Board hires new attorney for school district, hopes to save in legal expenses

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJuly 1, 2014 

A staff attorney will join the Beaufort County School District this month in a move board members say will save thousands of dollars in legal expenses.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the board voted to hire Drew H. Davis at an annual salary of roughly $112,000. The vote was 9-1, with Michael Rivers opposed and JoAnn Orischak absent.

In the newly created post, Davis will provide direct and full-time legal counsel to superintendent Jeff Moss, staff and the school board.

Davis will have an annual contract that can be extended at the end of the school year based on performance, according to Alice Walton, the district's head of human resources.

Moss said the district will no longer consult with the multiple firms it has sought advice from in the past except in extremely specific scenarios. He hopes the move will save the district more than $100,000 a year.

"Having this person in house affects productivity, it affects consistency and it affects cost," Moss said.

The district had consulted various firms -- such as Columbia-based Childs & Halligan and Duff, White & Turner -- for advice on different questions. However, Moss said that process lead to legal bills of more than $250,000 every year.

Davis will provide counsel on matters ranging from personnel and student hearings to public information, Moss said.

Board chairman Bill Evans said most members supported the idea because of the potential savings and efficiency. He said the decision was not related to dissatisfaction with the firms the district used before.

"We have been very well represented by several different firms that have worked with us, so it's not a question about getting poor service and advice from them," Evans said. "This is because we feel certain that we will save money and we will have more immediate contact."

Davis has worked as an educational attorney and consultant in Winston-Salem, N.C,. for the past seven years. In those positions, he advised both public, private and charter schools regarding labor and employment, funding, operational issues and school system disputes, according to his resume.

Before that, he was a professor at several North Carolina universities, including Salem College and North Carolina A&T State University.

"He has an extensive background in public school law," Moss said. "I think he will be an excellent addition to our staff."

The board discussed hiring Davis in an executive session that lasted a little more than an hour.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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