OTHER\BOARD COMMENTS from the October 12, 2009 Business Meeting
Dr. Eugene Walker, Board Member, District 9, made the following comments:
I ask your indulgence as I offer some response to many of the unflattering comments made at the last Board Meeting.
I am appalled and offended by the provocative, demeaning and degrading words spoken at the last Board Meeting. The speakers’ pseudo egalitarian attempt at being unbiased was unmasked when they wantonly and without provocation used derogatory and inflammatory descriptive terms to defame persons of the past who stood up for equal justice.
Remember, dinosaurs have been extinct and nonexistent for millions of years. However, the fight for equality in America, whether it be for race, sex, religion or creed is and will continue to be an ongoing battle. A color blind society we are not. The mere fact that we have engaged in this dialogue and debate reflects this. At the same time, though, the racial and ethnic insensitivity of those board members who claimed the “race card” was being played is both baffling and void of logic.
Let’s be clear here. It was not an imagined agenda when the Board, without any research or assessment, broke ranks with a practice that had been in place from the Weekes & Candler days as school system attorney and made the unprecedented move to request the proposal for a sole vendor. Historically, Weekes and Candler served as General Counsel to the Board. The Board allowed the firm to hire other law firms to handle matters in various specialty areas of the law. When Ms. Alexander became Co-General Counsel and subsequently General Counsel, this practice of hiring law firms that specialized in certain areas continued. In fact, this practice continued under several different Superintendents – Dr. Freeman, Dr. Hallford, Dr. Brown and Dr. Lewis. Again, in my opinion, when the Board made this arbitrary move to seek a large firm as sole vendor this automatically meant Alexander & Associates could not qualify. When this crystal clear situation occurred I did not have to play the “race card” because the actions of my fellow board members is what made race the central issue. If this was not an act of discrimination I don’t know what is.
I was also accused of questioning the ethics and making scurrilous and irresponsible statements about our new General Counsel. Just a few weeks ago, this Board allowed the majority law firm to submit a bid for all of the legal work of the School District without asking the minority law firm to submit a bid for the same work. This was after the Board officially voted and specifically carved out the areas it wanted Sutherland to negotiate with the Superintendent and the areas Alexander & Associates was to negotiate with the Superintendent. The Board awarded General Counsel Services to Sutherland, and Human Resources, Fair Dismissal Hearings and Workers’ Compensation to Alexander & Associates. The Board then directed each firm to negotiate a flat fee according to the areas allocated to each firm.
Sutherland, without solicitation from the Board submitted two bids, one of which included the work awarded to Alexander & Associates. Alexander & Associates did not get the opportunity to bid on all legal work. Therefore, how could any Board Member say that they wanted to save the School District money, when we don’t know how much money the School District would have saved because Alexander & Associates was not allowed to bid on all of the work. Sutherland’s action was, in my opinion, not only unethical; it was unfair and placed Alexander & Associates at a huge disadvantage.
Fellow Board Members, I am not offended about your rights to say what you said. I am offended about the way you attacked those who feel and speak differently from your thoughts and feelings. I am offended that you espouse a culture of color blindness, yet your rhetoric reveals the deep resentment you have for African American inclusion. I am offended that your accusatory diatribe was aimed specifically at those African-American Board Members who spoke out for a black law firm on the grounds of diversity and inclusion. While at the same time, there were Board Members who fought just as hard and spoke just as forcefully for the white law firm. Equality is a term that does not lend itself to what is convenient or expeditious. It requires balance and fairness.