Allegations prove thin re: PAISD contract

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In the March 23 meeting of the Port Arthur ISD board, trustees Joseph Guillory II and Thomas Kinlaw III discussed possible action on competitive bids for professional legal services for the district. The district currently has a contract with Beaumont-based firm Wells, Peyton, Greenberg & Hunt L.L.P.

Guillory and Kinlaw claimed that Wells Peyton attorney Melody Chappell’s contract with PAISD was a two-year contract that had to be renewed every couple of years. According to them, Chappell has not renewed her contract since 2008.

Other board members, as well as Chappell, disputed this.

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Eventually the board voted to go out for competitive proposals for professional legal services. The vote failed four against two.

This marked the second time in recent months that Guillory has alleged wrongdoing within the district. The first allegation he made in February against board president Kenneth Lofton Sr.. He accused the board president Lofton of allegedly profiting off of an afterschool basketball league.

Chappell conducted a review over the league in question and reported her findings to the board during the March meeting. Ultimately, nothing was found that violated the school board’s policies.

After that, he alleged Chappell overstayed her contract.

However, those claims, too, seem to be without merit.

The Port Arthur News filed a public information request for a copy of the contract in question.

Regarding renewal, the contract states, “This two-year engagement agreement will continue in full force and effect beyond the current two years until such time as either PAISD or Wells Peyton shall notify the other in writing of its intention not to renew the agreement beyond the then current year.”

In an accompanying statement by PAISD superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie, Porterie said,

“The district has an attorney engagement agreement with the firm Wells, Peyton, Greenberg & Hunt. This agreement outlines the charges the district pays for the legal services performed by this firm. The agreement provides that after the initial two year period (June 2006 — June 2008) the agreement remains in effect until either party notifies the other of either’s intent to terminate the agreement.”

When asked if the current contract satisfied his claim, Guillory responded in the negative.

“No, I still believe we need to reach out and get bids. We need to see what the market brings to see if what we’re charged is comparable to what other districts are charged.”

Additionally, Guillory said, “I don’t believe that the money we spent justifies the work that was done.”

Porterie said they weren’t looking for any new counsel and that there was no need to.

“Especially if the firm is doing well. If the firm were not attentive to us, if they were not addressing the issues and the concerns the board and the administration were bringing to them, then I could see how you would want to re-evaluate,” Porterie said.

“But I will say you get what you pay for.”