CLINTWOOD — Having first reached out to the firm in January, county supervisors Monday formally approved the hiring of Roanoke-based Gentry Locke to represent them against the lawsuit filed by the county school board over the location of a new elementary school.
The resolution lays out a brief synopsis of the dispute, beginning with a 2011 Facilities Development Agreement that it says the school board now has sued to have declared unconstitutional.
The agreement among the two boards and the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority addresses the planning and funding of the Ridgeview schools and an elementary school to replace Sandlick Elementary School, the resolution notes.
It provides for the new school to be built in the Haysi, Sandlick or Clinchco areas of the county, the resolution notes. Ervinton District Supervisor David Yates recommended, and all agreed, that the resolution include language from the agreement that notes, “It is the goal of the parties to construct educational facilities at locations that are reasonably centrally located to the children to be served by said facilities.”
Sandlick District Supervisor Ron Peters asked if the resolution should include anything about population centers but no other changes were made. Peters also asked that the full resolution be read aloud for the record.
The resolution notes that each of the parties had “duly considered, discussed and voted unanimously to approve the FDA.” County supervisors, it said, “have worked in good faith to resolve the question of the location of the new elementary school.”
It points out hiring the firm is necessary for supervisors and the IDA to defend themselves.
Supervisors have also asked the firm to represent the IDA as well, according to the July 8 letter from Gentry Locke. Their interests are aligned in this case and representing both would represent no conflict of interest, Gentry Lock attorney Scott Sexton says in the letter, while also advising that circumstances might change that and, in such case, the firm would withdraw from representing the IDA.
County supervisors have agreed to pick up the cost for Gentry Locke representing the IDA, the letter also said.
Sexton said the firm bills in increments of 10 minutes or 15 minutes for staff time at rates dependent on experience and expertise. He will be primarily responsible for the case, Sexton said, billing at $400 per hour, although less expensive rates apply for work of associate attorneys and paralegals.
He opened noting the firm did not have on file a formal engagement letter from supervisors.
On motion by Kenady District Supervisor Shelbie Willis, the board unanimously approved the resolution hiring the firm.
Later in the meeting, the board asked the IDA to join them in a closed session consultation with legal counsel over the elementary school debate.
The IDA was meeting the same night in the same building.