Local district hires Austin attorney to help prevent state takeover of school board
An update to a story the News 4 Trouble Shooters broke last month: state investigators recommending the Texas Education Agency take over the Harlandale School Board.
Now we've learned the district has hired an Austin attorney known for defending districts from state sanctions.
Kevin O'Hanlon is the same attorney who helped South San ISD avoid being taken over by a board of managers. Instead, O’Hanlon convinced the state to have that district monitored by a special conservator and the school board was able to stay in office.
Last month we obtained the preliminary results of the TEA's investigation into Harlandale ISD. They accused the school board of being "dysfunctional" and failing to properly follow the competitive bidding process for construction projects.
However, O’Hanlon, who was hired last week to represent Harlandale says "the TEA made major errors" in its investigation. He's arguing that when school districts are hiring engineering firms they're not required to consider competing bids.
Harlandale board members are also accused of breaking open meetings law by communicating with each other through text messages. O'Hanlon, who used to work as a lawyer for the TEA, says he's asked the agency to see the content of those text messages. He wants to see if board members were really discussing district business or just incidental matters.
The Harlandale school board meets Monday evening and will discuss the allegations in closed session.
Their deadline to respond to the TEA had been today, but O’Hanlon was able to get an extension until Friday, December 7th.