Camas and Evergreen school districts spent big on outside attorneys


Striking teachers picket Camas High School Aug. 28, 2023. | Photo by Don McIntosh

Two Southwest Washington school districts spent close to $200,000 for legal advice during recent contract negotiations with teachers. Though it’s a small share of district budgets, bargaining could have been handled in-house by district administrators.

In August, striking teachers in Camas and Evergreen school districts were upset to learn that administrators were paying law firm Stevens Clay to help with bargaining. Because union leaders said the districts declined to share how much they were spending, the Labor Press filed a public records request for the invoices.

The records show that between April 2023 and August 2023, Camas School District paid the firm about $120,000 for bargaining-related services. The charges include about $4,000 in travel expenses, for attorney Garrett Williams. The firm also wrote and edited district bargaining updates for parents and researched how to ask a judge for an injunction to order striking teachers back to class, according to the documents.

“We consult with attorneys regularly during bargaining and throughout the year,” district spokesperson Doreen McKercher wrote in an email to the Labor Press. “To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time we had one present during the entire bargaining process.  We needed the extra support due to operating most of the year without an HR director.”

In Evergreen, the invoices include charges for services beyond bargaining. For example, the district paid Stevens Clay for legal research about special education and work visa questions. A review by the Labor Press and Evergreen Education Association conservatively estimates that $67,000 of the $384,000 paid to Stevens Clay between December 2022 and September 2023 was related to bargaining.

Neither district employs in-house attorneys, so they use Stevens Clay to help with sensitive legal issues. The Spokane-based law firm specializes in education law and works with nearly 100 school districts in Washington state.

In Camas, the bargaining-related legal fees make up about 0.1% of the $109 million operating budget; it would be enough to cover the costs to send about eight students to school for a year. In Evergreen, the estimated expenses make up about 0.02% or school for about four students.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Read more