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Manatee School Board Agrees on RFQ Terms for New Legal Counsel


BRADENTON – The School Board took a step forward in preparing for the process of finding a replacement for retiring Board Attorney John Bowen on Monday, when it approved of a Request for Qualifications document that will be advertised in order to attract prospective legal counsel. Bowen is slated to depart this June.

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Staff Attorney Scott Martin said during its presentation, that the RFQ was written in after a Board Workshop in April. At that time, staff found that the document's predecessor, a Request for Proposal (RFP) for legal services was unnecessarily lengthy and complicated. The RFQ, Martin advised, was a much simpler document, and would simplify the process for selecting legal counsel.

Board member Robert Gause voiced his support of the RFQ over the RFP, stating that "the only difference between an RFQ and an RFP is that, aside from identifying your hourly rate, there is no explanation of what your estimated fees are going to be (for the firm or attorney(s) attending board meetings, etc.) ... so we know that we're going to have regular board meetings, but we don't know how long the meetings will take ... but the flat fee for doing all of them gives you a potentially discounted rate."

Gause added, "if you do RFQ, there will not be any fees for the services discussed ... you will begin negotiating with the number one firm unless you decide that you don't like the price they charge ... if we go with the RFQ, it's going to put the chair in the position of negotiating with the number one firm after we select them, and only at this point will we know the base fee."

Miner offered a solution to the concern brought up by Gause in suggesting that the RFQ include language which states that prospective legal counsel would need to provide their "proposal(s) or compensation and cost reimbursement ... so any firm who's interested in providing services could provide a manual for how they want to be compensated by the district," he said. The board agreed to add that language to the document.

Another motion made by Miner, "to have (the hired firm) serve as general counsel for the District and supervise all other attorneys employed by the District, including in-house counsel," did not pass as it was not seconded by any of his colleagues. The motion would have made "it clear to that firm or outside attorney, if we don't like what's going on (with the District's legal staff) as a board, our argument is with that firm ... I think that makes the chain of command of this board to that firm very clear, and we need to have that," he said.

Miner then made a motion to change the language, "My motion is to have this firm serve as general counsel for the District and supervise all other attorneys employed by the District, including in-house counsel, which failed as it was not seconded by another baord member. Miner also suggested, with the approval of the board, that "The applicant affirms that it will not talk with any school board member concerning the application ... it will not collude with any other applicant ... and it has a drug free and an anti-discrimination workplace."


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