Friday, August 23, 2013

Fagen Friedman Fullfrost hires school board member 12 days after she votes to renew their contract

For more recent updates, click HERE.

UPDATE: AUG. 25, 2013

So now that Superintendent Suzette Lovely and the entire Carlsbad Unified board know that Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost was secretly talking to at least one board member, will they change their minds about renewing FFF's contract? I doubt it--most school officials like this type of law firm. Also, what other type of education law firm is there? They all belong to the National Council of School Attorneys, which seems to guarantee that they're all on the same page.

Carlsbad to redo law-firm vote
By Aaron Burgin
Aug. 23, 2013

The Carlsbad school board on Friday announced that it will redo a vote to renew a $100,000 law-firm contract, one day after U-T Watchdog reported that one board member was in negotiations for a job with the firm at the time...


Carlsbad Unified Board Member Kelli Moors

See update on this story HERE.

Compare this story to the hiring of school board member Art Palkowitz by his district's law firm, Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz.

I checked the California Bar Association website, and found that Ms. Moors is not a lawyer. So it's a bit counterintuitive that she'd be hired by a law firm. Ms. Moors has worked in business development in the past, so I imagine that that's what she'll do for Fagen Friedman Fulfrost. But I wonder, did FFF have a job opening, or did they create a position for her?

And how can FFF advise the district on adhering to legal and ethical practices when it seems to be manipulating the board for its own benefit?

Hiring by law firm came 12 days after contract renewal
By Aaron Burgin
Aug. 23, 2013 updated

Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission, 18747(a):

“No public official shall ‘make,’ ‘participate in making,’ or ‘use his or her official position to influence’ any governmental decision ... if the decision directly relates to a prospective employer.”

18747(c): “A person is a ‘prospective employer’ of a public official if the official, either personally or through an agent, is ‘negotiating’ or has an ‘arrangement’ concerning prospective employment with that person.”


November 2012: Voters re-elect Moors to a four-year term that expires in 2016.

March 2013: Moors is laid off from her position at the Tri-City Healthcare District.

Summer 2013: Moors contacts Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost.

July 24, 2013: Moors participates in vote to renew district’s contract with law firm for an amount not to exceed $100,000.

Aug. 2, 2013: Moors notifies Carlsbad Superintendent Suzette Lovely, that she is accepting a position with the law firm
and resigning from the board. Moors said this was the first she time she told anyone with the district of her contact with the law firm.

Aug. 5, 2013: Moors submits resignation to the Carlsbad Unified School District and the San Diego County Office of Education.

Former Carlsbad school board member Kelli Moors was hired by a law firm 12 days after she voted to renew the firm’s $100,000 contract with the district.

Moors announced Aug. 5 that she was resigning from the Carlsbad Unified School District board to take a job with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP, a statewide law firm that specializes in education and has contracts with multiple local school districts, including Carlsbad.

On July 24, the Carlsbad board had voted 4-0, with trustee Ann Tanner abstaining, to renew 23 contracts with various vendors. The Fagen contract was the largest of the group.

State law prohibits elected officials from participating in or influencing any decision that would financially benefit a prospective employer if the elected official is already in employment negotiations with the employer.

Moors told U-T Watchdog that she had been in talks with the law firm before the July 24 meeting about accepting a position there. She said she did not exert influence or persuade her fellow board members to approve the contract, which was approved without discussion.

“I never discussed my potential employment with Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost with my fellow board members, district staff or the superintendent because I didn’t want there to be any hint of a conflict of interest,” said Moors, who was elected to the board in 2000.

Gary Winuk, enforcement chief for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, said an elected official’s own vote can present a conflict involving prospective employment. This, he said, includes consent agenda votes, which typically come with no discussion.

“The general rule is that once you begin employment negotiations with an outside entity, you may not make, participate in or influence a decision regarding that entity,” Winuk said.

Moors was employed at Tri-City Medical Center before her position was eliminated in March. She said she began searching for new employment several months later. She would not give a specific date when she first contacted the law firm, but said it was earlier in the summer...

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