Tonight's School Board meeting | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tonight's School Board meeting

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2007 at 5:05 PM

The Little Rock School Board met and finished in less than an hour, despite multi-pronged threats from Superintendent Roy Brooks' attorney to discourage the meeting.

Since things are bubbling so hot, I've already posted my column this week on-line. Bottom line: Buy out Brooks and stop the bleeding.

UPDATE ON THE MEETING ITSELF: Who gave Board member Melanie Fox the erroneous information that the state Freedom of Information Act does not allow emergency meetings? The FOI has nothing to do with permissible meetings. It merely requires two hours' notice for any meeting, special or regular or emergency.

And now the squabbling is over the technicalities of board policy which has never been observed in such detail until now. It's a delaying tactic. Get to the business.

And the first question is whether the School Board will hire different lawyers to represent it in the Brooks suspension and firing hearings, currently scheduled for May 7 and 30, rather than the Friday Firm, the Board's regular lawyers. Board member Diane Curry mentioned Darrin Williams, Leon Johnson, Troy Price and Chip Welch. Michael Daugherty nominated Welch. Fox objected, saying she hadn't heard of Welch, one of the state's great trial lawyers. Larry Berkley also objected to Welch, claiming not to know of him. Board President Katherine Mitchell said she knew him, thought he was willing and competent. He's won some high-profile cases, including one against Gov. Mike Huckabee over his administration's attempt to stifle commentator Roby Brock on AETN. The motion passed for Welch 4-2, with Baker Kurrus abstaining.

Mitchell then moved to the matter of Roy Brooks' lawsuit against her and Daugherty. Board member Charles Armstrong said Mitchell was due proper representation as an elected official. Curry noted the district had paid legal fees for other administrators in the district. (Fox disputed this, but I wonder if this stems from the wide misperception about  the case of a school principal currently being sued that she was forced to hire her own lawyer. The principal chose to have her own attorney in addition to the school district attorney representing all defendants in the case.) Daugherty moved that Chip Welch be hired to represent the two Board members. Berkley objected that Daugherty and Mitchell had a conflict of interest in voting and Chris Heller of the Friday firm agreed. He said a school workers defense policy might provide defense for the two, through an attorney of their choice. Kurrus objected to the School Board paying for legal representation, though he left open perhaps finding a reason to reimburse them at some future point depending on circumstances. Not so bad as a flat objection, but it effectively gave aid for the time being to Roy Brooks. His strategy is to isolate Mitchell and Daugherty without effective legal representation, impoverish them and flood them with a full-court press like only a giant law firm can apply. Any position that leaves Daugherty and Mitchell hanging unrepresented against this is, in my book, tacit support for Brooks' effort to get them disqualified from voting on matters pertaining to him. It is a novel legal theory to apply to one's elected supervisors if ever there was one. It's legal hardball and unfair. Right or wrong, the board members acted in their official capacity. They should receive legal representation through the Board, just as others do. But the motion ultimately was withdrawn for an attorney general's opinion.

Meeting adjourned.

Couldn't help but notice Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman in the crowd. I wondered again about contributions, if any, to Roy Brooks' legal defense fund, whether in direct support or a "pro bono" contribution from Hussman's law firm of long standing, Williams and Anderson.

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