Local Calif. school district spends up to 10 times more on attorneys’ fees than nearby school districts

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, March 31, 2014

In 2011, then Centinela Valley school board member Sandra Suarez made what she thought was a simple request: How much was the school district spending on legal fees with its top law firm, and what duties was the firm performing?

What she got in response heightened her suspicions that the district was spending too much on attorneys, with too little explanation to the board.

The firm, Dannis Woliver Kelley, gave her 125 pages of invoices that were almost entirely redacted — blacked out to prevent the elected school board member from seeing what exactly the district was being billed for, leaving only the dollar amounts.

On top of the stack was a cover letter explaining that fulfilling Suarez’s request, including the redactions, took “approximately 1.8 hours” of work. At $260 an hour — plus additional time for paralegal work — the request cost the district $744.

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