Attorney selection an ‘easy decision’ for school board
BAINBRIDGE -- After announcing Dan Noel’s reapproval as superintendent in February, which ended an uneasy search for his replacement that spanned nearly five months, the North Putnam School Board still faced the need to fill two important positions after the departure of former corporation attorney Gene Hostetter on Jan. 11 and the resignation of former athletic director Tim Garver on Jan. 30.
While the board is nearing the end of its search for an athletic director and hopes to make an announcement in April, it made strides Wednesday with the aforementioned, announcing its selection of Daniel L. Taylor as its newest legal counselor.
Taylor, of Taylor, Chadd, Minnette, Schneider and Clutter, P.C. (TCMSC) in nearby Crawfordsville, was present Wednesday during the board’s monthly public session in the high school auditorium and wasted no time getting to work, taking up his chair at the table immediately upon approval.
He was flanked by J. Kent Minnette, a partner of the northerly law firm and one of many potential stand-ins from TCMSC for Taylor in the event he cannot attend.
The pair instantly began weighing in on multiple issues, including bus replacement, immunization implementation and the corporation’s growingly-controversial renovation project.
“It’s usually about now when I say maybe we shouldn’t talk about this anymore ... and talk response,” Taylor said after hearing several complaints by both board and faculty members concerning Johnson-Melloh’s incomplete renovation projects at each school building, including (but not limited to) cold/hot classrooms, reneged personal assurances and near-nonexistent customer service. “Now we’re clearly starting to talk about contractual issues and I’d rather have them know of your intentions and what you are thinking.
“The first thing you need to do is talk to someone else (other) than your contractor about how unhappy you are ... whoever you’re talking to, apparently, is not the right person,” Taylor added. “And we should schedule a conference with (Johnson-Melloh) to talk about how you believe they are not meeting their obligations. I would try to do that pretty quickly. I also think you should look at your contract and see what options you have and what obligations they have.”
Taylor’s analysis was well received by the council, namely board member Travis Lambermont who expressed a good deal of disgust over the contract with the Indianapolis-based engineering firm.
Such advice and proactive analysis is and will be seen by many as a change of pace for the board in that the corporation has been dealing with renovation issues for more than a year and heating/cooling issues for the entire winter season.
The board began its search for Hostetter’s replacement in January after he failed to be reapproved for 2017 during the annual election of officers. One distinct advantage with the hiring of TCMSC, which has not applied to former counselors, will be that the board will have the entire firm at its side.
The firm includes 10 individual lawyers who focus on a broad range of issues. Whether they attend or not, the firm has many lawyers who can be consulted, no matter the issue at hand.
Furthermore, in the event Taylor cannot attend as primary counselor, fellow partners Minnette and Darren Chadd will be available to stand in as secondary counselors. However, as Taylor noted in a brief interview with the Banner Graphic Thursday, every lawyer within the firm is capable of attending, ensuring that North Putnam’s board will regularly have the counsel it needs at every monthly public session.
Board President Amber Greene took the time Wednesday to not only explain the search process, but also why the search was made easy by TCMSC.
“The committee to recommend an attorney consisted of myself, Mr. Lambermont and Mr. (Ron) Spencer,” Greene said. “We looked through all of the applications that we received and diligently narrowed those down to two and elected to interview two different attorneys in each (respective) firm.
“We then pretty quickly and unanimously agreed on who we wanted to go with,” Greene continued. “There were a couple of different things we liked about this firm: the fact that there would be three (or more) of them who could assist us whenever we needed it ... and that the firm is over 50 percent municipal law -- they also represent the (Southmont) School Corporation since 2012 and we like that, we feel like we have a lot of similarities with Southmont. We like that experience and we feel like we need that kind of guidance.”
In addition to providing legal counsel to the adjacent school district, Taylor is the attorney for the towns of Avon and Cumberland, the Montgomery County Council, and the Montgomery County Commissioners and is an adviser for Crawfordsville’s Planning and Redevelopment commissions. He specializes in governmental law, corporate law, estate planning, probate, taxation and litigation and is a frequent speaker on municipal and employment laws, as well.
Taylor said Thursday that TCMSC is looking forward to working with the school corporation.
“We’re happy to have the opportunity,” he said. “We think with our experience we can really help them move in a positive direction and we were really impressed with the board’s enthusiasm and (its) desire to improve the school and make it the best it can be."