FarmingtonAugust 15, 2012
School board to scrutinize legal fee increases
By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Most of the various legal firms that represent the school district asked for raises in their hourly rates for the 2012-13 school year, but the Farmington Public Schools Board of Education held off on approving them July 24 until members better understand the increases’ potential effects.
The school board voted unanimously to continue using the firms’ services through the next school board meeting, Aug. 21, to avoid a gap in legal coverage. Meanwhile, the district will provide the board with the firms’ reasoning for the fee increases and a record of last year’s legal billings.
Secretary George Gurrola said he wasn’t comfortable appointing the law firms until he had that information.
“The question that I asked myself here, as I always do, is, ‘Is this the best way to spend our money?’” said Gurrola. “Now, I noted that all of the law firms are requesting increases, and I also don’t see two different things: one, the backup, sort of the record of legal bills that would tell me exactly how much these increases would amount to if we projected them over last year’s billings.
“And what I thought I would see that is customary is an explanation, at least from law firms that are requesting fee increases larger than the rate of inflation, to explain to me why they’re still worth it,” said Gurrola.
He said that the advisory nature of legal services means it doesn’t not make sense to bid out the services.
“But that does mean we should be holding that type of provider or contractor to the fire,” said Gurrola.
He suggested waiting until the August meeting to get the documentation.
The documents provided in the agenda packet showed that Freeman, Cotton and Gleason’s hourly rate this year would be $200, up from $195; Miller Canfield’s would be $240-$315, up from $210-$295; Secrest Wardle’s would be $175-$195, from $175 last year; and the Thrun Law Firm would charge $185-$235, up from $180-$230.
Two firms’ hourly rates stayed the same: Lusk and Albertson’s rate was $195-$220, and Clark Hill’s was $185-$250. The district does not pay a fee to use Oakland Schools Legal Affairs services.
Superintendent Sue Zurvalec said that the district uses the different firms in their various areas of legal expertise.
The district administration had planned to give the board its general fund legal billing history for 2011-12 in August.
Trustee Murray Kahn agreed with Gurrola.
“I, too, have similar concerns that we weren’t receiving the information until next month about what they were charging us,” said Kahn.
He also wants to vote on each firm separately, though the board had planned to vote on the firms in one motion.
“Because there’s one particular law firm that I don’t feel represented us properly, and I can’t vote for the other ones and not it. I would just have to vote no for all of them,” said Kahn.
Kahn has been critical of the district’s sale of Eagle Elementary School.
“I’m familiar with all of these firms, and I’m satisfied (voting on them all at once),” said board President Frank Reid.
Trustee Karen Bolsen said she will abstain from the legal services vote because one of her family members works at one of the law firms, though the relative doesn’t work on school business, she said.
- Last 7 Days
- Last 30 Days
- Lieutenant promoted to Deputy Police Chief - St. Clair Shores
- Former Birmingham mayor arrested again on meth charges - Birmingham
- Woman found dead in Warren home - Warren
- Homeowner shoots at home invasion suspect - Harper Woods
- WWTHS graduate killed in Libya remembered - Warren
- Community rallies for Shelby boy with brain cancer - Shelby Township
- Love surrounds local teacher fighting cancer - Warren
- Shelby boy battles rare form of cancer - Shelby Township
- Lions Thanksgiving halftime show spotlights WLC band, cheer teams - Walled Lake
- Macomb Home Depot creates college scholarship in honor of deceased employee - Macomb Township
- CVHS students to stage production of ‘Hairspray’ - Clinton Township
- Missing woman found dead - West Bloomfield
- Looking Back: Selinsky-Green Farmhouse c. 1898 - St. Clair Shores
- New Macomb Mall owners to redevelop Crowley’s building - Roseville
- Sterling woman hurt in shooting - Sterling Heights
- Christmas comes to the Shores - St. Clair Shores
- County board considers regional water authority proposal - Macomb County
- Shelby boy battles rare form of cancer
- BHS Orchestra selected to perform at Carnegie Hall
- Lions Thanksgiving halftime show spotlights WLC band, cheer teams
- Macomb Home Depot creates college scholarship in honor of deceased employee
- Child prodigy becomes youngest artist exhibited at Park West Gallery
- All in the family
- Christmas Wonderfest brings holiday wonder to Novi