Brevard school board weighs hiring full-time attorney

By Michelle de Leon | Jan 7, 2017

MELBOURE, Fla. — As the Brevard County School Board earns a stable outlook in the next fiscal year, its members are on the brink of making major changes in the system.

MELBOURE, Fla. — As the Brevard County School Board earns a stable outlook in the next fiscal year, its members are on the brink of making changes in the system.

Deliberations have been conducted on the feasibility of hiring a full-time in-house lawyer to work with the board as opposed to relying on the services of a law firm.

One of the first concerns tackled by Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Desmond Blackburn is the necessity to hire a full-time attorney to handle their cases. At the moment, the board avails of the services of Harold Bistline of Stromire, Bistline, Miniclier and Griffith, a law firm located in Cocoa.

The school board has been working with the external legal counsel for more than two decades now, starting in 1992. The board previously looked into acquiring in-house counsel in September 2014.

Diego “Woody” Rodriguez, who works as the general counsel of the Orange County Public Schools, explained via the Florida Today recently to board members that the addition of an in-house attorney presents advantages crucial to the board. He said that hiring a full-time lawyer who would concentrate solely on the issues of the Brevard County School Board makes the move worth the change. However, Rodriguez clarified that the addition of an in-house lawyer would not amount to lesser expenses for the board.

“It’s been my experience that we have not necessarily reduced our legal cost in the last seven years. In fact, in some areas, I would say we may be spending more on legal services than we were before,” he said. “That being said, however, the value and the hours that you’re getting back as a district for that legal service is immeasurable.”

Blackburn sought the presence of Rodriguez in the meeting in an effort to bring in someone capable of providing concrete examples of the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed change.

School-board member John Craig further highlighted the concern raised by their new superintendent. Noting the size of the organization — Craig called it “multi-billion-dollar” in Florida Today — he pointed out that the absence of an internal legal counsel is already of critical concern.

Craig also emphasized the financial status of the group in an effort to stress the importance of hiring an in-house attorney to handle their concerns.

The meeting included Bistline, whom some staff members in the district said was not always available when they reached out, board member Misty Belford said.

However, the board members clarified that their current lawyer’s performance is not the major deciding factor in the potential change. Rather, they explained that the sheer size and value of the organization already merit the necessity to hire an in-house attorney dedicated solely to their legal concerns.

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