BOE votes to obtain own Legal Counsel


Julia Roeder '25, Page Editor

Grosse Pointe Public School System’s Board of Education voted to approve obtaining their own legal counsel at the Feb. 27 board meeting. The legal counsel has been a topic of discussion for the Board the past several meetings.

The Board’s legal counsel would be separate from the Grosse Pointe Schools administation’s legal counsel. The counsel would be funded through the annual budget, and the board agreed upon a $50,000 expense cap for the year for their firm of choice. The Grosse Pointe Schools administation’s legal counsel expenses roughly add up to $262,000 a year. Trustee Collen Worden was concerned with the usage of the council.

“The threshold question is, what circumstances in which we would need separate counsels such that our own attorneys are not going to be representing the board,” Worden said. “So if we’re going to send something to another counsel, I’m asking why.”

Currently, the Grosse Pointe Schools legal counsel is Clark Hill, while the board voted to use Collins and Blaha. Trustees Sean Cotton and David Brumbaugh interviewed different law firms that responded to the request for proposals. Brumbaugh was not present at the meeting on Feb. 27.

“We have much bigger issues to deal with,” Trustee Valarie St. John said. “That’s why we need to postpone this vote until Trustee Brumbaugh is here to answer some of the questions and clear up some of the concerns of conflicts of interest.”

For those observing the meeting, it didn’t appear the members of the board supportive of the additional legal counsel could give an example of when it would be used.

“The time that we would send something to another counsel is if someone had specialties in a certain area, or if there was a conflict of interest issue,” Board President Ahmed Ismail said. “This is an added resource for the system.”

At the Jan. 4 Board meeting, Trustee Cotton proposed the need for a separate legal council, apart from the administration. Throughout the meeting there was uncertainty of what the legal counsel would be used for, since Grosse Pointe Schools already have a contract for legal services. sc“I want to make sure that it is restricted,” Trustee St. John said. “We know that legal fees can add up to a lot of money, and I want to make sure that we are not wasting the district’s money and resources. It seems like there is another use for the legal counsel that (Board President Ismail is) not sharing with the whole board.”

The board had several votes surrounding the discussion of the additional legal counsel, all reflecting the same 4-2 vote. Many speakers during public comments voiced opinions on why they are not backing the choice of the Board.

“It’s almost as if there are certain political factions in our community statewide and nationwide that want to use public school boards as the next front in political battles.” Clint Derringer, district resident, said during public comment. ”That’s certainly not the face of what we want our community to be.”

This meeting was the first since the horrific shooting on Michigan State’s campus taking the lives of 2 Grosse Pointe School’s alumni, Brian Fraiser and Arielle Anderson. Throughout the meeting condolences to the families and everyone affected were mentioned by each board member, wearing green and white in support.