DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Stephen Green has hired high-powered lobbying firm Dentons to represent the district at the state capitol during the 2017 legislative session.
Green this month hired the firm for six months for $99,900 — just under the $100,000 threshold that requires full school board approval.
Several school board members asked about the contract between the school district and Dentons at the Jan. 9 meeting, according to a recording of the meeting.
Board member Stan Jester of Dunwoody said the price range “looks strange” because it was just under the threshold needed for board approval and wanted to know why the board was not informed.
“What were they hired to do? I’ve looked at the contract and it is pretty vague,” Jester said.
Also questioning Green’s executing the contract without informing the board were members Marshall Orson and Joyce Morley.
“I would like to know as a board what services are we getting,” Morley asked Green. “What are they doing? What are they lobbying for? I want to be in the know if I’m to be on this board – I would want to know even as a taxpayer.”
Green said he had hired the firm last year and was pleased with their efforts so rehired Dentons to represent the school district again to advocate on the agenda the board sets, such as legislation dealing with funding or even testing.
“They send me a weekly report and then send a final report,” Green said, adding that Dentons lobbyists also inform Green on any legislation “that pops up” that may affect the school district.
Orson said while he thought it was important to have lobbyists representing the school district at the General Assembly, he was concerned with Green leaving the board out of executing a contract with Dentons “creates a potential for disconnect.”
Jester attended the Jan. 23 Dunwoody City Council meeting to inform the council that Green had hired Dentons and wanted the council to “know what their taxpayer money was being spent on.”
Jester’s public comments on Monday to the council followed the December meeting when state Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) informed the council that the school district had hired former state lawmaker Edward Lindsey, who now works for Dentons, to specifically fight his independent school district bill. At that time, DeKalb spokesperson Quinn Hudson said there was no contract with Dentons for the 2017 legislative session, but acknowledged Green had hired Dentons for the same $99,900 amount to lobby during the 2016 session.
Jester did tell the Dunwoody City Council he doesn’t believe Taylor’s independent schools district legislation is even on the radar of the school district and that Dentons was not hired to specifically stop that bill, as Taylor suggested.
Jester also said in an interview it is not uncommon for the school district to hire lobbyists.
Interestingly, Lindsey is still listed as a board member for the Brookhaven Innovation Academy, a state charter school that was founded by the city of Brookhaven but is now an independent entity and is currently located in Norcross.
A copy of the contract between Green and Dentons: