North Little Rock lawyer Chip Welch, hired last night by the Little Rock School Board as its representative in proceedings on the suspension and firing of Superintendent Roy Brooks, is already hard at work.
We have in hand a letter he's sent to Phil Kaplan, attorney for some of the nine LR administrators who received last Thursday's letter from Board president Katherine Mitchell notifying them that they might not have the same jobs next year if there's a change of superintendent. Kaplan has written a letter asking that Mitchell's letter be rescinded, though it takes no specific action. It did include a phrase urging the nine not to hinder the proceedings against Brooks, a phrase that has prompted a federal court lawsuit by Superintendent Brooks. Brooks is using the letter as a wedge to throw Mitchell and Board member Mike Daugherty off the board for purposes of considering any business concerning him.
Back to Welch. He wrote Kaplan:
"... As I was just notified by Dr. Mitchell that my firm has been selected, I haven't had an opportunity to confer with my new clients, but I am comfortable advising you that the purpose of Dr. Mitchell's letter was notice, rather than to effectuate any kind of chill or coercion. That is to say that no school board employee who testifies for or against Dr. Brooks (or who chooses not to do either one) will be pressured or otherwise retaliated against for their decision.
"I am confident after talking with Dr. Mitchell that such was not her intent in the first place, but wanted to satisfy your inquiry as soon as possible."
UPDATE: We chatted briefly with Phil Kaplan. He said he's not satisfied with Welch's response. He said he'd prefer that the letter -- which he described as a "rogue act" -- be rescinded. Kaplan represents Olivine Roberts, Hugh Hattabaugh, Dennis Glasgow, Mark Milhollen, David Hartz and Joe Mittiga, six of the nine who received letters. His letter says he believes Mitchell's letter was in violation of their constitutional rights in that any threat that infringed their right to speak freely was a deniel of due process rights. He also said the letter was in violation of the Board policy that says the president may speak for the board only on matters resolved by a majority vote of the board in open meeting.