Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay School Board Picks Lawyer for the Interim; Charles 'Dan' Sikes Fills the Post for the Next Six Months

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay School Board Picks Lawyer for the Interim; Charles 'Dan' Sikes Fills the Post for the Next Six Months

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

GREEN COVE SPRINGS | The Clay County School Board voting 3-2 Monday hired as its interim attorney a Starke lawyer with 20 years of experience representing government entities, although none have been school districts.

Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. recommended Charles "Dan" Sikes fill the position for the next six months, replacing longtime board attorney Bruce Bickner who is retiring effective Dec. 31.

Sikes contributed $100 to Van Zant's successful campaign for superintendent in 2012, according to financial disclosure records on file at the county Supervisor of Elections Office. He also has sided publicly with Van Zant in School Board matters, including his authority as superintendent and last year's bitter dispute over extending Bickner's contract through Nov. 30, 2015, which Van Zant opposed.

Bickner contributed to the campaign of former Superintendent Ben Wortham, who was defeated by Van Zant, as well as the campaigns of some sitting school School Board members, campaign financial disclosures showed.

Van Zant said his recommendation wasn't influenced by Sikes' campaign contribution.

"I [went] to him because I have a background and a trust level with him. He also represents other governmental entities. There aren't people walking around that are School Board attorneys that are out of work that I am aware of. That is a tough bill to fill."

Van Zant said he's agreed with opinions Sikes has offered in the past few years.

"He has experience representing government entities and being unbiased. That is what I was looking for. I wasn't looking for a longtime solution. I was looking for someone right now," said Van Zant referencing the transition period while a permanent board attorney is sought.

Bickner was paid an annual salary of $149,350. Hiring Sikes represents a $6,500-a-month savings to the school system for the length of his contract, district records show.

"It's less than half what we are paying a [full-time] School Board attorney and still get the services we'll need," Van Zant said.

NOT REPRESENTING 'ANY ONE PERSON'

Sikes said he and Van Zant have mutual friends. …

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