Tuesday, October 11, 2011
More money down the rabbit hole
Read this article at the AJC:
Construction firm to ask judge to remove DeKalb schools' lawyers in $100 million suit
This article tells us that not only have we been in a lawsuit with Heery-Mitchell for over five years now over SPLOST II projects, we have spent a reported $17 million from our general operating fund (you know, the one that is supposed to run the schools) on attorneys. Not all that long ago, the board made a deal with King & Spalding (our $17 million law firm in this case) to continue the suit on a contingency basis, meaning that if they win, they get a portion of the reward on top of what they've already been paid.
If DeKalb loses the case, King & Spalding gets nothing. If DeKalb wins, the firm would get a percentage of the earnings, based on accrued work. Right now, that figure stands at $19 million.
In Heery’s motion, the contingency fees give King & Spalding a financial stake in the case, and should disqualify the firm.
Heery-Mitchell's attorneys are claiming that King & Spalding had prior knowledge of the criminal activities of former superintendent, Crawford Lewis and his construction manager, Patricia (Pope) Reid and have a financial stake in the outcome of the civil trial with Heery and should therefore be removed as counsel. I infer from this that the underlying assumption is that the criminal trials could have a serious negative effect on the school system's civil case, as Pope and Lewis are their star witnesses against Heery. It seems we're in a game of cat and mouse. The criminal trial is the linchpin. If it happens before the civil trial, it could be devastating to the school system's case. If the civil trial happens first, the school system will have a better chance, due to the fact that their key witnesses have not yet been convicted of anything. (BTW, the criminal trial is also costing us millions in legal fees both for school system and the county DA. Taxpayers are essentially paying for both the prosecution and the defense in this case.)
“The loss of King & Spalding, five years into the case, would be financially devastating to the district,” Bowen said. “The cost to bring another law firm up to speed would be staggering."
(Just curious Tom, do you not think the costs to date are already staggering?)
How much farther down this rabbit trail do we plan to hop? Are we really sure we want to hand this group hundreds of millions more in construction money? I think we may want to stop, assess the past, clean up the mess and then perhaps turn our attention to devising a new plan – a plan that has an educationally-driven vision.