Sunday, August 19, 2012

ZAP! #99: Crumbling Cookie

ZAP! #99

****  SAVE THE DATE:   August 27, 2012  ****

     Yes, dear readers, save the date.  On August 27th, staff of the CCR will be conducting a bake sale to raise money for a worthy cause.  Our goal is to raise $1,300 for the Irving ISD administrative coffers.  Why, you may ask, would we need to raise money for the Irving ISD?  The answer is very assist the Irving ISD in offsetting some of their current legal expenses.

     All this time, staff of the CCR has been attempting to assist tax payers by providing reports on governmental waste and frivolous spending.  Consider how we felt when we discovered we may have accidentally become part of a wasteful spending problem!

     Do you remember how the July 26th CCR report detailed what appeared to be outrageous or maybe somewhat questionable expenses billed the school district by their current legal counsel, Boyle & Lowry and James Deatherage & Associates?  This CCR report was based on the detailed information contained in the attorney’s May and June billing statements that were requested from the school district under the Open Records Act provisions.  

    Our request to obtain this information should have been routine for the school district.  After all, individuals request information from governmental entities all the time.  This is not a new process.  The requestor sometimes has to pay a slight fee for copying charges.  And that is okay, too.  Regardless, the information for May and June was provided to the CCR by the district in a PDF file format.

     Imagine our surprise shock dismay concern distress utter amazement to discover that when staff of the CCR requested the July billing information, we observed that the attorney’s invoice contained $1,300 in legal charges to the Irving ISD for our request for the May and June information!  What?!  This was truly unbelievable.  The district was charged $1,300 to tell them that they could release the records under the Open Records Act provisions.  Wow!

     All charges billed by the attorney’s, except a $100 noted below, were compiled by Deatherage.  Remember, all that was originally asked was for the Irving ISD to provide the detail billing information for two months of legal charges.  We could be wrong, but this seemed to be a fairly simple request and should have evoked a simple response to the district -- provide the documents or do not provide the documents.  Here’s what was billed to the school district by the attorney for our Open Records Act request:

07-16-12  ( .25 hr)    $  50    Receipt and initiate review of ORA request by Mike Howard
07-17-12  (1.25 hr)     250    Review and study of May & June billing documents
07-17-12 (2.25 hr)      450    Study ORD 747 (2002) on Attorney Client privilege and other cited cases
07-17-12  ( .75 hr)      150    Prepare draft opinion
07-18-12  (.50 hr)       100     Review ORD #OR2001-3795
07-18-12  (1.00 hr)      200    Continue briefing of ORD 676 and cited authorities
07-17-12  (1.00 hr)      100   (Guy) Research AG opinions

     The first question that should be asked is: Was this the first time that anyone had ever requested the detail billing information for Irving ISD legal services?  If not, then why all the time billed to arrive at a response for the administration to follow through?  If this was the first time in the district’s recent history for a request of this nature, is billing for seven (7) hours and $1,300 reasonable?  After all, shouldn’t one think that those current and skilled in Texas school district law would be able to review the request and respond fairly quickly?  Just asking.

     Staff of the CCR request that you join our charitable cause and support the upcoming bake sale.  May we put you down for ½-dozen chocolate chip cookies?  Since we will be on school property for this bake sale, rum balls will not be made available.  Rum balls have to be pre-ordered and shipped to your home!

……………………..Mark Holbrook