Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lobbyist's Hire at Issue for Clay Pair; Kerekes, Studdard Say School Board Should Have Been Consulted

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lobbyist's Hire at Issue for Clay Pair; Kerekes, Studdard Say School Board Should Have Been Consulted

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

The Clay County School Board found out Thursday it has a Tallahassee lobbyist - a recent hire allowed under district policy although some members say the hiring never should have happened without the board being consulted about it.

Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. acknowledged the hiring when being called out about it by board members Carol Studdard and Janice Kerekes.

The issue arose when a teacher in the audience asked about it during the public comment portion of the marathon board meeting.

"I am really disheartened to find out that we have a lobbyist that this board did not even know about ...I don't like the board being kept in the dark," Studdard said.

Studdard and Kerekes are the only remaining members of the old board majority that slapped restrictions on Van Zant's ability to spend district money without first getting board approval.

That restriction stemmed from a similar brouhaha in 2013. Those restrictions capped Van Zant's spending limit without board approval to $3,000.

Those restrictions subsequently were repealed by the current board.

Now, district policy allows the superintendent or his designee to make contracts up to $50,000 without board approval.

Deputy Superintendent Diane Kornegay replying to Studdard and Kerekes, said she hired Southern Strategy Group, which has offices in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and elsewhere.

The firm is lobbying for state money to pay for operational expenses and capital projects for the district's career academies, she said.

Kornegay hired the firm in October at a rate of $5,000 a month for its services through the end of the 2016 legislative session. Its goal is get about $1.3 million for the school district, she said.

"So, the way I look at it, you have to spend money to make money. …

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