LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Community College District could pay law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd & Romo up to $500,000 a year for two years when needed for legal matters including personnel and employee relations, business law, and review and interpretation of administrative law, under an agreement approved unanimously, on Feb. 14, by the District’s Board of Trustees.
The new agreement is valid from July 1 to June 30, 2024. The District had two previous agreements with the firm, valid from July 2017 through June 2019, and from July 2019 through June 2022.
Antelope Valley College Federation of Teachers President Aurora Burd asked what services the firm would provide.
“We have an interim general counsel; we have a paralegal; we had, or we did up until recently, have a very, very expensive consultant for VP of HR,” Burd said. Burd added she would like to know what duties would be performed through the agreement.
“Why does the college need so much legal support?” Burd asked. She noted the last time the agreement was approved, the college did not have an interim general counsel.
“In terms of general counsel, support from the outside is needed periodically in special circumstances in areas of expertise that a general counsel wouldn’t necessarily have or would need additional support,” AV College President Ed Knudson said.
Knudson added the contract allows the college to engage the law firm when necessary.
“It isn’t a straight payment of $500,000, but rather allows us to engage those services as needed,” he said.
Antelope Valley College Federation of Classified Employees President Pamela Ford asked for clarification on the types of services the firm would provide.
“It could be anything from facilities to special work on special contracts that may need in a certain area; it could be litigation; it could be all kinds of things,” Knudson said.
AV College General Counsel Bridgett Cook added that as general counsel, she covers all types of areas of education law.
“As a single person, I don’t have the resources or the network of a full law firm that may be able to assist the District with specific items or items that they worked on, on behalf of the college, in the past,” Cook said.
In addition, the firm can assist with litigation as it relates to unfair labor practices that require appearances in court on a regular basis. The firm can also assist with investigations of misconduct with no conflict of interest.
The Board also unanimously approved an amendment to a consultant services agreement with Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd and Romo for services working with Human Resources.
The amendment, for $328,740, is for the total contract from April 12, 2021 through April 1.
“This closes the contract,” Knudson said in response to a question about the amendment.
Burd questioned the cost of the contract. Burd noted the cost is higher than Knudson’s own salary and benefits as well as the salaries and benefits of former vice presidents in charge of Academic Affairs and Student Services.
“Like a lot of other people here, I’m concerned about appropriate use of public funds; that $328,000 seems pretty steep,” Burd said.