No decision reached on board use of attorneys

TIPP CITY — The Tipp City Board of Education spent the work session held prior to Monday’s regular meeting discussing potential changes to the current policy regarding board use of attorneys.

Policy 0174 currently states that, in engaging other legal counsel, the board may require submission of a written proposal which can be incorporated into a contract or purchase order if it satisfies the wishes of the board. Proposals could detail:

• Specific objectives to be accomplished by the counsel;

• Specific tasks to be performed;

• Procedures to be used in carrying out the tasks;

• Target dates for the completion of tasks;

• Methods to be used to report results to the board and/or to deliver any product or render any service to the board; and/or

• Fees or rate of pay the board will be charged.

Board member Simon Patry shared a proposed draft on what he felt the policy should be revised to. The draft covers when the superintendent and treasurer can contact and engage legal services without board approval, and when they would need to disclose to the board that they will be engaging legal services. The draft also covers when board members can contact and engage the services of the school’s attorney without expressed authorization from the board, which includes:

• To report unlawful conduct of the board after addressing concerns to the board at a meeting;

• To report unlawful conduct of a board member specifically, after raising concerns to the board at a meeting;

• To report unlawful conduct of a superintendent or administrator after raising concerns to the board at a meeting;

• To seek advice, counsel or an opinion as it relates to a potential conflict of interest that concerns the school district and that is personal to such board member; and

• To seek advice, counsel or an opinion as it relates to such member of the board’s fiduciary duties when it concerns facts and matters that are personal to such board member and not a concern shared by the board as a whole.

“The biggest concern I had is that we are contacting — individual school board members are contacting our attorneys, which is resulting in incurring legal fees and/or engaging legal services (related to) investigations or legal questions (…) without board involvement,” Patry said.

The board spent the majority of the meeting discussing whether or not changes and additions to the policy would be necessary.

Board president Theresa Dunaway brought up that she had reached out to the Ohio School Board Association to find out how other districts handled the contacting of attorneys within their own board and found that most school boards allow only the board president to contact the attorney, allow the president and vice president to contact the attorney, or allow all board members to contact the attorney with a system of checks and balances in place. Dunaway said that in the time she has been on the board, they have gone back and forth on similar procedures but no procedure has officially been adopted by the board.

“I do agree that that is something that we, as a current board, need to decide on. That is one thing that we could very easily get accomplished,” Dunaway said.

Further discussion was had on what direction the board should go in regarding additions to the policy or guidelines on future board interaction with attorneys, with no decision reached during the work session.

The board will hold a work session at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 8 and a regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14. Superintendent Mark Stefanik said that there has been no request to add policy 0174 to either meeting agenda but if there was, those meetings would be potential times for further discussion.