Thursday, November 15, 2012

JPS: Stimulus spending for attorneys?

Attorneys have done quite well representing the Jackson Public School District. JJ obtained through a public records request invoices and contracts for school board attorney Dorian Turner and JPS District Counsel Joanne Sheppard. What is interesting is the district has both a lawyer who is an employee and an attorney who represents the school board. Most districts have one or the other but not both.

Ms. Turner sent invoices of $237,836 since January 2010 to JPS. Here are the fees as stated on the invoices*:

2010: $80,526
2011: $76,709
2012: $51,090 (Through September).
Lonnie Edwards litigation: $6,267
Superintendent Search: $23,244.

It should also be noted Ms. Turner earned fees of $243,813 for the $114 million 2008 general obligation bond issue and $42,233 for the 2007 $36 million general obligation bond issue. The district retained Ms. Turner in January 2008. The contract states the district will pay her at a rate of $180 per hour and her paralegal at a rate of $75 per hour. Although Ms. Turner is commonly called the "Board Attorney", her contract states she represents the district as well. The district also pays Ms. Shepherd an annual salary of $99,986 as an employee.

Such an arrangement is rare, even for larger school districts in Mississippi. Madison and Rankin County Public School Districts retain outside counsel for any representation. There is no "in-house" counsel. Desoto County is the largest public school district in Mississippi. It was paying the board attorney $125 an hour. However, the district determined it was cheaper to hire an attorney as an employee. The district's press release announcing the hiring stated:

"In an effort to control legal expenses and secure more legal services, the DeSoto County School Board approved a contract to have in-house counsel at the Thursday recessed board meeting.
Prior to this agreement, the school board attorney Keith Treadway had a contract from January 1 though December 31, 2012 at $125 per hour.
Treadway will now be a salaried employee of the district, making $155,000 per year....
‘Large school districts are big targets,” said Kuykendall. “Between 2009 and 2011, rising legal expenses for DCS totaled $1.26 million. School districts must expend a lot of effort and money to defend themselves from lawsuits and make sure all contracts and actions of the school board are legal actions.”...
“Cities and larger school districts throughout the nation have gone to in-house counsel,” Kuykendall said. “It is a cost savings and you have legal advice 24 hours a day. With increased legal service to the district, it is my hope to prevent lawsuits in the future.

It should also be noted that whenever the district needs representation in dealing with complaints or lawsuits, JPS usually retains attorney Jim Keith at Adams & Reece. Calls to JPS CFO Sharolyn Miller were not returned.

*JJ was unable to obtain copies of the actual bills. The district claimed attorney client privilege. They apparently couldn't follow the lead of other government bodies and redact any sensitive information.

Editorial comment: That was the news, now for the opinion. There is no reason for JPS to have three layers of lawyers: An in-house lawyer, a board attorney, and an attorney for litigation. Mr. Keith is a recognized specialist in education and disabilities law. It is understandable to retain him when there is litigation. However, there is no excuse to have both an employee who is counsel and a board attorney. Ms. Shepherd is a capable attorney. If she needs help, hire another lawyer or paralegal to assist her in her duties. The board should terminate Ms. Turner's contract at the earliest convenience. If the board really wants to save money, it should open up for bidding the bond counsel contract next time there is a bond issue but that is probably expecting too much in this state as bidding is the new four letter word. JPS should follow Desoto's lead.


Anonymous said...

Forty acres and a mule

Anonymous said...

Please tell me she submits itemized statements with hourly entries, and not just monthly "amounts due." Please tell me you tried to get those but there's some compelling reason we can't see them.

Kingfish said...

They refused to provide them. Cited Attorney-Client privilege.

KaptKangaroo said...

From my reading the following issues were billed:

Total for Lonnie Edwards: $6,267

Total for Superintendent Search: $23,244

2008 $114 million bond issue: $243,813

2007 $36 million bond issue: $42,233

Anonymous said...

Dorian Turner is only carrying on where David Watkins left off engorging at the JPS feed trough. He showed her how to do it. What in the world ever led you to believe that JPS was about educating students?

KaptKangaroo said...

I do see where there are other months with no reference. Board entertainment?

Anonymous said...

Celebrate Jackson ... Our Public Schools graduate 53% of our male High School students!

Anonymous said...

redistribution at it's best!!! They probably are half-ass lawyers to start with...

Anonymous said...


meople said...

I'm thinking that it is time to revisit the voucher system. If I still lived in Jackson with kids I would demand my the money that was to be spent on my child and would homeschool. Or just wouldn't pay my property taxes. And if I am not mistaken the teacher to student ratio is very positive for such poor reviews.

Jeff Rimes said...

Every lawyer named in this article is an excellent lawyer who does high quality work and is well respected among those of us who practice in the area of school law.

Kingfish said...

Did anyone dispute that?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget - "pizzaz" costs extra.

Anonymous said...

Really? No story about this abysmal failure of a "potty" at City Hall? $98K spent on a few bush-league ads and a "celebration" planned on a cold, dark November night in the middle of the work week that almost no one attended, yet JJ remains silent?

"Come to Jackson! We've got the Rainbow Co-op and road construction! Paaahhh-teee!"

Come on, KF. I expect at least something on this fiasco.

Kingfish said...

Didn't know about it.

Anonymous said...

Get over yourself Rimes.

Members of your profession gushed over Scruggs, et al also.

Can you call Watkins and get him to pay his property taxes? He owes a bundle.

2016 Hottest Reporter Poll

Suscribe to latest on JJ.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel

Who is the hottest reporter?


Who is the Hottest Reporter in Jackson?

Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS