DeKalb school board agrees to stop paying law firm

by: Erica Byfield Updated:

DeKalb County Schools told a law firm it owes $30 million that it’s not going to pay, at least for now.
DeKalb officials hired King and Spalding in 2008 to help in a legal battle with Herry-Mitchell Construction.       

Since then, the district has paid the firm close to $19 million and still owes the lawyers $30 million.
Channel 2 Action News confirmed during a closed-door meeting this week that DeKalb County's School Board voted on a new contract with King and Spalding. 
The contract said the school system will not pay the firm any more money. Instead, the lawyers will get the money only if the district reaches a settlement with Herry-Mitchell.  The agreement also says the district will stop paying a monthly retainer fee of close to $100,000.
Channel 2’s Erica Byfield spoke to the district's new superintendent about the changes.
"We recognized the serious financial condition the DeKalb County school system was in," Michael Thurmond said.
He added the district can now use the money it had set aside for legal fees to buy more books for the classroom and give raises to employees.
"We all want what is best for DeKalb County, particularly for the students and the employees of this district," Thurmond said.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools put DeKalb Schools on probation in late 2012, citing numerous issues including fiscal mismanagement and excessive attorney costs.  Thurmond told Byfield he's optimistic this change will show SACS monitors the district is willing to make the adjustments needed to gain full accreditation.

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