Muscogee County school board retains no-bid deal with law firm - WRBL

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Muscogee County school board retains no-bid deal with law firm

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

The Muscogee County school board voted Tuesday night to retain Hatcher-Stubbs as legal counsel by a 6-3 vote. The board's vote was the same as last year's vote. John Wells, Beth Harris, Naomi Buckner, Rob Varner, Pat-Hugley Green, AJ Senior voted for keeping the law firm. Shannon Smallman, Cathy Williams and Mark Cantrell voted against, hoping to open up the bid process.

The vote came after Superintendent David Lewis' recommendation to continue the six decade old relationship with the Hatcher-Stubbs law firm. One of the benchmarks Lewis said he used was a report by the Hanover Research firm, but there's been criticism about how the report obtained its information. Board member Cathy Williams and local political consultant Frank Myers have expressed their concerned with the "thoroughness" of the study. 3 experts were interviewed, and while 200 school districts were sent surveys about their legal counsel, only 26 responded. Lewis says he was not concerned about the low response rate.

“I think the fact is that we see that we have a general consensus moving forward and the sampling of the district came from throughout the country,” says Lewis.

The school district pays Hanover Research $30,000 a year for a 3-year contract. Lewis says it is in lieu of creating a research and development position. He says this saves the district money while allowing him and the board to make decisions based on analytics. Lewis says he worked with the firm in his previous school district.

“I did have an affiliation with them and we found the work to be extremely comprehensive and helpful making decisions moving forward in my former district,” says Lewis, who also mentioned the law firm representing his previous school district in Polk County, Florida had been with them for over 50 years.

Several board members expressed their opinion about what the district should do about their legal counsel at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

"We've been very satisfied with Hatcher-Stubbs, but I think its right for us to bid it out,” said Mark Cantrell. “Not allowing a bid process...that's not the American way. It's just good business to open it up."

“"I'm not going to support this,” said Cathy Williams. “I support a hybrid method, general services and specialized services."

"The best legal counsel is the one that has the most experience with school law,” said Naomi Buckner.

John Wells also weighed in, saying he is a fan of the data and analytical approach superintendent Lewis used to make a recommendation.

After about 15 minutes of discussion, the vote came and the district upheld it's current legal counsel with Hatcher-Stubbs for at least another year.

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