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March 31st, 2009
SMCISD hires new counsel

Left to right, San Marcos CISD Trustees President Judy Allen, Superintendent Patty Shafer and Trustee Margie Villalpando at Monday night’s meetintg. Photo by Andy Seville.

Associate Editor

San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees approves new representation for Special Education Legal Services at Monday night’s board meeting.

The board accepted Denise Hays from the Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Aldridge, & Gallegos, P. C. law firm to represent the district with special education needs only. The vote, however, was not without contest.

Board member David Castillo was the lone dissenter in the approval vote, with member Jesse Ponce not in attendance. Castillo questioned whether due diligence was performed.

“Was this service opened up to other law firms?” Castillo asked during the discussion. “Or are we just voting based on a recommendation alone?”

District Superintendent Dr. Patty Shafer said the matter came before the board by recommendation from Kathy Hutto, director of special populations. Schafer said other law firms were not solicited for the legal opening.

Hutto had previously worked with Hays in Texas Education Agency (TEA) Region XIII, prompting the recommendation based on past experience and expertise.

“Sometimes you just look for expertise and not the cheapest lawyer” Schafer said, adding that “it was not necessary” to have open bids.

“I’d like for us to be fair for everyone in general,” Castillo said. “Open it up to everyone and not just go by a recommendation. I think we should have an open bid and be fair to every law firm that wants to join our district.”

Escamilla & Poneck represents the school district with legal services. However, the firm’s special education law attorney moved to Louisiana due to family needs, prompting the district to seek new representation. The district will remain represented by Escamilla & Poneck, except for services involving special education.

“I welcome the opportunity to work with San Marcos CISD,” Hays said.

Hays was licensed in 1989 and has several years of experience in special education law. The district will compensate an introductory fee of $500 for the retainer agreement lasting for the remainder of the year, and a fee of $1,000 annually thereafter.

Hays will provide telephone consultation free of charge, along with a monthly publication, This Just In, which addresses special education law issues, and a bi-monthly general school law publication, both of which are published by her law firm.

Beyond the retainer, the district will pay $235 per hour for Hays, up from $200 formerly, for additional legal work including research, opinion letters, legal advice or representation in adversarial matters, and any expenses incurred by the law firm in providing work outside of telephone consultation.

Shafer said she expects the agreement to be less costly than the agreement with Escamilla & Poneck. She said the district previously paid between $175 and $200 an hour, but telephone consultation was not free of charge.

“We deal with our attorneys over the phone a lot, so I foresee this being cost effective,” Shafer said.

“My main concern is that we look at it from every angle,” Castillo said. “Our constituents need to have open bids. They need to know where their tax dollars are going, what they’re being used for, and whether we’re protecting them.”

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0 thoughts on “SMCISD hires new counsel

  1. Sick! If all positions of influence and interest were filled because of a recommendation, by what I can only assume is a friend, we’d be in more of a corrupt situation in which we find ourselves. Im glad David Castillo stood up against this disgusting misappropriation of justice.

  2. Cronyism at its best. How dare the school board approve such an important position, without having open bidding, or getting the sense of their constituents on the matter. All of these dirty folks need to get voted out, and voted out quick. This is not what democracy is about, and these are not the people that should be representing the “best interest” of our kids. Disgusting.

  3. Just to clarify, it isn’t legal for Texas local governments to procure professional services through a “bid” process. Normally they solicit “requests for qualifications” and then choose the most qualified but even that is not required. I disagree that this makes any school board member “dirty” or “disgusting.” I do think there is a valid argument that opening up the process to a qualification based selection process is desirable, but name calling of volunteer public servants without checking your facts just means you are both ignorant and lazy.

  4. Actually an open bid process generalizes seeking or requesting qualifications from several law firms. Although it is not mandated by law, it is definitely appropriate. And yes, I think it’s dirty politics. One of the board members asked that due dilligence be practiced, and of course it was not. That’s disgusting and gross misuse of power.

  5. I agree with fact checker. Also, it is most likely that you would want to choose someone because they are the cheapest, but rather the person with the best reputation and skills. I also agree that this makes the school board or the superintendent “dirty.” I think that we have a few emotive readers that are ready to criticize without understanding why the individual was chosen,

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