BA Public Schools Receives Law Firm's Bill

Friday, October 24th 2008, 9:54 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- A day after the Broken Arrow School District fired its superintendent; it gets its first legal bill from its new law firm.  And, the $30,000 tab for less than two months is giving some parents sticker shock.  But, one school board member is defending the cost, calling it money well-spent.

Some Broken Arrow parents could barely believe their eyes at the $31,000 bill for less than two months of legal services.

"Part of you wants to say, no you couldn't. But then, you're almost afraid to ask, what next?  What else could happen?  It's turned into such a circus, you really don't know," said Broken Arrow parent Beth Snellgrove.

The legal bill is the latest controversy to hit the Broken Arrow School Board.

The board dumped its old law firm, hired a new one, and fired its superintendent, all in the matter of a couple of months.

Some criticized the new firm, Rosenstein, Fist and Ringold, for being too expensive, about $100 an hour more than the old one.

One Broken Arrow man says they've the given the firm a blank check and calls it a waste of taxpayer money.  And, it's one of the reasons he's started a petition to try to get the three women, behind the change, kicked off the school board.

"To me, this goes back to the old thing of they're not being financially responsible," said Broken Arrow parent Beth Snellgrove.

"They had $50,000 in the budget. When it goes over $50,000, something is going to have to be reduced somewhere to cover that money," added Broken Arrow parent Chris Tharp.

The News On 6 spoke with board member Maryanne Flippo on the phone and she says the law firm is "absolutely worth every penny."

She says the district's attorney, Doug Mann, was charged with investigating the claims against fired superintendent Dr. Jim Sisney.  And, that's probably the bulk of the bill.  She says Broken Arrow Schools has been going through some tough times and they needed quality legal advice.

Beth Snellgrove says two months of legal advice cost them about as much as one teacher for the whole year.

"I, for one, care.  And, it matters to me," said Beth Snellgrove.

Now, to put the $31,000 bill into perspective, Broken Arrow schools spent $8,500 for all of last year.  By comparison, Jenks Schools spent $100,000 on legal fees last year, but the district was fighting two lawsuits.  The previous year, it was half-that much. 

Union Schools, which is roughly the same size as Broken Arrow, spent about $130,000 last year.  Union is represented by the same firm as Broken Arrow Public Schools.