It took the Douglas County School Board more than four hours to decide whether to modify, terminate or replace the current legal services with law firm Maupin, Cox & LeGoy, during the meeting June 13.
After debates for and against the current legal representation of the school board, the board voted 4-3 to table the action last week, instead a special meeting will be held in the near future where members of the board will bring forward interested legal parties to be interviewed for the position. The current firm, Maupin, Cox & LeGoy’s contract remains intact until then.
“I can guarantee that the amount of exposure to the district will expand exponentially based on several factors,” said Maupin, Cox and LeGoy attorney Rick Hsu. “One, firms will basically be like a shark smelling blood in the water, two, (other) legal counsels will probably bill at a higher rate and three, the time associated with learning this specialized area of law would need to be put aside. So, there’s three different dynamics where there are potential risks.”
Maupin, Cox and LeGoy has been the Douglas County School District’s legal representation for over 20 years.
“We have done it out of our sense of loyalty,” said Hsu. “We believe we do have trust with many of our authorized constituencies and we do know we have some board members who do not feel that same trust. The attorney-client trust goes both ways.”
According to a letter read by School Board President Susan Jansen during the meeting, the reason for the consideration of termination and replacement of the current legal counsel is because she does not believe Maupin, Cox and LeGoy has provided adequate support on certain matters.
“I don’t believe our current legal counsel has given us confident advice regarding open meeting laws, lawyer requests and guidance on making motions,” Jansen read. “I’m going to allow the attorneys to make their presentation, but once trust is lost between a legal team and the client the legal ethics calls for the legal team to withdrawal.”
Instead of terminating the law firm, as some board members requested, it was suggested that a modification be added to the contract the firm currently holds with the district which would allow the board to have separate representation from the school district as a whole.
“Clark County has separate legal counsel and it’s not uncommon to see it in different areas either,” said Hsu. “The modification would allow the board to select their own council who they feel would do a better job in these meetings, open meeting laws, public records, if you get a lawsuit or a board member is sued to give you, the board, the flexibility to do that. We are happy to modify the contract to carve out the scope of representation there and keep everything else in tack.”
Douglas County School District Superintendent Keith Lewis said with 20 plus years of representation from Maupin, Cox and LeGoy, the Douglas County School District staff has built a partnership with the firm and would be dismayed by its termination.
“You (Douglas County School Board) have unfortunately had to deal with our legal counsel in the first five months and I’m sorry that’s happened, but on a day-to-day basis, my staff has worked with Paul Anderson, Carolyn Renner, Rich Hsu and they have been amazing educational attorneys who have represented Douglas County school district,” said Lewis. “I implore this board to listen to me and my staff. I support it if you want someone else to represent you by all means do it, but I believe very strongly in our law firm for the day-to-day situations that I generally deal with.”
The Douglas County School Board and district staff will put together a request for proposal, with a list of qualifications required in the order to be considered as candidates to becomes Douglas County School District’s legal Counsel. The candidates will be interviewed at a future special board meeting and further action will be taken from there.