Due to an ongoing district investigation and a lawsuit alleging that the district violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, Carroll ISD hired the legal firm Thompson & Knight to provide legal services. As of Dec. 31, the district had paid Thompson & Knight $72,580 for services related to the ongoing investigation. Another $5,000 has been paid so far for the firm to be retained for legal counsel outside of the investigation.
Now, the district is allocating another $60,000 for legal services from Thompson & Knight, bringing the total budget related to the ongoing lawsuit to $132,580.
“Thompson and Knight was asked to represent the Carroll Independent School District on any criminal component related to Texas Open Meetings Act,” Superintendent Lane Ledbetter said Feb. 1 during the presentation of the proposed budget changes. “I just want to be clear that the district is not paying or asking Thompson & Knight to represent individual employees or individual trustees. The district is seeking legal advice to make sure it complies with any legal requirements and obligations it has.”
Other unexpected costs include an increase in public information requests, which have required extra time from the attorney the district has contracted from Welsh Gallegos to complete these requests. The district had budgeted $175,000 in fiscal year 2020-21 for public information request processing. As of Dec. 31, the district had already spent $77,175. In four months, the district has received more than 200 public records requests.
Another $38,175 was approved to cover additional attorney fees.
According to William Wooten, assistant superintendent for financial services, the district’s original legal budget for FY 2020-21 was set at $305,700. But as of Dec. 31, Wooten said the district had spent $202,899—about 66% of the allocated funds—in four months. He forecast that the legal budget would total $495,700 by the end of FY 2020-21.
In total, the board of trustees approved adding $190,000 to the FY 2020-21 legal budget.
The board also approved an additional $12,000 in the budget for health services to address COVID-19 needs in the district.
Several other budgetary adjustments were made as a result.
“We had two positions that were paid on the wrong code, so we made budgetary adjustments,” Wooten said. “The net impact of the fund balance is zero, so there's no budgetary impact.”
Editor’s note: The original post has been edited to correct an error. The district is allocating another $60,000 for legal services from Thompson & Knight, bringing the total budget related to the lawsuit to $132,580. The chart has also been updated to clarify those amounts.