A four-hour BOE work session Thursday, Jan. 6 consisted mostly of discussion on whether the board can and should offer a multi-year contract to the law firm that represents the district and name an on-call architectural firm.
CCSD’s charter only allows the board to offer one-year contracts for legal representation, which Means said discourages firms from submitting bids. Only one or two are received each year, rather than the typical 10 or 15 at other districts, he said. Means wants the board’s permission to ask state legislators to change the charter to allow for longer contracts, but some members—mainly Greg Davis—had questions about the proposal and the attorney’s relationship to the board and district staff. One possibility, Means said, is to hire one lawyer for the board and one for the administration, so that in situations like expulsion hearings—where the board’s attorney both argues on behalf of staff to expel a student and advises the board on whether to approve the expulsion—there would be no conflict of interest.
The contract currently belongs to Hall Booth Smith—a firm with 15 offices, including one in Athens—and has for decades. Michael Pruett is usually the district’s attorney, although Andrea Jolliffe represented the firm at the most recent meeting. If the board approves a longer contract, Jolliffe told board members that they wouldn’t be bound by it—they could terminate the contract at any time. The question, Jolliffe said, is whether it’s a good use of resources to go through the bidding process every year if Hall Booth Smith wins it every time.
Similarly, interim Associate Superintendent for District Services John Gilbreath proposed naming Atlanta-based Lindsay Pope Brayfield Clifford & Associates as its on-call architect. LPBC has won the district’s last four architectural contracts in a row, designing Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary and Burney-Harris-Lyons, Hilsman and Coile middle schools. Gilbreath said LPBC has proven it has the flexibility and ability to stay within budget to design future projects, and giving it a rolling five-year contract, rather than putting each project out for bid, will save time. But Davis and other board members were skeptical of that proposal as well.
“My sense is the board is uncomfortable with having one architect,” Means said. “If that’s your direction, we’ll move there.”