- Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2009 20:43
- Published on Wednesday, 18 February 2009 20:43
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School Board paid lawyers $6,887 to avoid giving Rhodes $300 to settle 37,091 total costs for School Board over flawed discipline policy
What is thought to be the final legal bill has come in and been paid by the King George School Board and Superintendent Candace Brown to defend against a lawsuit by Januari Rhodes alleging due process violations in a student incident last May.
The School Board won a victory of sorts in December when it got dismissal they sought to close out the complaint filed by Rhodes last spring.
The judge ordered they only pay Rhodes $48 for her filing fees.
~ TOTAL SPENT ON ILLEGAL DISCIPLINE POLICY To win that dismissal judgment in the Rhodes case, the School Board paid $6,887.64 in legal bills.
That was in addition to the $48 ordered to be paid to Rhodes for reimbursement of her filing fee.
But they also had spent $15,166 to lawyers to defend the Linda Davis case, in which they lost two preliminary hearings in Circuit Court prior to readmitting Cody Davis to King George High School, in the first of the two cases alleging due process violations.
Then they settled with his mother by cutting a check to her for $15K in August to go toward her legal costs.
The grand total of legal fees on defending the two cases and the settlement costs on both add up to $37,091.64.
To keep that trend going, the School Board refused to settle with Rhodes for $300 she wanted to cover $250 she paid for a legal consultation and for her filing fee.
Instead, the School Board decided it would rather use taxpayer’s money to pay attorney Stacey Haney’s fee of $275 per hour to travel to King George, argue the dismissal motion and draw up a court order for the judge’s signature.
Haney is one of two lawyers, with Pat Lacy from the Richmond law firm of Reed Smith, LLP, that jointly represented the School Board and Brown, first to defend the complaint filed by Linda Davis and then to defend Rhodes’s legal complaint.
Both suits centered on separate student discipline incidents and how they were handled by a new division “Discipline Committee” as enacted by a change in policy in April 2008 by the School Board, which was inconsistent with state law.
Prior to the December dismissal hearing, the legal bills for defending the Rhodes case added up to $4,841.51, spent to avoid settling with Rhodes.
The December legal bill added another $1,795.85 to include 4 ½ hours billed for a 5-minute hearing in King George on December 16, which included travel time.
There’s no telling what route Haney took from the Richmond office of Reed Smith, but googlemaps.com notes the 62.2 mile trip takes about 1 hour and 14 minutes.
Doubling it for a roundtrip comes to 2 ½ hours. Being generous and granting 30 minutes for the 5-minute hearing and a few minutes of wait time, it would still come up far short of the 4 ½ hours at $1,237.50 charged.
The remaining $558.35 of that bill was for 1 ½ hours for Haney to prepare for the argument on the dismissal motion, $87.50 for a half hour spent drafting an order for the judge to sign, revising that order and drafting a letter to Rhodes. The remaining $8.35 was spent on expenses incurred for telephone and duplicating/printing/scanning.
The bill for January arrived in early February, for which Haney charged and the School Board paid $250.28 more for the Rhodes case.
The breakdown was $55 for 12 minutes spent by Haney calling the Clerk of Court’s office and drafting an email to Superintendent Brown. That 12 minutes alone cost county taxpayers $7 more than Rhodes received in her $48 settlement.
The rest of the billing for January was for “Costs advanced and expenses incurred” totaling $195.28.
That breakdown included $110 for “Court reporter expense,” $1.20 for duplicating/printing/scanning, $1.01 for postage expense, and $83.07 for mileage expense. (The School Board had already incurred $275/hour for Haney to drive back and forth to the December court hearing, in addition to this charge for mileage.)
Rhodes said she and her husband had decided to donate the $48 to the King George Area Food Bank.
That means that at least a small part of the taxpayer’s money spent on this case will do someone in King George a little bit of good.
By Phyllis Cook