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 CAB Board Delays Vote on New Attorney

October 29, 2008 - The Charles A. Beard School Board came close to hiring new legal counsel for the school corporation last week, but members agreed to delay the vote until their November meeting, when they can review a written contract.

Attorneys from two law firms interested in representing CAB gave presentations at the board’s Oct. 21 meeting. Eric Allen and Brian Howey of Allen Wellman McNew in Greenfield went first, followed by David Day and Seamus Boyce of Noblesville firm Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim.

While Allen and Day both told the board their respective firms were well equipped to handle most legal issues that might arise, the Noblesville firm clearly had the edge with respect to experience in the area of education law. Day, who himself has 31 years experience representing schools, told the board that his firm currently has 11 other school corporations as clients and has done work for more than 60 over the years. By contrast, Allen told the board his firm does not represent any school corporations at this time.

Besides himself and Boyce, Day said CCHA also has another partner with over 30 years of experience in education law, as well as another associate who does work in this field. Boyce, who, like Day, is married to a teacher, told board members that he also obtained a masters degree in education law from the New Hampshire law school he attended.

The proposal CCHA sent to CAB said they would represent CAB for $800-$900 a month. However, Day said this amount would be less, possibly half as much, if the school board didn’t want to have an attorney present at their monthly meetings.

“It’s a question of fairness,” Day said of his firm’s fees. He said his preference would be to work for CAB for three to four months and then reevaluate the fee arrangement, saying he “would like to get a feel for what’s happening in your district.”

After the presentations, Superintendent Gary Storie told the board that he would be amenable to keeping CAB’s current legal counsel, Indianapolis attorney Mike Wallman of Rund Wallman & Robbins. However, of the two firms that addressed the board that night, he said he thought Day’s firm would be the better of the two, citing their wealth of experience in education law.

Board member Tom Schaetzle said it wasn’t clear to him why the board wanted a new attorney if Storie was happy with Wallman. In July, more than a month before Schaetzle was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board, members had voted not to renew Wallman’s contract.

Board President Kevin Knott said he felt that Wallman’s representation had not always been in the best interest of the school corporation. He specifically mentioned Wallman’s advice that CAB not allow him and four other board members to see unredacted copies of four public records that his predecessor in office and two other board members at that time had been allowed to see. Knott said this went against his belief in open government, and said he didn’t think tax dollars should be used to pay an attorney who advises keeping elected officials from reviewing public records.

Board Vice President Steve Dalton also said he didn’t favor keeping Wallman. Citing the attorney’s advice on the issue Knott had mentioned, as well as questions about his billing for representation of CAB on a matter involving the expulsion of four students, Dalton said he had no confidence in Wallman.

Board member Mark Fort called Wallman’s fees “ridiculous,” and said it appeared to him that Wallman treated CAB “as an ATM machine.”

Board member Leah Kopp made a motion at last week’s meeting to hire Day’s firm, and Dalton seconded the motion. Board member Tim Wehr asked that the motion be amended to allow Wallman to finish work on matters he has been dealing with.

Schaetzle and board member Wade Beatty, however, questioned whether the board should hire the firm without first reviewing a written contract, with the latter saying he thought the matter should be tabled. Kopp then withdrew her motion.

Storie told the board he would contact Day, who had already left the meeting, and have him forward a written contract for the board to consider at its Nov. 18 meeting. Until then, Wallman will continue to represent CAB.


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