BOE approves $7,500 invoice for legal fees

PARKERSBURG – The Wood County Board of Education Tuesday unanimously approved an invoice for legal fees for more than $7,000.

The bill from the law firm of Bowles Rice LLP was for a month’s worth of work. According to the invoice, the school system was charged for 25.40 hours of service.

The invoice was approved by board members after several minutes of silence as they reviewed the bill. There was no discussion prior to the vote.

“It is an unusual amount,” Wood County Schools Superintendent Pat Law said. “We have been very fortunate over the last several years and worked very hard to avoid going to hearings and grievances and dealing with legal aspects of working with staff.”

According to the invoice, the school system was billed $3,510 for services with regard to a disciplinary matter, $1,719 for miscellaneous legal advice and more than $1,200 for services pertaining to a transfer recommendation.

Law said he could not comment on the disciplinary matter. The services rendered are not related to any of the Parkersburg High School teachers whose contracts were not renewed.

Letters notifying those three teachers were mailed earlier this week. At least one teacher is expected to request a hearing with the board later this month.

School system Finance Director Connie Roberts said officials have paid more than $15,000 this year to Bowles Rice. That does not include the $7,561.34 invoice for March.

Roberts said the invoice was not especially large, noting the system typically pays between $20,000-$25,000 a year to Bowles Rice for legal services.

The money is above the $40,000 retainer the board spends on its attorney, Dean Furner. Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of Wood County Schools, said Furner handles a majority of matters pertaining to property and RIF and transfer hearings.

“Looking at it for a school system this size, $65,000-$70,000 is not a significant number,” Roberts said.

“It is expensive when we have to go into the courtroom or legal circumstance,” Law said. “We work hard with our staff to not have to go this route. This year we have a couple of situations we had to deal with and use an attorney to handle matters. It’s expensive and it becomes very expensive.”