By Sam Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama State Board of Education decided on Wednesday to hire their own legal counsel after a report said a board member conspired to undermine a State Superintendent candidate.
Board Vice-President Yvette Richardson said the board itself is not under investigation but didn’t want to involve itself in the pending litigation against Alabama State Department of Education officials.
The board will hire their own legal counsel only regarding the report made by Michael Meyer, which implicates three department attorneys in a scheme to undermine Dr. Craig Pouncey’s bid for State Superintendent.
Pouncey filed a lawsuit against Board Representative Mary Scott Hunter, General Counsel Juliana Dean, Interim State Superintendent Phillip Cleveland, and two other attorneys in the Alabama State Department of Education in February claiming the individuals falsely accused him of ethics violations.
Dean usually represents the board along with the rest of the Alabama State Department of Education, but Meyer’s report named Dean as one of three attorneys that conspired to undermine Pouncey.
The report said she helped to expedite an anonymous accusation against Pouncey to the Ethics Commission.
Dead dismissed the implication that she conspired in undermining Pouncey. She said her role in the Pouncey case was cooperating with the Ethics Commission.
State Board Member Ella Bell (District 5) had concerns that client-attorney privilege would hinder Dean from performing her duties in representing the Board. She proposed the motion to hire a new attorney for the board.
Dean responded by saying that she would file a complaint if she felt the motion was “retaliatory.”
She said she would view it as an attack on her for cooperating with the Ethics Commission and there are rules in place to stop employers from punishing employees for only cooperating with the Ethics Commission.
Former State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Harwood defended Dean and the other attorneys implicated by the report by saying they were just performing their “legal duty.” Harwood was hired by State Superintendent Michael Sentance to review the Meyer report.
Sentance also hired Meyer to conduct the report.
The motion passed 7-1 with Hunter being the only one to dissent. Hunter was also implicated as a conspirator in the report.
The State Education Board will decide the process of hiring this attorney on Friday.