The new Wake County school board members will have their next round of orientation meetings today, including a review of the legal aspects from board attorney Ann Majestic.
One of the things that Majestic will discuss is the state Open Public Meetings Law. Some questions were raised based on the meetings the new members held before they were sworn in and during the recesses on Tuesday.
But the board could have a new attorney at the end of June.
Among his duties, subject to negotiation of an acceptable compensation amount, Farr will conduct an independent review of the district's legal expenditures.
Majestic's firm, Tharrington Smith, will still be the board's attorney during the review. But Farr can also be called in at new board chairman Ron Margiotta's request to provide legal advice to the board.
New board member John Tedesco repeatedly said Tuesday that Farr's appointment doesn't necessarily mean Tharrington Smith will be replaced. But the board minority was suspicious.
"Why is a firm that represents 20 or more districts, has national acclaim and has served us well for many years become suspect now?," said former board chairman Kevin Hill.
Hill also raised the possibility of a conflict of interest because Farr, who is reviewing Tharrington Smoth's work, isn't precluded from bidding for the legal contract.
Tedesco justified the review based on how Wake spent $1.2 million in legal fees and $600,000 in liability insurance in 2008-09. Tharrington Smith was one of several firms that received part of the money.
Margiotta said the firm came highly recommended. He said one of the problems with finding a firm to do an independent review is that so many local ones have conflicts, either working for Wake or against the district.
Based on a prospectus given to Margiotta, the firm does have educational law experience.
But the appointment of Ogletree Deakins does raise other questions.
Farr has been heavily involved in state GOP politics.
Farr has been the lead state GOP attorney on legislative redistricting cases. He had also been nominated by Pres. Bush to be a U.S. District Court judge.
Lawyers from Ogletree Deakins also gave campaign donations to Tedesco and fellow new board member Chris Malone. But they denied that the contributions had anything to do with the contract.