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  • Tuesday, June 07, 2011

     

    Ledesma wants new legal team negotiator

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    a news service of
    Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    Ledesma wants new legal team negotiator,
    Singer questions legal expenses as fees double


    At the May 12, 2011 Orange Unified School Board meeting, OUSD Board President Rick Ledesma recommended that OUSD change legal representatives for negotiations with its employee groups. Ledesma asked the OUSD Board for consensus to have staff ask for a quote from law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd & Romo to be the legal representative for the district in employee negotiations replacing longtime firm Parker & Covert. Ledesma stated it was “good business sense” to occasionally rotate firms for a fresh perspective. While Ledesma was getting the consensus of nodding heads from the Trustees, only Trustee Kathy Moffat spoke up with concerns. Moffat, who stated that she had no objection asking for quotes, however did object to only one firm being considered for the contract to negotiate on behalf of the District and also wanted some objected criteria established. Moffat also thanked long time OUSD Attorney Spencer Covert for his service to OUSD.

    Later in the meeting, Trustee Diane Singer continued her ongoing mission to comb over the Consent Item Agenda legal fees asking the other Trustees and staff to stop and think about the amount of taxpayer money that Orange Unified pays out in legal fees. Singer wanted “to take a comprehensive look” at whether in these times of fiscal crisis the District is doing everything it can to avoid getting into a position that it needs to use a lawyer. Singer used Special Education as an example of a place where the District might avoid the need for lawyers by listening to parents earlier in the process before attorneys get involved. Trustee Mark Wayland on prompting from Ledesma offered his experience with the issue. Wayland shared that when he first was elected to the Board he too tried to tackle the legal money issue by investigating the possibility of using an in-house attorney. Wayland reported that he found that because of dozens of legal specializations having one attorney do everything is impossible. Wayland stated that even the City of Orange, with its own City Attorney, is forced to farm out legal services to law firms specializing in certain areas of the law. Wayland used the example of going to a divorce attorney vs. going to a property attorney. Trustee Kathy Moffat suggested that a comparison between OUSD’s legal costs and a comparable school district be might helpful. Staff agreed to be more descriptive in routine legal requests that establish accounts that are used to pay for legal fees over a period of time. Those items pulled from the Consent Agenda by Singer were held over until this month’s meeting. OUSD President Rick Ledesma characterized her concerns over legal costs as part of “a long tradition” in Orange Unified of questioning legal fees.

    The June 9th OUSD Agenda includes Information Item 13A:Legal/Services Fees (Agenda Page 32). In the item, OUSD Staff will explain how District departments “estimate the potential legal service expenditures” to have purchase orders in place for the OUSD fiscal year. With the held over items from last month that Singer pulled, plus the legal items from this month, OUSD Trustees will approved legal fees in this calendar year that will be twice as much from those legal fees approved last calendar year. This year’s initial requests of $760,000 for legal fees are double last year’s approved $385,000 in legal fee funds (see below).

    It is the Board action to approve legal fee requests that Orange Net News has reported since 2005 every calendar year in its popular Inside the OUSD Budget feature (see below). That ONN feature is used by the public to compare multiple legal requests in a single year and gives a quick reference for comparison. In past years, the OUSD legal expenses requested in the initial “estimated” request by OUSD Staff (and approved by the Trustees) have been used up before the end of the year. Then the OUSD Staff goes back to the OUSD Board for more legal funding. Those requests can be clearly seen in years that this happens with Inside the OUSD Budget. It is that same feature that clearly showed the millions of educational dollars that OUSD previously wasted on the Consultant Culture that OUSD had maintained under previous administrations until OUSD Superintendent Dr. Dreier began using “in-house” experts necessitated by the current fiscal crisis, but producing far better results than under expensive educational consultants.

    OUSD to Re-Organize to save $200,000
    In an effort to further save $200,000, the June 9, 2011 agenda Action Item 12 F (Agenda page 30-31) lists 24 personnel, title, job reclassifications and eliminations. Among the changes a re-introduction of the Elementary Assistant Principal position and elimination of Director of Communication and Technology position.

    Budget resolutions
    With the California State Legislature expected to vote to reject the state budget until after the Friday June 10, 2011 pre-release of the new redistricting lines for the California State Legislature, OUSD Trustees are expected to approve the June 9 Action Items 12D (Agenda page 11-26) and Action Item 12E (27-29). Item 12D includes a paragraph from the Orange County Department of Education that states $9 million dollars in further cuts might be needed if Governor Brown’s proposed tax extensions fail. Item 12E is an annual legal resolution (that has yet to be court tested) on reserving the right to cut salaries after the school year starts.

    INSIDE the June 9th AGENDA
    Action Item 12A- Orange Unified Education Association negotiation proposal
    Action Item 12B–California School Employees Association #67 negotiation proposal
    Information Item 13B– Update on drug dog program

    INSIDE the OUSD Budget
    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2011: $760,000
    2011 Attorney Fee tally
    4/21/11 Parker & Covert $ 85,000
    6/09/11 Dannis,Wolvier, Kelly $ 30,000
    6/09/11 Keenan & Associates $ 20,000
    6/09/11 Harbottle Law Group $ 75,000
    6/09/11 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya $150,000
    6/09/11 Parker & Covert $200,000
    6/09/11 Parker & Covert $100,000
    6/09/11 Parker & Covert $100,000
    TOTAL $760,000

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2010: $ 395,000

    2010 Attorney Fee Tally:
    5/27/10 Dannis, Woliver & Kelley $ 30,000
    5/27/10 Parker & Covert $ 55,000
    5/27/10 Parker & Covert (to 6/11) $300,000
    Misc Fees
    12/2/10 2010 CSBA-Trustees and Superintendent: $ 10,000
    TOTAL $ 395,000

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2009: $1,041,000*

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2008: $901,200.00*

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2007: $704,090.00*

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2006: $849,717.00*
    2006 Administrative Conference/Travel: Total $ 18,317 *

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2005: $1,008,300

    * JUNE 8th, 2006 Trustees VOTE to Give OUSD Superintendent the power to
    APPROVE OUSD Travel Requests taking this item OUT of the PUBLIC AGENDA


    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2005: $978,300.00

    Former Superintendent Godley’s Retirement Bonus running total
    (beginning 8/2008): $38,930.00*

    * The Godley Retirement Bonus presented here is an estimate of the amount in “bonus retirement” accrued since the Superintendent’s retirement on 6/30/08 using a 6% lifetime formula calculated here at $1210 a month since 8/08. The actual retirement plan the former OUSD Superintendent opted to take is not public information and the figures presented are only as an estimate of the taxpayer costs after the OUSD trustees voted against an amendment to exclude Godley from the retirement program. The on-going estimated figure is presented as a reminder to the community of the high cost in educational tax dollars the OUSD Board vote to allow the former Superintendent to participate in the 6% retirement incentive cost the OUSD education community in tax dollars. Godley retired from OUSD on June 30, 2008 after he worked for the school district for a little over five years.

    Next OUSD Board Meeting Thursday June 09, 2011. For more information

    CLICK ON: JUNE 2011

    OUSD CLOSED SESSION STARTS 5:30 PM, Regular Session: 7:00 pm
    For more information call the OUSD Superintendent’s office at 714-628-4040
    For budgeting questions call Business Services at 714-628-4015

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    Independent insight into OUSD
    is an independent news service of /O/N/N/

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