DeKalb school system sued over spending on lawyers

head_in_sand_2Ty Tagami has posted a very important article at the AJC online about the Heery Mitchell case.  It appears that Heery and a private citizen have teemed up to sue DeKalb schools for illegally spending itself into the ground and for entering an unconstitutional agreement with King & Spalding.  That would be the handiwork of Josie Alexander, of Alexander & Associates, one of our two law firms of record, who negotiated this bad deal for the school system.  We have tried to bring this to light ever since the ink dried on the contract, only to have our words fall on deaf ears, or worse, to be mocked as uninformed.

Ty reports:

In the new suit filed in DeKalb Superior Court, former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers argues that the contingency arrangement is unconstitutional because it vests in King & Spalding “an ownership interest in property and money” of the school district.

The suit, filed Friday, also takes aim at another part of the contract, which says King & Spalding can force DeKalb to pay for those unbilled hours if the district settles the case against the law firm’s recommendation. That creates an “illegal debt,” the suit filed by Bowers claims. It notes that “there has never been an allocation in any year to cover the attorneys’ fees at issue in that year.”

Read Ty’s full article here>> DeKalb school system sued over spending on lawyers

Further, read some of our posts from the Original DSW blog on the subject of this lawsuit, which we contend that along with the teachers lawsuit will bankrupt the school system:

July, 2010: So, how is the civil case between DCSS and Heery Mitchell coming along?

March, 2011: And the Winner Is… Why – the lawyers, of course!

In addition, Robin McDonald of the Daily Report, a legal news source reported on the case in February of 2011,

“The fee contract, inked in June 2008, allows King & Spalding to collect both its standard hourly rates and a contingency share of whatever damages the school district may collect-should it win its $100 million counterclaim.

If the case settles in a way the firm does not like, it can convert its contingency payment to hourly fees.

Lawyers for the district’s former construction managers claim that those terms give King & Spalding so much power over its client that the firm could effectively veto an attempt by the school district to settle the case.”

However, all during this time, and even today, we have had an ever-changing cast of characters running the school system – always on ‘the learning curve’ – with virtually no one aware of the financially dangerous history. Worse, the Board leadership as well as the last three superintendents have been more or less unconcerned about the case as they focus on squabbles over how to spend the rest of the budget and where to make enough cuts to the schools in order to pay for these legal fees and other waste and bloat.

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14 Responses to DeKalb school system sued over spending on lawyers

  1. midvaledad says:

    It seems Heery and Mrs. Harding are acting in the best interest of the school district and King & Spalding are not.

  2. concernedmom30329 says:

    Yes KS is not acting in system’s best interest. But Heery probably isn’t either. This is about making this lawsuit go away for them. When Governmental bodies hire contractors, this is the kind of black eye that will scare off potential future business for them.

  3. Kim says:

    Uh oh …

    “Bowers said his new lawsuit hangs on the definition of “debt.” He and his clients contend the contingency agreement to pay legal fees amounts to taking on public debt that can only be authorized by voters.

    Legal experts say the case has merit.”

    We better all hope this theory fails because it can be applied to the Federal Bonds the spend-happy Board obligated us to without a vote a couple of years ago, too.

  4. Embarrassed Employee says:


  5. howdy1942 says:

    I appreciate the AJC’s reporting on this topic. In an earlier blog, I stated that the AJC would ultimately bring out the whole truth just as it did in the case of the Atlanta Public Schools. As Jay Cunningham is so fond of saying, “at the end of the day” the former school board will be shown to be either grossly incompetent or criminal, perhaps both. I just hope that somehow, despite DeKalb’s District Attorney, this case will be tried.

  6. concernedmom30329 says:

    This is a civil case, no DA involvement required. It doesn’t sound like the system is going to put much effort into fighting this lawsuit. Any attorneys understand why and what that means? If the system loses, which I presume they will if they don’t put up a defense, it seems to me that KS is the big loser? Maybe I am missing something?

