It only took until the first full meeting of the new Jefferson County School Board for fears to be renewed about changes the new board will make.
New board president Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams outvoted Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman to hire Brad Miller of Miller Sparks LLC, a Colorado Springs law firm, to represent the board — not the district.
Allen Taggart, the district’s in-house legal counsel, retired on Dec. 19.
Miller represents the Falcon School District, which is east of Colorado Springs, and has done work for several Colorado charter schools.
Questions are being asked about this action, however, because Dahlkemper and Fellman were only notified about the potential hire two days before the vote via e-mail, and there was no public interview process.
“I voted ‘no’ because we had so little time before the hiring was brought up, and we don’t know anything about cost,” Fellman said. “The charge for Mr. Miller is going to be around $90,000 a year, which is around $7,500 a month. That is the cost of two new teachers, and I’m not sure we need this new lawyer.”
The board was booed twice during the meeting, both times about the hiring of Miller.
The move was also a break with tradition, since normally the district does the hiring, with the board approving those hires.
Fellman said that she was left with a lot of questions, including how Miller will communicate with the rest of the board.
“There is a cost for him to have secretarial support, but we don’t know how much that cost will be,” she said.
Fellman said that Witt directed board members to Miller’s website for references, but there are only testimonials on the site, which carries a different meaning to Fellman.
“This makes me uneasy. The hiring of this lawyer sets a lot of precedents in my mind,” Fellman said. “This is a brand new board, and we want to establish trust, but it’s going to difficult with this hanging over our heads.”
Calls were made to Witt, Newkirk and Williams for comment, and were not returned.