When asked why the Department of Education's current counsel is not sufficient for overseeing the process, Linger said "people don't understand there's a difference between the board and the department," and said he's worried about a potential conflict of interest.
"Given the fact that the subject is a search for a superintendent, I felt that it might put the legal people that work for the department, who report to Phares, in an awkward situation," Linger said. "In these kinds of situations, when we're dealing with high-level executives within the department -- specifically the superintendent -- it just seems like it would be more appropriate not to put employees in that kind of a conflict position."
"I thought it was only fair to them and the system," he said.
Linger has long voiced a concern for a clearer distinction between the state school board and the Department of Education, saying it's an issue he "was concerned about the entire time I was president."
That push for more autonomy was the thrust of his argument when the board hired its first-ever director of operations in March, at $104,000-a-year. Then, the state's teachers unions protested, complaining of too much bureaucracy in the public school system.
Linger recently finished his two-year presidential term and has been replaced by Gayle Manchin, wife of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Linger will continue to serve as a board member through 2017.
Morrisey's office said it is seeking outside counsel because it does not have specific expertise in education and employment law, and the decision is "both cost-effective and in the interest of the public."
Other reasons cited in Morrisey's Request for Proposal for legal services, dated July 23, include not enough resources and impending deadlines.
"Seeking outside counsel for a complex issue -- including ensuring that a nationwide search is done in accordance with all West Virginia laws, ethical regulations and policies -- is not uncommon, if that is what the agency and its general counsel believe to be best for the state as a whole," Morrisey spokeswoman Beth Ryan wrote in an email Wednesday.
The deadline for law firms to bid for the job is Friday.
Linger said, because the state's past school boards have made mistakes in searching for a superintendent, it's better to be safe than sorry, pointing to when the board bungled its search for a new superintendent in 2000.
After paying a search firm $30,000 to find a replacement for former superintendent Hank Marockie, the results came back with unqualified prospects.
"They spent all that money," Linger said, "and all that money was wasted."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.