The Board’s Personal Attorney – updated 2/6/14

February 6, 2014 Update

Mr. Miller now is also the personal attorney to the Thompson School Board in Loveland.  This was despite large public protests.  The Denver Post has an article here where Miller denies he is a “charter school crusader”.

Perhaps not a crusader, but he is making a lot of money off of school districts that have new boards who are wanting to push a charter school agenda.  If Mr. Miller gets only half the number of hours at Thompson that he is guaranteed at JeffCo, then in the space of 56 days he has gained almost $135,000 in annual revenue for his two person firm, not including reimbursements for expenses.

The proposed Letter of Engagement (which functions like a contract) can be found here beginning on page 5.  Some differences immediately noted between the Thompson contract and the JeffCo contract –

  • Loveland will not be charged mileage (JeffCo is charged 56¢ per mile).
  • Loveland does not have a minimum number of hours (JeffCo has a 30 hour minimum)
  • Loveland’s scope of work is significantly smaller than JeffCo’s

It seems that the open and prolonged debate over the contract at least got Thompson a better deal.  It’s a shame Witt won’t allow the same thing in JeffCo….

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February 5, 2014 Update

The District has finally posted the Letter of Engagement with Brad Miller.  You can find it on the public website in the Board Minutes as Attachment A of the December 12th meeting.

Some interesting parts of it:

Mr. Miller is contracted to represent the Board, not the District.

Mr. Miller will effectively be paid a minimum of $325 plus 56¢ a mile for a total of $406.65 every time he drives from his house in Colorado Springs (where his office is) to a board function at the Education Center in Golden.  And that is if he avoids rush hour and takes the shortest route!

We suppose we should consider JeffCo lucky.  If he finally gets the same position with the Thompson School District in Loveland, the total cost for him attending one of their meetings will start at about $600!  Nice work, if you can get it.  Personally, most of us do not get paid for simply driving to work….

Mr. Miller is supposed to:

  • provide legal advice directly to the Board
  • attend Board meetings
  • help set up meeting agendas
  • prep Board packet materials
  • conduct Board training
  • review Board, subcommittee and DAC bylaws and recommend changes
  • meet with individual Board members, staff, & third-parties to assist Board actions
  • assist with development and implementation of Board actions
  • review materials for CORA requests
  • help the Board with legislative & political issues (specific lobbying to be done through the contracted lobbying firm)
  • help Board on staffing issues
  • help Board on budget matters
  • help Board on communications
  • other tasks as directed by the Board or the Board President.

Items in red italics are areas that concern us.  This is where there is an opportunity for a lot of meddling on Mr. Miller’s part.

Mr. Miller is to receive a retainer of $7,500 per month for up to 30 hours of work.  His time will be billed at $225 per hour.  His partner’s time is merely $200 per hour and the paralegal/assistant at $100 per hour.  He also gets the 56¢ per mile, one-way travel time, if photocopies exceed 100 pages per month, then 25¢ per page (same for faxes), and all travel expenses if he goes somewhere for the Board.

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January 17, 2014 Update

At last night’s board meeting, Witt, Newkirk, and Williams (“WNW”) defeated a motion by Fellman to review the terms of Brad Miller’s contract as attorney for the Board.  Witt reiterated his stance that the decision had been made and the Board needed to move on.  The Lakewood Sentinel has a pretty good story on this.

On the other hand, Thompson Schools in Loveland, which Brad Miller is also trying to get to sign a lucrative retainer agreement,  had Miller speak to a jammed (250+) crowd Wednesday night (the 15th).  The Reporter-Herald covered the meeting, which had fire marshals and police in attendance, turning away the overflow.  Thompson School Board President Bob Kerrigan refused to move the meeting to a bigger venue, even after 350+ crammed into the room during the December meeting.

At least the people of Thompson get to hear Miller speak.  At JeffCo, Witt does not even want to talk about him.

January 13, 2014 Update

In the November 22nd meeting of the new Board of Education, Ken Witt, said they had no intention of “being Douglas County”.  In the December 12th meeting, it became plain that not being Douglas County did not mean they were not going to be controversial and shocking.  Instead they made it plain that things were going to be VERY different from now on.

The first thing people noticed was the length of the meeting.  Most Board meeting’s start at 6:30 p.m. and end between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m.  This one kept dragging on and on.  Experienced political observers knew this was a bad sign.  Dragging out routine matters is a classic tactic to tire out an opposition in hopes they go home.  And a number of people did.  Still, dozens of people hung in there.

The next thing that was unusual was the new Board refusing one grant and then accepting a second one reluctantly only after they learned the money had already been spent.  No reasons were given.  When was the last time you heard of a school district in this state turning down money?

Finally, around 10:30 p.m., the reason for trying to wait for everyone to go home came out.  It was announced that they had “interviewed” and hired an attorney, Brad Miller, to represent the Board and not the District – which already has an attorney.  See the YouTube video of the meeting here.

The veteran members of the board, Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman, had been informed of the proposal to hire an attorney and given the names of the two candidates only two days prior to the meeting.  There was no open discussion, no earlier notification to the public, no public RFP or job posting.  At the meeting, Brad Miller was “approved” by a 3-2 vote with the new members voting in unison.  Mr. Miller will receive a retainer of $7,500 per month for up to 30 hours of work per month.  This means even if he only attends the monthly regular board meeting (say, two hours long), he will be paid the $7500!

