Board of education vote to hire new legal services is not without controversy

Published 11:53 am Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Clark County Public Schools Board of Education approved a motion to accept a bid from the Mount Sterling law firm of White, Peck, and Carrington to be its legal counsel, temporarily leaving the district with two attorneys.

The 3-0 decision on Monday was not without controversy.

Board member Sherry Richardson made the motion to hire the new firm. The motion initially included an action to terminate the services of its current legal counselor, Grant, Rose & Pumphrey. The motion was amended since the action had to be put on the meeting agenda beforehand.

Former Clark County Attorney Brian Thomas represents the Board on behalf of the firm and was responsible for forwarding the complaint that has the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office currently investigating allegations that Richardson’s family business, Howard’s Overhead Doors, indirectly received over $85,000 worth of payments for services rendered for a district project. If proven to be accurate, the allegations would constitute ethics violations under Kentucky law.

Richardson made a motion at the Aug. 16 Board meeting to begin advertising for legal services. She has repeatedly stated that her personal attorney has advised her that she may continue her duties until the AG’s office releases its findings.

Board member Brenda Considine, along with Megan Hendricks, voted for the motion, along with Richardson.

“I have many reasons of why I make decisions, and a lot of times those aren’t privy to the public. I always draw from my past experience, and that’s what I drew from tonight,” Considine said about the reasoning for her vote.

When asked if it looked suspicious that the Board was replacing Thomas while Richardson was still under investigation, Considine stated that the issue did not involve her.

“That really does not pertain to me,” she said. “I know what you are talking about. I’m not involved in that.”

The Board interviewed the three candidates for the position in under an hour and voted to accept the Mount Sterling firm’s bid without any public discussion.

Considine said Thomas advised the Board to make its decision in an open meeting.

Thomas confirmed Considine’s statement and said the bid discussion and decision had to be in public since it is required by Kentucky law.

A special-called meeting is set for noon Friday to consider moves to terminate Grant, Rose, & Pumphrey and formally execute the contract with White, Peck, and Carrington.

Board members recuse themselves

Board Chair Ashely Ritchie and Co-Chair Bill Taulbee recused themselves from the meeting before the interviews and the vote.

Ritchie said she had concerns about the legality of the meeting since when it was changed from a special-called meeting to a regular one, she did not approve the new agenda items, as required by Board Policy 1.45.

She said she forwarded her concerns to the Kentucky Office of Educational Accountability, who said she should speak with the AG’s office. Ritchie said the AG’s Office told her to submit a formal request for an opinion, which she did.

In a phone interview with the Sun on Wednesday, Ritchie said she had yet to hear back from the AG’s office with a ruling.

Based on that, Ritchie made a motion to reschedule the meeting until the ruling was made, but it was defeated 3-2.

Taulbee said that he had concerns about how the Board advertised for legal services and that the resulting bids were unsealed. He motioned for the Board to strike the interviews and scheduled the vote to hire from the agenda so the interested parties could resubmit their proposals. A 3-2 vote defeated his motion.

Later, following a five-minute recess, Taulbee left the room and the meeting, and in the process, leaving it without a chair. Per Robert’s Rules of Order, the Board’s secretary, Superintendent Molly McComas, brought the meeting back from recess.

Hendricks was elected chair pro tem, and the scheduled interviews and vote proceeded as planned.

Taulbee said in a text message conversation with a Sun reporter that he will not be able to attend Friday’s meeting due to work commitments.