Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Legal Shuffle


According to the Regional School Committee 9/22/10 minutes, "By a vote of five to four, the committee voted to hire Dupere and Dupere to provide the district’s legal representation for Special Education services."

On 11/30/10 a concerned parent asked the Regional School Committee why Gini Tate was still serving as Special Education counsel for the region: "Mr. Rhodes explained that the School Committee had to negotiate an agreement with the new Special Education attorney, which then had to be ratified by each School Committee. As a result, the contract with the new firm does not begin until December 1, 2010." Of course that was the very next day--or so you would think.

Meanwhile in another part of the space time continuum, on 11/13/10 to be exact--three weeks after the school committee vote to--effectively fire attorney Tate as Special Education counsel, a parent filed suit against the Amherst school district.

Dupere and Dupere started on December 1st at a fixed, all-you-can-litigate, annual cost of $36,000. The first official response to the parent filing suit from Attorney Tate's office concerning the case is dated--you guessed it--December 1st. Pretty quick response for an attorney, eh?

So, rather than having Dupere handle the matter at no additional cost to the taxpayers, the schools--in violation of a School Committee vote--hire attorney Tate, at $220/hour fee plus four hour round trip travel time from her office in Quincy.

The parent who filed suit on November 13 withdrew the action, then refiled on April 4, 2011, using a different legal approach thus providing yet another technical reason Dupere should be handling the case at no additional taxpayer cost.

I asked Regional School Committee chair Rick Hood for an explanation and received this curious response:

"There were three cases carried over from the transition between Dupere and MHLT (Attorney Tate). Two of the cases have reached conclusion and/or are awaiting the BSEA to issue their decision. The third case was a re-filing of a case where MHLT (Attorney Tate) had already worked extensively on it during the FY11 school year prior to Dupere being appointed the new SE attorney. Probably this is the case you are referring to.

Where MHLT was already deeply involved in a case it was thought best (and less expensive) to keep MHLT on it."

Less expensive? You can tell Mr. Hood has an extensive background with yachting! How could Attorney Tate have "worked extensively" or have been "deeply involved" on a case that was originally filed on November 13 with her initial response dated December 1, only two-and-a-half weeks later?

Obviously attorney Tate became a comfortable fixture in the Good Ol' Girls Network now controlling the schools, and since taxpayers unknowingly cover the tab, she's darn well going to stay--no matter the additional expense.

But how do you put a price on trust?

########################################

To: amherstac
Cc: Maria Geryk ; Kathy Mazur ; Mary Wallace
Sent: Fri, Aug 5, 2011 11:22 am

Good Morning, Mr. Kelley:
I'm happy to provide the information you requested. The hourly rate for services provided by Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane (Ms. Tate's firm) is $220.00. The School Committee vote to hire Dupere and Dupere for the districts' Special Education services and Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane for the districts' general counsel was taken on September 22, 2010. I've attached the minutes for your convenience.

Best,
Debbie
Debbie Westmoreland
Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent


You would think that somebody on this Cc list knew all too well that Ms. Tate was still involved in a Special Education case, and could have clarified this response.



17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where is the fiscal oversight ?

Who is responsible for the fiscal oversight of this $48 MM organ that consumes the lion's share of our town's resources?

That person should be up in arms?

Or are they a comfy insider with a big salary to protect ?

Good job Larry. Impeccable work.

Anonymous said...

Good job Larry????

Seems like someone is making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Larry thinks he is some kind of investigative reporter. This is a whole lot of something to do about nothing.

Get a life, Larry.

LarryK4 said...

And you are?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Larry, you have followers inside the administration.

Maybe even in Quincy.

Anonymous said...

No, I am not in the administration nor do I live and/or work in Quincy. I am just someone who thinks Larry is making a mountain out of a mole hill. It's actually quite amusing to watch him get his knickers all in a twist about this stuff.

Some people actually have to work for a living while Larry has time to play at being Woodstein because he doesn't have to work.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I also posted this on an early column -- I agree that it seems very surprising that the schools would choose to give any additional business to Gini Tate, given that Dupere's retainer agreement covers all legal expenses related to special education. The retainer agreement costs $3,000 a month ($36,000 a year), per a memo from Rob Detweiler dated October 26, 2010. The SC voted to accept this agreement, since it was cheaper than the legal expenses related to special education paid in each the last four years (FY 2007 = $52,764; FY 2008 - $42,489; FY 2009 - $66,555; FY 2010 - $31,048). Alternatively, Dupere offered an hourly rate of $185, which is obviously cheaper than that paid to Gini Tate's firm ($220).

Anonymous said...

Larry,

I encourage you to explore those legal expenditure numbers more carefully. According to the figures you have published, the two School Committees use more legal resources than the Special Education Department!

Here is what that looks like to me:
Administrative legal costs for SC - no HR, no SPED:
Region SC = $32,315
Amherst Elem. = $25,077
Total = $57K

SPED Legal Costs
Region = $41,911
Elementary = $14,729
Total = $56K

How is that possible?

It also shows that the District negotiated a savings by working with Dupere.Now would be a good time to spend wisely and take advantage of a good contract rather than ignore its advantages and double spend.

Please ask them how they can even consider double spending on legal costs. Are legal costs expensive enough already ?

Anonymous said...

Woodstein ?!

What is that supposed to imply?

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I agree good work, Larry -- particularly there is a backpack campaign to give pencils and school supplies (along with a backpack, of course) to needy students. The schools cannot afford PENCILS?!?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Larry. If nothing else, I hope those responsible (Maria Geryk etc.) make sure no MORE money is spent on Gini Tate for special education cases.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your digging into this Larry. It's obviously a problem, and you uncovered something that is a real sore spot here. Thank you for doing the digging.

Ali

LarryK4 said...

No problem. Now that Catherine Sanderson has retired her shovel, I've become the default school issue digger.

Anonymous said...

If the district is paying Dupre a retainer, it looks like it wouldn't cost anything for them to take on an older case even if they have to do some catch up on it. So why wouldn't the district have them take on all sped cases asap? Is the retainer for a set amount of hours then the district pays more if the hours are exceeded?

LarryK4 said...

It is a set amount PERIOD no matter how many cases they handle. And it is set at $36,000, which is still a lot less per year than they averaged with Ms. Tate.

And we have no idea how many cases she ended up losing and/or settling for tens of thousands in settlements.

Anonymous said...

Tremendous!


Thanks Larry.



(Catherine you are very much missed)

LarryK4 said...

(Agreed!)