12/02/2013 – Paul Womack

Paul Womack
Mr. Chairman, Superintendent Thurmond, members of the board.

I departed this board December last year and I said I would never criticize it publicly or privately. I’m going to do that tonight. It’s my understanding that you are about to embark on the settlement of the Heery Mitchell case. Say what you may about the board that I served on. That board was unanimous in its support in the lawsuit against Heery Mitchell. We saw the evidence and we believed what we saw.

This board has not met with the attorneys except to renegotiate the contract. Two members of the board and the Superintendent did meet, it’s my understanding, with the Heery Mitchell attorney. And it was quite a hostile meeting, especially from Mr. Orson. This board is leaving, if it settles for the figure I have heard of under $10 million dollars, is leaving between $20 and $30 million dollars on the table. This board of education has spent in legal fees and forensic investigation, upward of $20 million. To settle, for what you are, I think it boards on malfeasance in office.

A firm like King & Spalding does not devote their time and energy to a case like this under the circumstances that their enumeration unless they believed in it. The evidence is overwhelming against Heery.

I couldn’t understand why one of your board members would lobby me to settle this case while I was on the board. That was done periodically over 4 years. Last week I read a blog and I saw what I consider a conflict of interest by one of your board members. A $500 dollar political contribution from a member of DLA Piper law firm that represents Heery. Also, this member serves on a board of trustees for a citizens committee with a member, Vice President, of Heery.

Gentlemen, you need to reassess if you’re going to settle. At least get what this board spent. The evidence is there. King & Spalding did not invest their time just because they thought they had a good case. They have a solid case.

Thank You

 


TIMELINE

October 2004: Crawford Lewis becomes superintendent of the DeKalb County School District and later hires Pat Reid to oversee Heery International Inc. and E.R. Mitchell & Co., which jointly manage construction projects.

April 2006: Heery/Mitchell suspended, then fired 10 months later.

February 2007: Heery/Mitchell sues for $478,000 and damages.

March 2007: DeKalb counterclaims for $17 million, eventually seeking more than $100 million.

December 2008: Lewis tells school lawyers that Reid tried to blackmail him, recommended firing Heery/Mitchell and wanted to hire her friends to work on projects funded by a special sales tax for school construction.

July 2009: DeKalb’s law firm, King & Spalding, agrees to work on contingency, retroactive to June 1, 2008. It had been paid $6.5 million.

May 2010: Lewis, Reid, her then-husband Tony Pope, and Reid’s assistant indicted. (The assistant is later dismissed from the case.) Lewis had been fired a month earlier.

October 2010: Heery/Mitchell files second amended complaint, claiming criminal fraud drove its termination.

June 2012: School board approves settlement with E.R. Mitchell & Co.

February 2013: Civil trial date with DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger, since postponed.

April 2, 2013: DeKalb “special master” Judge Stanley Birch signs an order dismissing the bulk of Heery’s financial claims against the school district.

May 3, 2013: A pair of DeKalb residents, one a Heery executive named as a defendant in DeKalb’s lawsuit, file a legal challenge to the district’s contract with King & Spalding, alleging it puts the district illegally in debt to the lawyers.

June 3, 2013: DeKalb school board votes to authorize an amended contract in which King & Spalding agrees to waive $30 million in legal fees and to pay ongoing court costs.