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School Board Hires Lobbyist

The Calhoun County School Board voted 4-1 at a special meeting last Tuesday to hire Tallahassee lobbyist Patrick Bell. According to their agreement, Bell will be paid $3000 per month to help the School Board locate grant funds and other revenue sources, including stimulus money. Board member Danny Hassig (district 5) expressed concerns over hiring Bell and spending $3000 a month before goals have been established. “We’ve got to have a road map to know where we’re going before we spend the county’s money,” he remarked, adding, “Three thousand dollars doesn’t sound like much, but in a year when we’re laying off teachers, $3000 is substantial.” Hassig suggested waiting until September when state legislative committees start meeting before bringing Bell on board, giving them time to do some planning. Bell said work should begin now and said he’d like to be in on the planning process. Bell’s resume lists extensive experience as a consultant and lobbyist, but he said this would be his first job with a school board. Board member Danny Ryals (district 1) said he was impressed with Bell. “Mr. House (School Board Attorney) brought him up to me and I know Patrick helped us get so much back in architect fees due to the $600,000 shortfall from the lack of planning,” he remarked. “If there are things out there that will be gone in September, I’d like him to get started now.” Motion was made by Ryals, seconded by Speights and carried with a 4-1 vote to hire Bell immediately. Hassig made an amended motion to hire Bell in September after the board completes the planning process. His motion died for lack of a second.

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