Information received last night to our FOIA request (click here to download the response) regarding the appointment of Anthony Ficarelli reveals that there is written documentation of communications dated May 29, 2014 between Batiste and Ficarelli that discussed scope of work and fees for representing WPS60 in labor negotiations with LCFT Local 504 commencing June 10, 2014.
There was no attempt by Batiste in this short timeframe to consider issuing a proper Request for Bid that would require posting to the public and a public opening of responses.
Instead, in just 13 days this decision was rammed through the Board!
The agenda item prepared by the Administration for consideration at the June 10, 2014 regular Board Meeting provides a budget of $50,000 for Ficarelli as an "estimate only" and notes that "the Administration has not used attorneys for actual collective bargaining during teachers' negotiations in the past."
According to the Board minutes, Agenda Item "Appointment of Special Legal Counsel for Collective Bargaining" Motion by Tommy Ryhan, seconded by Victoria Torres, the vote was 7 votes in favor, none opposed.
There was no discussion regarding this sole source award, negotiation of fees, the rational for deviating from prior practice not to hire outside counsel and no response from Chief Counsel Tom Morris, whose law license with the ARDC is registered at Hinshaw as to any potential conflict of interest by awarding this contract to Hinshaw. In addition, Morris, compensated at $235,000 per year, has years of experience advising school districts and was hired to control outside legal fees per his contract. He even has an incentive clause regarding earning a bonus for lowering legal fees!
On June 16, 2014 Hinshaw sent a letter entitled "Rate Modification" requesting a partner rate increase of 2% and associate rate increases of 2.5% and 4%.
In the interest of protecting taxpayer funds and claiming that reserves need to be kept at certain maintenance levels, did Batiste go shopping for competitive rates or respond that these increases were not acceptable?
We have no documentation that addresses his response.
Perhaps he should seek the advice of Ficarelli to negotiate favorable rates for the district with Hinshaw with the same enthusiasm that he exerts related to the negotiations with teachers?
Instead, residents of Waukegan awoke today to see a publicity photo of a smiling Ficarelli