This immediately caught the attention of several local news organizations, including the Denver Post, the Examiner, the Canyon Courier, and the Lakewood Sentinel.   Concerns have been raised about possible violations of Colorado’s ‘Sunshine Laws’ that require transparency in most government deliberations.  The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition weighed in as well, saying “There is so much that is odd about how the events went down, it’s tough to know where to begin.”  Even the libertarian Independence Institute apparently had problems with this one.  On KDBI’s Dec 20th Colorado Inside-Out show, David Kopel of the Institute said, “I don’t think any school district ought to be paying some lawyer lobbyist $90,000 a year for communications and political consulting.”

Interestingly, it turns out that the same Brad Miller was being considered for a contract by the new Thompson School Board the night before, December 11th.  At that meeting Thompson Board President Bob Kerrigan announced that Brad Miller “currently represents Jefferson County schools” (The Loveland Reporter-Herald).  This was the day BEFORE the JeffCo board meeting that hired Mr. Miller.  What did Mr. Kerrigan know that Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman and the rest of Jefferson County did not?

(Sidenote:  The Thompson School Board motion to hire Mr. Miller was tabled on Dec 14th after 400+ students, parents, and faculty showed up to protest.  Board President Kerrigan has promised that he will bring it up again.  It is also interesting that note that not only is the position the same (attorney to the board only), but also that the rationale given for needing Mr. Miller is almost word-for-word the same as given by Ken Witt.)

The Board majority (Witt, Newkirk, & Williams) have tried to justify Mr. Miller because the District’s current attorney, Allen Taggert, is retiring.  This is despite the fact (or maybe because of it) there is already a plan in place to replace Mr. Taggert by the normal employee selection process.   Such a process would have included an open job posting, formal interviews, review of credentials, and so on.  You know, all the things we want government to do to prove it is operating above board and is getting the most qualified person available?

Besides the issue of Mr. Miller somehow having the job on his resume before he was offered it, AND the fact that the District already has an attorney, there are two other very disturbing aspects to this action.

1) The Board apparently hired Mr. Miller as the Board’s attorney, not the District’s.  This may seem to be a splitting of hairs, but it could have a very significant impact.  It has to do with Mr. Miller’s fiduciary responsibility.  “Fiduciary responsibility” is a legal term meaning whose best interests a lawyer is legally obligated to look out for and protect.

If Mr. Miller had been hired as the District’s attorney, then his fiduciary responsibility would be to the District as a whole.  That includes the District’s staff, the governmental entity that is the District, and, even in a sense, the students, parents, and District tax-payers.  Instead, as we understand it, Mr. Miller is not the District’s attorney, but the Board’s attorney.  This means that if Mr. Miller is presented with a situation where the best interests of the majority of the Board are in conflict with the best interest of the District, he MUST fight for the Board’s interest, not the District’s!

2) When it came to solving mysteries, the ancient Romans had a saying, “Cui Bono?”  That roughly translates as “Who benefits?”  Today’s version might be “follow the money”.  Mr. Miller is apparently a partner in a two person law firm in Colorado Springs.  He works from his home-office in northeast Colorado Springs.

It has been pointed out that the current District Attorney, Mr. Taggert, is paid $150,783 per year for an estimated 2,080 hours, if he does not work unpaid overtime.  That comes out to $72.49 an hour.  Mr. Miller’s retainer of $7,500 for up to 30 hours (it could be less) comes out to $250 an hour.  And additional hours would be billed at the $250 rate.  So if Mr. Miller takes over Mr. Taggert’s position, responsibilities, and work load, the district will pay him $90,000 per the retainer agreement and then another $430,000 for the other 1,720 regular hours Mr. Taggert would normally work!  That’s up to a half a million dollars a year!  (Another side note:  Just the $90k would pay for two new teachers in a district where there are too few teachers for the number of students already.)

But he will NOT fill Mr. Taggert’s position.  Why should he?  He could surpass Mr. Taggert’s salary while working only 1/3 of Mr. Taggert’s regular hours.  Furthermore, he has an incentive to advise the Board to take actions that could involve legal challenges.  Remember, his responsibility is to the BOARD, not the District!  And he would get paid more for the additional work the legal challenges would involve.  All of this coming out of the School District’s pocket!

Mr. Miller and his partner state on their website that they represent “…Schools and School Districts, Charter Schools…”  At a retainer equal to $90k per year that will be “earned” simply by charging for the time to attend one meeting, Mr. Miller has found himself a pretty sweet deal.  Apparently this is also not the only one.  The Thompson School District President has promised to bring up for a vote Mr. Miller representing them as well.  And there are reports that Mr. Miller already represents the Falcon School District near his home and many others.

Perhaps an even more disturbing aspect was noted by Alicia Caldwll of the Denver Post, “Why would it even be necessary to thumb their noses at the public process, if indeed that is what took place?”  She noted that the new members have the votes to do what they want.  So why try to hide it?

“Cui bono?”  Mr. Miller, at least, is apparently one of those who do…greatly.  Who else does?  That is a question we really need to find the answer to.

<This page will be reposted periodically as new information and updates become available.  Last update January 13, 2013>

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