The Cleveland County School Board wants a new attorney.
The county school board voted 5-4 on December 14 to terminate their contract with Tharrington Smith LLP, a Raleigh-based law firm specializing in education law.
The new board members Robert Queen, Rodney Fitch, Ron Humphries and Joel Shores, along with Danny Blanton, voted to end the contract. Greg Taylor, Dena Green, Coleman Hunt and Phillip Glover voted against.
The Board of Directors has signed a contract with Tharrington Smith since the Shelby, Kings Mountain, and Cleveland County School school districts merged more than a decade ago. For the past five years, the district has paid the firm more than $ 50,000 per year to represent the company, reaching $ 66,350 in the 2017/18 school year. During the current school year, the district paid $ 14,691.
Under the terms of the contract, Cleveland County Schools directed Superintendent Stephen Fisher to give Tharrington Smith 90 days notice that his services were no longer required.
The board also directed Fisher to solicit offers from local attorneys interested in representing the district.
Members who wanted to part ways with Tharrington Smith said they did not like the fact that the company is not on site. They also disagreed with the company filing a 2019 lawsuit against Cleveland County’s Sheriff Alan Norman.
The lawsuit was brought by an attorney in Tharrington Smith after the Sheriff’s Office seized $ 3 million in suspected drug money. By law, that money would have been split between the schools and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, but the Department of Justice could – and did – the money when it took the case on.
The lawsuit was supposed to hold the money in Cleveland County long enough for someone to figure out what to do with it, according to the attorney who filed the lawsuit.
When it became clear that the money had already been withdrawn from Cleveland County, the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed and Norman apologized. More than a year later, some are still angry with the lawyer.
“Tharrington Smith, in my opinion, is unable to file frivolous lawsuits, is no merit of a lawyer. He is also absent,” said Shores, who recently left the sheriff’s office.
Shores later told The Star that his remarks related to the law against Norman.
Green said she had no problem parting ways with Tharrington Smith but had some reservations about wanting a local attorney.
“I have nothing against local lawyers. I think if they are qualified we should give them a chance,” said Green. “My thing just clarified, are we going to only limit it to Cleveland Counties who are attorneys and just dump it? I don’t think it would hurt us to keep a bigger specialist law firm to do things that don’t are possible to be dealt with by the local attorney. “
Queen said if the board isn’t happy with attorneys in or around Cleveland County, it may open its search to a wider area.
Glover and Hunt preferred to keep the current board of directors representation as they specialize in the type of legal districts they encounter on a regular basis.
“When you say we want the best, do you want the best locally, or do you want the best that Cleveland County Schools represent?” said Hunt. “Because there’s going to be a crowd saying they can do the job, but when it comes to these (extraordinary child) laws and other lawsuits that are being filed, they have to call someone more knowledgeable than they are to get to help represent Cleveland County Schools if you already have someone who can and has proven they can, but because they’re there, we’ll throw them out the door. “
The board plans to review offers and discuss who the new lawyer will be in January.
Dustin George can be reached at 704-669-3337 or [email protected] Find him on Twitter @DustinLGeorge.