OPS Board Moves to Reduce Attorney Fees

After voting on the new superintendent, the Omaha School Board turned the attention to its outside law firm. Some board members wondered whether the issue of a new contract with the attorneys should be delayed from discussion in executive session.

Some members of the public have also questioned the relationship between the board and Baird Holm law firm during the Nancy Sebring scandal – and asked whether OPS pays too much for legal services.

After much public and private discussion Monday night, board president Freddie Gray said a move to retain the law firm with a different fee structure would save taxpayers money.

Board member Justin Wayne believes the board should have waited before making this decision.

“Throughout my life, one of the things that has always stuck with me is the process is just as important as the outcome. I feel like when it comes to legal services, the process has not been fair nor has it been transparent.”

Wayne said he wanted answers to several questions including, ‘What is the going market rate for attorneys who specialize in human resources, taxes and labor relations?” Questions asked back in August.

“We ask our students to think critically and make informed decision – to research and get the best evidence before making an informed decision,” said Wayne. “We should do that ourselves.”

Board member Marian Fey agreed that the ad hoc audit committee had not received answers to critical questions but felt the board should proceed with controlling costs now and having the broader discussions later. “I don’t look at it one way or another…let’s make a prudent and a financial conservative decision now.”

Interim OPS superintendent Dr. Virginia Moon told the board that it’s important to have legal services now in such a large district -- and the fees -- and the relationship and role of the attorneys and the board can be flushed out over time. “Stabilize us for a few months so we can have that conversation down the road,” she said.

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