KONZ | How much is outsourcing legal services costing JCPS? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

KONZ | How much is outsourcing legal services costing JCPS?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Legal invoices for the first six months of fiscal year 2016 show that Jefferson County Public Schools has spent $245,188 since it began outsourcing its legal department last summer.

If the district continues on about the same course and spends roughly the same amount over the next six months in legal services, that could be a savings of about $100,000.

Last April, Superintendent Donna Hargens asked to eliminate the office of the office of general counsel, which included four positions and had a budget of $600,000 annually.

The Jefferson County Board of Education approved the proposal with a 4-2 vote (board members Chris Brady and Linda Duncan voted against the measure, while Diane Porter, David Jones Jr., Lisa Willner and Stephanie Horne supported it. Board member Chuck Haddaway was absent).

The district's former general counsel, Rosemary Miller -- who made $175,000 annually -- retired. Former assistant general counsel Stephanie Malone, who made $148,000 annually, lost her job. Two other legal department positions that total about $95,000 were also eliminated.

Last June, JCPS put out a request for bids and selected Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP to handle most of the general counsel duties and agreeing to pay the firm a $3,000 monthly retainer to handle questions from district staff. In addition, Wyatt also charges hourly fees for other issues that come up in the areas of employee relations, human resources issues, negotiation strategies and questions of facilities.

The competitive negotiation for legal services document states that the work done by Wyatt partner attorneys are charged to the district at $190 an hour, while work done by associate attorneys costs $175 an hour and work done by paralegals is charged at $70 an hour.

According to July through December 2015 invoices obtained by WDRB through an open records request, JCPS has paid Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP $239,639.38:

  • July 2015: $28,487.20 ($3,000 monthly retainer, $570 on employee relations/labor negotiations, $4,018.75 on facilities, $5,795 general counsel services and $15,005 on human resources)
  • August 2015: $25,051.20 ($3,000 monthly retainer, $6,175 on employee relations/labor negotiations, $4,608.75 on facilities, $9,067.50 in general counsel services and $2,111.25 on human resources)
  • September 2015: $34,243.18 (doesn't specify a breakdown of services)
  • October 2015: $65,256.48 ($3,000 monthly retainer, $16,812 on employee relations/labor negotiations, $2,417.50 on facilities, $38,428 general counsel services and $3,087.50 on human resources)
  • November 2015: $46,265.82 ($3,000 monthly retainer, $20,826.25 on employee relations/labor negotiations, $2,508.75 on facilities, $14,843.75 in general counsel services and $3,982.50 on human resources)
  • December 2015: $40,335.50 ($3,000 monthly retainer, $11,759.75 on employee relations/labor negotiations, $1,925 on facilities, $19,075 in general counsel services and $3,885 on human resources)

JCPS also contracted with Middleton Reutlinger for some of the district's bigger cases related to human resources, employee relations, facilities and special education. JCPS also has a prior relationship with lawyers from this firm.

Middleton is also charging $190 an hour for work done by partner attorneys, $170 an hour for work done by associate attorneys and $110 for paralegal work.

According to July through December 2015 invoices obtained by WDRB through an open records request, JCPS has paid Middleton Reutlinger $5,549:

  • July 2015: $209 ($152 for reviewing behavioral reports for alternative placement and $57 for emailing client regarding behavioral reports)
  • August 2015: $817 ($190 for telephone calls to client regarding letters, $190 for reviewing documents, $76 for drafting a letter regarding reimbursement, $152 for drafting letter to parents regarding JCPS placement, $152 for reviewing material, $57 for emailing client regarding a yearbook)
  • September 2015: $304 ($95 for reviewing law on weapons in an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES), $76 for emailing client regarding IAES, $38 for reviewing materials for IAES placement, $95 for reviewing code of conduct for IAES determination)
  • October 2015: $1,369 ($114 for reviewing letter to parent and emailing client regarding changes, $190 for reviewing law, $76 on emailing client regarding IAES placement, $153 for legal research on IAES placement, $133 for drafting a letter regarding Child Find, $190 for researching law on bus suspension, $190 for researching law regarding Child Find, $57 for drafting email to client regarding IAES, $266 for drafting an audit letter) 
  • November 2015: $1,083 ($190 for reviewing student file for Admissions and Release Committee (ARC) meeting, $95 for for reviewing and revising ARC meeting agenda, $247 for reviewing student file for ARC meeting, $114 for researching issues regarding transportation, $114 for reviewing transportation, $228 for telephone calls, $95 on researching releases)
  • December 2015: $1,767 ($437 for attending ARC meeting, $285 for phone call and drafting multiple emails, $114 for reviewing records binder, $76 for attending conference call, $76 for emailing clients, $133 on making several phone calls,$95 for reviewing a statute, $133 on emails to clients, $152 on reviewing information on IAES, $76 on reviewing IAES information, $95 on reviewing IAES information, $95 on reviewing letter to principals regarding Exceptional Child Educations (ECE).

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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