What was supposed to be a routine Birmingham Board of Education meeting today turned into yet another chaotic meeting after the board voted to switch attorneys and former state Superintendent Ed Richardson -- who is leading a state team investigating city schools -- stood up and said the vote goes against state orders that the board vote only on items approved by the state.
The state investigation into the school system's governance, finances and academics officially began today.
The Birmingham board has two law firms on retainer -- Waldrep, Stewart & Kendrick and Thomas, Means, Gillis & Seay. The latter firm, a minority firm that board attorney Kenny Thomas worked for, recently dissolved, and Thomas took a job with Alabama State University. A lawyer who had worked for Thomas, Fred Bolling, asked the board if he could replace Thomas as board attorney.
The board approved that request, saying it would cost the school district no extra money since the board already had a contract in place for the minority firm and Bolling will charge no extra.
But Richardson objected to the vote, saying the perception of adding another attorney -- at a time when the board is talking about laying off teachers -- is bad. He said he will report the action to state Superintendent Tommy Bice, to which Birmingham school board President Edward Maddox said, "So noted," and moved on with the agenda.