School Board Hires New $200-an-Hour Lawyer



Broward School Board members have hired a $200-an-hour lawyer from Orlando to help redistricting.

Unlike every other public government in Broward, the School Board contended it didn’t have time to redistrict for the 2012 election.  They are currently in the midst of redistricting for 2014.

Passing up local lawyers, Board members agreed to hire the Orlando law firm of Brown, Garganese, Weiss & D’Agresta, – the same one that has run up thousand of dollars in charges defending Pembroke Pines in a controversial law suit over a federal detention facility.  That story is here.

Name partner Suzanne D’Agresta will get $200-an-hour “to assist the School Board and staff” with the redistricting. She is a government law expert and is the School Board attorney for Indian River County.


Suzanne D’Agresta 

In picking D’Agresta, the School Board passed up numerous local law firms that are government law experts. For instance Tripp Scott, located a half block from the School Board headquarters, has been the Florida Senate’s redistricting lawyers for at least two census cycles.

The Orlando firm’s contract with the School Board limits their fees to a maximum of $15,000.  It states the Board will not pay mileage or tolls for travel to Broward and only “hard costs” for overnight stays.  The agenda backup doesn’t define “hard costs”.

In Pines, D’Agresta’s partner Usher Brown charged $2,700 for traveling to Broward and attending a commission meeting in March

Brown also charged $517.50 for e-mails with the staff and “continued research.”

My favorite charge by the Orlando law firm: gathering the contact information for the mayor, commissioners and city manager and scheduling phone conferences for $34.

General Counsel J. Paul Carland said he will come back to the Board if more money is needed.

19 Responses to “School Board Hires New $200-an-Hour Lawyer”

  1. Barack Obama says:

    Thats not even that much money for a named partner in a civil case.

  2. get real!! says:

    What was the vote on this decision. Voters need to know for the next 2 election cycles

    FROM BUDDY: In typical School Board transparency, the agenda only says it was approved.

  3. YAFOS says:

    Amazing. How ” in your face” does this board need to be before they get their arrogant asses kicked out. All of them.

    A great redone campaign idea- none of the above

  4. Duh! says:

    How much will they pay in a lawsuit when their incompetent redistricting committee continues to make no progress in creating the new map? “Transparency” is apparently expensive. After the last census, the board members created their own maps themselves. It is enough already. Just get it done!

  5. and another thing says:

    Ask around about how the Committee Chair Michael Rajner appointed by Nora Rupert, he did not live in the District while he was Chair which was required under the rules, which he knew full well he was violating, then he had to be reappointed by Runcie because he could appoint someone who lived anywhere in the County.

    What kind of example is this for our children. Rajner Chairs the Committee while violating the rules then upon being exposed Runcie rewards him by allowing him to stay on as Chair by reappointing him?

  6. Kevin says:

    $200 an hour for a good redistricting lawyer is a steal. It is an incredibly specialized legal and political minefield that 99% of lawyers simply are not well-trained to do.

    Jeez, expert statisticians and political scientists who analyze the maps get paid double that sometimes….


  7. Stan says:

    Wow, I think “and another thing”‘s tinfoil hat is on a little too tight.

    I think the School Board showed some saavy for a change in recognizing that it would make no sense to change the chair of the redistricting committee this far into the process merely because he had moved elsewhere in the county.

    Using the Superintendent’s appointment to keep the continuity in the committee makes total sense to me and would seem to actually be an attempt to make sure to follow the spirit of the rules rather than some consipiracy to violate them.

  8. Thanks David says:

    Rajner knew he didnt live in the district per the rules of the board he was chair of and continued to ignore his own rule breaking. who is more responsible to following the rules than the Chair. Nora was just as bad since she knew or should have known of this fraud.

    PS. David make sure Franklin does not keep the Depends in the back seat of his car at campaign events, it shows his age.

  9. Git R Done says:

    So what was wrong with the existing Attorney, were they not up to par to perform this task?
    Besides, this Attorney, chosen, knows nothing about Broward County, how can she adapt?


    The general counsel said his office didn’t have the expertise to handle it. I personally believe he could have hired a Broward law firm. Keep the money here!

  10. Chaz Stevens says:


    What “hard” cost would a female lawyer, alone and away on business, incur?

    Just wondering.

    Best to you.


    You are such a dog, Chaz!

  11. Constituent says:

    Were they selected because they are impartial/independent w/no partisan interest unlike Broward based? $200.00 is cheap – even associates at ‘local’ Dade and Broward firms worth hiring are $250., $300./Hr. these days (firms worth hiring – not sure newbie associates are at these rates). Sadly we taxpayers have been asleep at the switch for so long while SBBC spent like sailors on shore leave, so the outrage by a few now when we are broke carries very little weight. Vote every one of them out at next election in November. Is there a ‘demand’ clause for alternate means of school district re-districting or are we stuck with this arrangement??
    And thank You Buddy and BrowardBeat because no other ‘rag’ covers this stuff from our point of view.

  12. Floridan says:

    And if the School Board had hired a local firm, such as Tripp Scott, we would be reading about how this was an inside deal by crony politicians. Plus, I seriously doubt that there is a competent local law firm that would do the job for less than $200/hour.

    Seems to me that going outside Broward County for a specialist is exactly the right thing to do when it comes to a political hot potato like redistricting.

  13. christine says:

    Looking to earn a few bucks on the side I see.

  14. What a waste says:

    Buddy, the same law firm that’s milking Pines is now doing the same to the school board? Plus they are based in Orlando? This is why people hate poliicians and attorneys! They are firing teachers to hire out of area legal counsel when they should be handlng this internally! Both the school board and pines ahold be embarrassed by their action!

  15. Check Your Facts says:

    Laurie Rich Levinson was the only board member that voted against the item.

  16. Sully Sue says:

    There is NO need to have 9 board members; enrollment is declining and the 9 can’t seem to agree what day it is. The School Board of Broward County needs to go back to 5 board members, who are all “at large” so special interests will not be so rampant.

  17. Paul Gougelman says:

    As a City Attorney in Central Florida, I can tell you that Ms. D’Agresta’s firm has made a very positive and professional name in East Central Florida for itself over the past few years. I don’t know Ms. D’Agresta personally, but she is respected as competent and professional.

    While most average people unfamiliar with the practice of law would be shocked at $200 per hour, one has to remember that out of that $200 per hour comes the cost of electricity, rent for an office, photocopying & telephone costs, the cost of employees like secretaries, runners, etc. Only then can someone worry about paying the attorney a salary. When I look at the cost of other attorneys, I think that the School Board actually did something right by hiring a respected and inexpensive Central Florida law firm at $200 per hour. I would point out that I recently interviewed a consulting attorney from Central Florida who wanted $550 per hour. I didn’t hire him. I happen to be too fiscally conservative, but I must admit the gentleman is one of the best in his field.

  18. taxpayer says:

    the specialty is re-districting, they are out of area and cheap by partner hourly billing rates. so lets keep this on front burner and see what they come up with. will it be after the election? or before?

  19. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    You know Buddy, 200.00 dollars an hour for an attorney is not bad. I think thi snew super (runcie) is doing a great job, considering he took over a complete mess.