseph Causey, the board’s current lawyer who practices out of Shallotte, Kathleen Tanner of Tharrington-Smith, a Raleigh-based firm and representation for the board in its most recent matters, Jim MacCallum, a Shallotte-based lawyer, and Wayne Bullard, of Wilmington's Hogue, Hill, Jones, Nash & Lynch, all presented the board with their hourly rates, services and specialties.

The intent of the search was to tighten the board’s legal expenses by choosing one firm for representation. The board spent $127,000 during the last budget year in legal fees, $44,500 more than the budgeted amount.

During the search, the board realized certain issues, such as issues dealing with exceptional children, may be out of the specialty areas for some local lawyers. That was the reason for the use of Tanner’s services in the past.

The board asked Tanner last month to provide information about a “hybrid” service, in which a local attorney would assist the board in monthly meetings and litigation and Tanner would step in when specialty service is needed.

Tanner sent an e-mail to the board explaining her rates for a hybrid service would be the same as in her initial proposal, $175/hour and $200/hour if one of her associates assisted in the matter.

“Under our ‘normal’ hybrid arrangements in other counties, local counsel sits with the Board at board meetings, handles student suspensions and bond forfeitures, and real estate matters,” the e-mail states. “We then handle the bulk of the remaining work, which includes personnel, special education, construction, school finance, contracts/leases, constitutional issues, other matters likely to lead to litigation, etc.”

Causey said if the board chose a hybrid arrangement, his fee of $162 an hour after a monthly retainer fee would remain the same unless the board requested otherwise.

“It’s up to them if they want to renegotiate,” he said.

Board member Scott Milligan made a motion Tuesday to formulate a hybrid contract with Tanner and Causey, which was passed by the board.

“This is not a matter of trying to say Mr. Causey cant do the job,” Milligan said. “The playing field is very large with the issues we have to deal with no matter which attorney works for us.”

In other business, the board:

•Approved the budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year of $111,522,849. This includes $61,185,830 in the state public school fund, $33,263,105 in the local expense fund, $3,473,012 in the capital outlay fund, $5,682,453 in the child nutrition fund, and $6,600 in the trust fund.

•Recognized Christopher Roehner, athletic director at South Brunswick High School, as a National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Certified Master Athletic Administrator.

•Recognized the finance department with the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2007.

•Recognized the finance department for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2007.

•Recognized the Board of Education and the finance department for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2007.