  7. teachermom says:

    I agree @howdy1942. I think there is cause for this case to be tried and probably others. I find it hard to believe that after this board was removed, or more importantly, BEFORE it was removed, there was very little detailed coverage in the press. I don’t mean “tried” in the press. I think the AJC could give more specific coverage as they have given to the APS stories.

    The removal of the board was an action of last resort due to serious, very serious, mismanagement of public funds. I think just that all of the problems facing the school system now can be traced back to that. Primarily through the hiring and overpaying of non-qualified personnel (to include superintendents) and mismanaged lawsuits. Laws have been broken, accountability happens. It just has to.

    Ours is a story with much more serious implications and consequences than a cheating scandal, though harder to tell and not as sexy. That board brought our county to it’s knees; it destroyed property values, drove away potential business, and gutted the schoolhouse. Let the investigations begin. Please.

  8. King & Spalding is in a win-win situation. This civil case will be held until after the Lewis/Pope criminal trials – or it could be thrown out due to the key witnesses being convicted of crimes relating to the case. Their ‘contingency’ contract states that if they are not happy with the outcome, they can go back and bill the school system for the hours they accrued. So, in fact, the longer this goes on, the more hours they can bank on the case. (An issue perhaps to bring up with the DA.) This is why this new case sues the school system – claiming that they have committed the taxpayers to a ‘debt’ without a vote.

  9. Concerned Citizen says:

    “Always on the learning curve” is such an accurate description of DeKalb’s supts and board members, that and just plain ignorance.Thurmond and the rest of them must go. Ramona must go. Howe must go, Ramsey – out – Smith – out March -out. If this budget does not give teachers raises, then all of us take action.

  10. info says:

    Since we’re talking about legal fees, I’d be interested in knowing the following:

    1. How much has Dekalb had to pay to lawyers because of suits that never should have been (the guy who was fired under Lewis and won a settlement last year; the woman RIF’d and re-hired after Textgate)?

    2. How do Dekalb’s legal bills for non-renewal hearings (costing between $7,000-$10,000 a hearing) compare to other districts? I’m not talking about hearings for teachers who have broken the law or flagrantly violated professional ethics like the APS or Dekalb “cheaters.”

  11. @ info

    There is more to research about the corruption and wrongdoing in DeKalb County Schools than we can possibly get to. We are volunteers with family commitments and full-time jobs, in addition to what we do with the DSW blog. Would you please obtain this information and get back to us with supporting documentation? We will publish what you find out — giving you credit or not, as you prefer.

    If change is going to come to DeKalb County Schools — if corruption and wrongdoing are going to be stopped — you cannot depend on “Someone Else” to do all of the work. We need you to do your share. Don’t just ask the questions. Go find the answers. We will publish what you find and we will protect your identity.

    Thank you!
    DeKalb School Watch Editors

  12. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Well, it appears that we are again borrowing to keep the doors open. I wonder if the last TANs were paid back already…

    130 million is not a small amount of money….

  13. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Have any of these lawsuits, (criminal, financial, vegetable or mineral) seen the inside of a courtroom? Pope and Crawdaddy are still out there. DA James didn’t think there was any reason to bring the board to court despite what the Grand Jury said. Don’t expect any of us, the citizens, taxpayers, homeowners or parents, to get our day in court on any case having to do with DCSS. Looks like all the parties to this lawsuit are ready to just walk away. This case smacks of someone trying to save face. We have to pass it to see what’s in it….

  14. Kim says:

    Concernedmom30329 – TANs are a bit different in that they are loans secured against anticipated taxes collected. The only public debt increase would be on the interest incurred. Though a much smaller amount, I think that the same principle could be applied. For me, the Federal bond program the BoE used to fund CCHS rebuild was a complete circumvention of the process. Defenders will tell you that the debt was eventually covered by the SPLOST IV referendum. While this is true, the issue is that the BoE took on the debt months in advance of public approval.

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