Thursday, January 16, 2020

Adjournment Enthusiasm

It was nice to see the School Board happy and excited at the end of the January 14, 2020 Regular Meeting.

When Board Chair Manning called for the vote to adjourn, there was a reason he asked for the members to vote by holding their hands high.

Were they just happy that the meeting was ending at 2:13:00?

Did they get a sudden surge of energy, when they realized the meeting was not going to last three hours?

Look at the enthusiasm of Trustee Caution-Parker.  What made her come to life in such a manner?

I know the answer to that question.

Bond Resolution approved by Board

At the January 14, 2020 Regular Meeting of the School Board there was a Resolution presented to the Board for approval.

Several procedural errors occurred on the way to the vote.

The Resolution was not attached to the original Agenda for the meeting. Because it was not, the public was kept in the dark as to its contents.

At the January 14th Meeting I addressed the board during the Public Participation segment. You can view that portion of the board's meeting on the video-recording of the meeting on YouTube at 0:51:07 on the counter.

After I completed my remarks, Board Chair James Manning stated that the Resolution had been placed on the website at the beginning of the meeting.

At least one Trustee read carefully the eight-page Resolution. In addition pointing out a couple of errors in construction of the Resolution,  she made a motion to strike this sentence from Section 22: "Burr Forman is authorized to associate co-counsel at the direction of the  Superintendent."

You have to know the background of that sentence to understand the motion to strike it.

One year ago the Board considered and passed a long Resolution presented by the Administration that included a sweetheart deal for a small, two-woman, black-owned law firm in Columbia. That Resolution gave the Superintendent the authority to order the huge, experienced, professional law firm of Burr Forman to give a chunk of bond business to Jabber & Isaac, PA as co-counsel. The special deal for co-counsel was at the very end of the lengthy Resolution last year.

Is there a special friendship between one of the principals at Jabber & Isaac and one of the Richland 2 board members?

Last year I examined the website of Jabber & Isaac, PA. At that time the website listed numerous areas of practice for that firm. School bond work was not one of them. Today, school bond work is still not listed.

I have no doubt that Burr Forman provides the inclusivity and diversity sought by the District. Frannie Heizer is a female. I suspect Burr Forman hires many black professionals and staff.

The District must spend its money on professionals with the skills and expertise to do the job right the first time. The District should not tell its legal experts to take on apprentices (and pay them), based on race or gender.

Superintendent Davis gave the board fair warning (1:45:30) that he's not giving up on the co-counsel plans, when he made his remarks during the Board and Superintendent Comments. He stated his intention to include "co-counsel" in future Bond Resolutions.

The Board was wise to vote 7-0 to strike that deal from the Resolution. They will have to be their toes for every Bond Resolution in the future.

Frankly, the vote surprised me. I figured that 4-5 of the Board members would vote No on the Resolution but, this time, they came through on behalf of the taxpayers.