Today, I lugged a tall stack of papers out of 1025 Second Avenue. In response to a public records request, the school district released hundreds of documents related to its investigation of payments to the Bryant & Brown law firm (most of which came from construction bond money, for work with facilities projects).
Among them was a letter written by Deborah Cooksey, the district’s general counsel, to Meredith Brown, of Bryant & Brown. It accuses the firm of a number of things, including:
- charging OUSD multiple times for the same work ($50,929)
- mismanaging a “routine” case with an electrical company by taking it to court, rather than negotiating — and losing ($722,268)
- copying and pasting City of Piedmont forms, making minor changes for a Waste Management contract, and billing OUSD $51,000 for the drafting work
- refusing to cooperate with the General Counsel’s office
Cooksey also writes that Brown tried to get school board president David Kakishiba to call off the investigation, and that she contacted Gary Yee as well.
The letter is pretty scathing. (You can find it here, if you scroll to Page 12.) It even recounts an instance in March, when Brown allegedly canceled a meeting with Cooksey and facilities director Tim White because of an illness, yet billed the district for 12 hours of work that day.
Now, a couple of people have called to say that Meredith Brown — who did most of the work in question — is an upstanding person and respected attorney who probably just made a mistake, or that there was bad blood between her and Cooksey.
Brown certainly doesn’t fit the “shady lawyer” profile. She’s the president of the Montclair Soccer Club, for Pete’s sake, and the vice president of the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club. She was a Hillary Clinton delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
As far as the district goes, no one (i.e. White) has been forced out or disciplined because of the investigation. OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said Wednesday that the district is not accusing anyone of being dishonest — although Cooksey’s letter does sort of have that ring to it.
“There were cases where protocol was not followed, and a lack of oversight in come instances, but it’s premature to suggest that there was any kind of malfeasance,” Flint said. “We have referred it to the D.A., who, as an impartial, third party, can best make that judgment.”
You can find the full story here.