Attorney Dana Daughetee Fohl of Bowls, Rice Attorneys at Law in Lexington has responded to the audit of Menifee County Board of Education by State Auditor Adam Edelen.
Here is Fohl's response in full:
Overall, we were pleased with the outcome of the report in that the auditor did not find instances of questionable transactions, overbilling, double billing, and other entries suggesting impropriety; nor did the auditor make any findings that the legal services performed were not legally necessary.
Unfortunately, the auditor did not contact us during the investigation. If he had, he could have easily discovered the increase in legal fees was a direct result of the increased legal issues the board faced, the most noteworthy of which was a superintendent who had been serving on an illegal contract to the tune of $120,000.00 annually. After rather lengthy and hard fought litigation, we were able to reach a positive result for the board in having the remaining contract extensions declared null and void by the court, resulting in a significant savings to the Menifee County taxpayer. While the client is the board itself, it should be kept in mind that representation of the board necessarily involves interaction and communication with the board's individual members. As a board attorney, one will not only provide legal services to the board, but will also be called upon to provide legal counsel to administration regarding personnel and student issues, which are matters in which the board should not, and by law cannot, be involved. Thus, the language of the contract was drafted to encompass a myriad of legal realities. We were happy to work with the board in addressing budgetary issues. Prior to the request for review or the issuance of the auditor's report, the contract was amended, and included many of the recommendations later made by the auditor. We are pleased the auditor appears to agree with the board's work in being budgetary-minded. It is our goal to provide not only the most efficient, but the most effective, legal services. Under current law (KRS 45A.380), the board was not required to bid out or accept the lowest bid for legal services. Instead the board can and should can (sic) consider other factors beyond price and location, primarily including experience, resources, trust and competence. The board complied with its legal obligations under current law, and I was honored that the board chose our firm to assist in its legal needs. We have worked diligently to successfully resolve the legal issues we have been asked to address by the board. Contrary to the inference one might draw from the report, there simply was no conflict of interest. We were never engaged by nor did we perform legal work separately for any individual board member, let alone the one identified in the report. In fact, the board member identified had separately retained private counsel to assist in the identified legal matter. As part of the duty to the board, it was necessary to gather information from this member. Again, when representing the board, one necessarily has to interact with the individual board members.
We have structured our legal representation and our invoices for those services based upon requests by the board. I appreciate the auditor's detailed analysis of our contract and fee structure with Menifee County Board of Education and his recommendations on how to better serve Menifee and other education clients.