As the dust settles from the tumultuous Brownsville Independent School District meeting of this past
Tuesday, one of our readers pointed out that we had not included the overall ranking of the with law firms considered for providing the board with legal counsel.
Well, we went back over our notes and found out that, indeed, the board under president Enrique Escobedo did not rank the eight law firms who responded to the Requests for Professional Services, but only listed them under several categories.
For example, of the 51 areas of specialization in the specifications requested by the BISD, Baltazar Salazar's firm tied for fourth/fifth in listing as "Did not Disclose" their qualifications in 17 categories. They ranked there based on the non-disclosure of their firm's lack of experience in:
1. Competitive bidding
2. Copyright Issues
3. Election Law advice
4. Employee Health Insurance Matters
5. Federal Voters Right Advice
6. Fiber Optic Communications System
7. Freedom of Religion Issues
8. Governmental Tort Claims
9. Intergovernmental Agreements
10. Intergovernmental Relations
11. Liability for Asbestos
12. Preventive Law
13. Public Utility Commission
14. State Whistle Blower Act Compliance
15. Texas Teacher Retirement System
16. University Interscholastic League
17. Utility Law Regulation
Three others –
1. Thompson and Horton (9), of Houston, who was the legal counsel replaced by Salazar's firm'
2. O'Hanlon, McCollum and Demerath (0), Austin, and
3. Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra (0), of Austin – listed less.
4. Rogers, Morris and Grover, Houston (17), listed the same number as Salazar.
But the kicker here is that in the category of the number of school districts represented by the differing firms, Salazar ranked seventh of the eight having represented only 3 districts.
At the top of the list was O'Hanlon, McCollum and Demerath with 102 districts, Thompson and Horton with 90 school districts, Rogers, Morris and Grover with 51 school districts, Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra with 15 school districts, etc...
Of the eight firms, Salazar came in sixth in terms of years of public education experience with 18 years total.
Other firms such as O'Hanlon, McCullom and Demerath listed 75 years, Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra listed 40 years, Gustavo Acevedo listed 45 years, Rogers, Morris and Grover listed 20 years, etc...
So even with the Salazar law firm being way down on the list of the other law firms based on the breadth of specialization, their years of experience representing school districts, and the number of districts they have represented, a majority of the board (Otis Powers, Enrique Escobedo, Hector Chirinos and Minerva Peña) obviously ranked them higher than the other seven.
Only trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria, who Salazar targeted for "censor" by the rest of the board, voted to hire someone else.
Now, we have been told that it really is up to the board president to place items on the board's agenda, which leads to another question. If the professional services for legal counsel did not rate a ranking for that choice, why was it that Escobedo went over the administration's recommendation for an insurance consultant in an earlier agenda item and called for a motion to award the contract to the person of his choice?
Is there any consistency to BISD policy under this administration or its board officers?