Friday, June 28, 2013

Last year we had our attorney file a compliance complaint when our district, Chino Valley Unified School DIstrict, and WESELPA called to cancel an IEP meeting at the last minute.  We were called 32 minutes before the meeting was to have been held in Rancho Cucamonga, it takes about that long to get there, we were in fact on the way out the door.  When we tried to stop the cancellation we couldn’t because the staff who cancelled the meeting had not yet even come into work.  It was obvious that this cancellation was some sort of funny business, and it made it so my daughter’s IEP meeting was held a month late.  As a result her goals were not updated and we incurred financial loss due to taking off of work and having scheduled a sitter that we then had to pay despite the lack of need.  Additionally, her school, a specialized non-pubic school also was negatively effected as they had hired three substitutes that theythen had to pay at least a minimum amount due to the extremely late cancellation of hte meeting.  This is a definite compliance issue and so we asked our attorney to file theis complaint on our behalf.  I have filed many of these myself but this one got a bit complex so I asked him to handle this one.  We won the complaint easily.  It was our understanding that in the event of our winning a compliance complaint against the district we would be reimbursed for our attorney expenses, these totaled $5542.16.  When the district refused to reimburse us for those expenses we allowed our attorney to file a suit against the district for the cost of those expenses.  We were not aware that the cost could be avoided by the district if the judge found that the complaint was not substantial enough in the judge’s eyes, and that is what happened, so we did not win our attorney's fees as we expected. 

In order to fight this fee of of $5542.16 the district paid the legal firm of Fagen, Friedman, and Fulfrost $15,829.39.  When the district felt they had spent enough, perhaps they reached their limit, they went to the Superintendent’s Council and convinced them to pay the remainder of the legal fight.  An additional $33,702.07 was spent by West End SELPA, for a grand total of $$49,531.46.  This much to fight $5542.16.  Nothing was gained in the fight, no precedents set, nothing but the avoidance of a $5542.16 attorney bill.  Taking away the cost saved, it put the district and WESELPA in the red for $43,989.30.

Now, if it was me, I would try to take care of the district’s money as though it were mine.  I would have started by trying to negotiate a lower fee, which we likely would have considered.  Tthe district could have probably negotiated and paid us $3500.00 to $4000.00, maybe a bit more.  No one tried to negotiate at all.  Instead the district seems to have gone along with the district's attorneys who were the only ones who would gain in this plan, and gain they did, to the tune of nearly $50,000.  I would hope the district would ask questions, and would place caps on the amount of money they are willing to spend to save a relatively small amount of money.  Certainly about 10 times the original fee is outrageous.  I can only assume that we are not the only family that the district and WESELPA has overspent on legal fees in order to beat.  Had the district lost, which is a possibility with a different judge, it could have cost even more - about another $50,000.00.  The only real winners in this entire issue are thedostrict's attorneys.  The district won nothing, the family won nothing.  I would consider who it is that is recommending I spend more money than I would save, and if it is the person or group that stands to gain I would take that into account when determining how much I would be willing to spend.    

I am hoping that given this information the Board members will look into other legal battles and see if the district can in fact, save some of the money spent on litigation in the future.  This year alone the Chino Valley Unified School District spent $620,404.34 in legal expenses, some of this cost was for special education litigation, and I don’t know how much more was covered by the WESELPA.  Wouldn’t it be better to see that the money sent to the district be used to educate our children?