Did you know that on September 11, 2018 the Audit Committee for the School Board of the School District of Indian River County, FL unanimously recommended to the School Board “to put a policy in place to put out a RFP for general council legal services at least every three years…”
Suzanne D’Agresta, Esq. of the Orlando firm Garganese, Weiss, D’Agresta & Salzman, P.A. has been the School District’s outside general council for the School District since 2009. She is certified by The Florida Bar as a specialist in City, County and Local Government Law, and has significant experience in transactional and litigation matters involving School Boards.
Section 218.391, Florida Statutes, requires that the governing body of each district school board to establish an audit committee.
The committee advises to the School Board, making observations and recommendations based on its review of the facts, action plans and financial reports. It is to provide advice to the School Board and Administration on improving the financial controls and efficiency.
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” said Robert Auwaerter, Audit Committee Chairman. “It is a very significant cost to the School District – $ 264,000 a year – plus mileage reimbursement plus other expenses. You can hire a few teachers for that. We felt it was worth checking on.”
The Audit Committee presented their recommendations to three of the five members of the School Board, Chairman Shawn R. Frost, Vice Chairman Charles G. Searcy, and Board Members Dale Simchick, Laura Zorc, and Tiffany M. Justice.
Three Audit Committee members were present, Mr. Robert Auwaerter, Chairman; Mrs. Gayle Gilmore, Vice Chairwoman, and Mr. Jeff Smith, Committee Member.
Dr. Mark J. Rendell, Superintendent of Schools; and Suzanne D’Agresta, School Board Attorney, were also present.
Each of the five School Board members selected one member for the Audit Committee.
The five selected members, at that time, included the following:
Robert Auwaerter: Mr. Auwaerter is the retired head of the Vanguard Fixed Income Group, where he was responsible for $ 750 billion in client assets. On December 12, 2018 he received the Fiscal Conservative of the Year Award from the Indian River County Taxpayers Association.
Gayle Phillips Gilmore, CPA. Ms. Gilmore was previously a VP of Wilmington Trust.
Charles Gisler, EVP/CFO/COO Marine Bank and Trust.
Jeffrey R. Smith, CPA, CGFO, CGMA, Indian River County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller.
Glenn Heran, CPA and utility activist. On December 12, 2018 he received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Indian River County Taxpayers Association.
Mr. Auwaeter indicated that from a May 22 audit meeting the committee felt that their mandate was “to look at it from the cost side,” which turned into a focus on the cost of General Council legal services, as well as a discussion on school district employee benefit expenses.
Mr. Auwaerter said the Committee had studied two surveys on Florida school district legal costs; one was July 2015 survey by the Florida District of School Superintendents and the other by Escambia County.
In looking through these surveys Mr. Auwaeter said it gave them a general idea of the costs of these services.
He said “it is a good practice to test the market every once and awhile.” And that “this has nothing to do with making a judgement of the value received of or perceived of legal services” [by outside attorney Suzanne D’Agresta, Esq.].
Committee Member Jeffrey R. Smith emphasized that “this has nothing to do with the quality [of Ms. D’Agresta’s] service.”
“The [unanimous] conclusion we came to here is that is that there are a wide range of prices and it would be worthwhile to test the market.”
During the discussion, Board Member Dale Simchick wanted to make everyone aware that Ms. D’Agresta has not increased her fees since responding to an RFP in 2009.
Here are the “extensive” District School Board Superintendent’s Workshop Minutes for this meeting |09/11/2018| by Esplen, Nancy.
“Mr. Auwaerter shared a PowerPoint presentation to cover the five meetings they had and the recommendations they had. The committee answered all of the Board Member’s questions. The committee gave thanks to staff for their cooperation and assistance. It was suggested that after a committee meeting, they present their finding to the Board Members, at a Business Meeting. The Board Members thanked the committee for their service. Chairman Frost presented each of them with Certificates of Appreciation and photos were taken.”
No action has been taken on this item at this time.