Legal costs mounting in Rockland-area school district

Posted Jan. 27, 2014, at 4:12 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 27, 2014, at 6:39 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland-area school district has spent more than $62,000 in the past six months on legal fees, largely over personnel issues and contract negotiations. The amount is nearly double what was budgeted for the entire year.

Superintendent Lew Collins provided Monday a report, requested by the Bangor Daily News, that shows that from July 1 through Jan. 8 the district paid out $62,616 in legal fees. The money has been used to pay for lawyers working on the disciplinary hearing involving suspended business manager Scott Vaitones, labor negotiations with staff for contracts, employee grievances, and the proposed withdrawal of St. George from Regional School Unit 13.

The figure does not include the three nights of meetings involving the Vaitones matter last week nor any preparations by attorneys since Jan. 8. The average price being paid by the district for legal work is $200 an hour. The district has hired attorney Lee Bragg to represent the board and preside over the Vaitones disciplinary hearing, and it also has hired attorney Campbell Badger to at represent the board and prosecute the case during the Vaitones hearing.

The $62,616 has been paid to the law firm of Drummond Woodsum.

The district’s 2013-2014 budget for legal costs is $35,008. The superintendent said there is also a $10,000 contingency account in the administration budget that can be used to cover some of the legal costs. Some money also will be available from his training and travel account, he said.

Collins has tendered his resignation and is scheduled to leave on Feb. 15.

The legal fees associated with personnel matters have totaled $29,316. Collins said Monday that the personnel category is not solely for the Vaitones case.

Negotiations have amounted to another $16,284. The district is negotiating its teacher contract, which expired last year.

Nearly $4,000 of the overall legal fees have been spent on the pending withdrawal of St. George from the school district. The board’s subcommittee on the withdrawal matter have met once in preparation for negotiating with St. George.

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