Huntsville school board members fed up with lawyer

One even suggested he could soon be out of a job

Posted: Dec 5, 2017 10:49 PM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 9:31 AM

When it came time for the Huntsville school board to get a consent order update from its outside attorney, Tuesday night, the work session took a turbulent turn.

In particular, two board members complained about the legal process. They don't like being left out of the loop. One even suggested their outside attorney might soon be out of a job.

Huntsville Board of Education's outside attorney J.R. Brooks with Lanier, Ford, Shaver & Payne

"So, we have a problem. That is why I sent you that email," District one's Michelle Watkins told the lawyer. Watkins took dead aim at the Huntsville school district's outside attorney.

Watkins made it clear she feels unrepresented by attorney J.R. Brooks and his law firm Lanier, Ford, Shaver & Payne.

"I will not be coming to every meeting that you have with the DOJ and the judge and every conference call you have,” Watkins emphasized. “But, one of us needs to be rotating out of there so we can have someone come back and tell us what's going on."

District five's Pam Hill backed up Watkins' complaints. Hill worries lawyer Brooks is setting policy for the board.

"And we can talk about what he thinks his responsibility is and what he wants policies for the board to be, which is kind of ironic," Hill said.

Brooks was clearly on the defensive. He was having trouble getting a word in edgewise.

Watkins repeatedly told Brooks she feels like the lawyer has left her out of the decision-making process.

"You might have told some other board members,” she told him. “But, you didn't tell me."

Brooks explained he represents the entity of the school board and not individual board members.

"Doesn't that really mean the majority?," Hill asked.

"It does," Brooks answered.

"And the majority can always change?," Hill said.

"Yes.," Brooks replied.

"And so can the attorney," Hill warned. 

A clear suggestion the outside attorney could be fired. J.R. Brooks conceded he and his law firm serve at the pleasure of the board.

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