Bridgeport · Students

Get Ready for Lots of Lawsuits, Bridgeport!

Apparently, when it comes to attorneys, money is no object for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

At Thursday’s special meeting, the board unanimously voted (barring Rev. Kenneth Moales, who had already left) to approve a three-year contract with Shipman & Goodwin, arguably one of the most expensive education law firms in the state.

You’d think a cash-strapped district like Bridgeport would factor in price — especially considering that the board’s justification for hiring a new attorney was, in fact, to cut costs.

I guess not.

According to board member Hernan Illingworth, Shipman & Goodwin was about $100 per-hour more expensive than other firms.

Just for fun, here is a list of just a few things the board could buy, if they had chosen the second-most expensive law firm. For every hour (and $100 saved), the board could buy:

– 360 Ticonderoga #2 pencils, or 6 pencils a minute

– About 90 Mead marble composition books

– About 29 “Scholastic Success With Reading Comprehension, Grade 3” textbooks

– Approximately 12 “3rd Grade Basic Math Success” textbooks by Sylvan Learning

– 5 Nike Skills mini soccer balls.

For what it’s worth, Illingworth does believe this measure will save the district money because, although the initial cost is substantially higher, Shipman & Goodwin agreed to provide a certain amount of in-kind and preventative services.

Additionally, because the firm will now act as the board’s primary attorney, instead of using different firms for specialized cases, they will consolidate that cost.

Whether hiring the most expensive firm will truly save money is yet to be determined.

One thing does seem certain: The board has not abandoned their desire to sue the city.

Once again, the ridiculous question of whether or not the firm has ever worked with the city came up during last night’s meeting.

They haven’t, according to Chairwoman Sauda Baraka.

Their pick would make a whole lot of sense, especially considering that Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz has already talked with Thomas Mooney and one of his associates about the issue of the minimum budget requirement (MBR).

In an email sent to Rabinowitz on April 9th, 2014, Attorney Thomas Mooney thanks her for talking with him about the MBR:

“Thanks, Fran, for talking with me about the Mayor’s unilateral action in claiming MBR credit for in-kind services that the Board of Education did not request and does not want.”

He then referred her to a colleague of his, Chris Tracey, who has worked with other districts on MBR issues.

All of this could mean that the board is looking to move forward with a lawsuit against the city over the minimum budget requirement (MBR) — an option they left open a few months back.

As usual, the fix is in.



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