CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Attorney General's Office has selected Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe to assist the West Virginia Board of Education in its search for a new state superintendent -- the same firm that represented the board in recent litigation with ousted superintendent Jorea Marple.
Also at Thursday's state school board meeting, the board voted to make county districts compensate teachers who participate in their school's hiring process, clearing up disputes over the language of a new hiring policy.
The Charleston-based firm Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe was chosen from seven firms that bid on the job after the Attorney General's Office put out a Request for Proposal in July, saying it was both cost effective and in the interest of the public to appoint outside counsel.
Former state school board president Wade Linger, who now serves as a member of the board, had asked for the additional counsel to supervise the board in its search for a new superintendent, even though the Department of Education already employs two fulltime attorneys.
Heather Hutchens-Deskins, who makes about $100,200, and Sherri Goodman, who makes about $85,000 annually, provide legal advice to the school board.
The Department of Education will pay Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe $210 per hour to advise the school board as it conducts the nationwide search for a new state superintendent.
The board also will hire a search firm to conduct the search for potential candidates.
The Department of Education paid Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe more than $42,500 in November to represent the school board when a public-interest group filed a petition alleging the board violated open meetings laws when it fired Marple.
Marple is now suing the school board, claiming wrongful termination.
"We hope to assist and facilitate in choosing the next state superintendent. Our goal will be to implement a procedure that will be efficient and as cost-effective as possible," attorney Victor Flanagan told the board Thursday. "This is just the beginning of it."
In a written determination dated Aug. 9, the Attorney General's Office says the firm is uniquely positioned for the job because of its representation of the school board in Marple vs. West Virginia Board of Education, and is "already familiar with many of the [board's] concerns related to the search for a new superintendent ... and is thus positioned to address many of the client's legal needs without expending significant time and cost."
While the state school board has hired search firms to find a new superintendent in the past, it has never hired additional counsel with the sole purpose of assisting the process.
Linger said the extra attorney is necessary to avoid potential conflicts of interest, since the department's attorneys technically work for the current superintendent, Jim Phares.