Dixon Clips




Request for proposed legal services

This is a request for proposal to any licensed and practicing Minnesota attorney or attorneys. It is tendered by concerned citizens of the Duluth School District who feel that their School Board unfairly and possibly illegally denied them the right to vote on a referendum on the single largest school building project in Minnesota history.

We can reasonably assure that we will be able to raise a minimum of $20,000 for legal services this year. Our attorney must be prepared to be outmatched by oOur adversaries Johnson Controls, a fortune 100 company,  and the Duluth School Board with an $130 million annual budget .

These are the facts of the case:

In 2006 Johnson Controls Inc, a firm that is primarily a manufacturer of air quality equipment began a relationship with the Duluth Schools which culminated in its hiring by the District under unorthodox circumstances to design, and supervise a District-wide building plan costing $293 million.

Early in the process it was decided to avoid if possible holding a referendum on the ensuing bond which might scuttle the plan. The State Dept of Education eventually approved the plan justifying it on unexpected and novel interpretations of state laws . (While it is true that there have been numerous exceptions written into state laws over recent decades to avoid referendum which apply to all Minnesota School Districts we feel this surprising interpretation of the law was not only unexpected but dubious.

Two Minnesota Cities do operate under special legislation which expands their school boards authority in this regard. They are Minneapolis and St. Paul . They are also lumped in a legal category called “Cities of the First Class” along with Duluth which originally pertained to Cities with a population of over 100,000. Since that time Duluth ’s population has sunk below this level but the law has been modified so that it has retained is membership in this special class of cities.

This classification is important because a different law was passed which referred to Duluth but did not name it some fifteen years ago. It provided Duluth with a chance to bond while foregoing a referendum for several specific reasons including to enhance integration. The current plan which has been authorized in fact, will increase the segregation of the city in seeming contradiction to this provision.

The Duluth Citizens who are proffering this RFP for legal services are primarily interested in casting a vote on the “Red Plan.” To that end we are looking for legal representation which will accomplish one or all of the following things.

Help us postpone the further implementation of the plan (as of 2008 only about $10 million of the $293 million will have been used for construction) by winning an injunction or a clear cut legal order to cease and desist. 

Help us overturn the MDE’s concession about the various laws which authorize the Duluth School District to proceed without a referendum.

At present there is one such legal action being leveled at the City of Duluth and the Duluth School Board based on federal environmental law. This suit will continue but does not concern our RFP

There are three principal possible legal issues that we feel might win us the delay of the Red Plan until a new school board is elected in 2009. They are:

  1. A challenge of the School District ’s unprecedented surrender of power over the construction of the Red Plan to Johnson Controls Inc. including A. possible illegal initial design work by unqualified persons, B. Improper adoption of a contract due to a questionable bait and switch proposal on the part of Johnson Controls. C. improper contractual language that gives JCI the power to make business decisions in the District worst interests because of its own conflict of interest is enshrined in the contract, hand off in  (This route could be perilous for us because the discovery and analysis period could be time consuming)
  2. The violation of either the letter or spirit of the law having to do with the State’s statutory commitment to ensuring integration and discouraging desegregation.
  3. A constitutional civil rights suit challenging State Laws which seem to create two classes of voters with unequal rights despite the 14th Amendment’s call for equal protection under the law to wit: that citizens in Minnesota Cities of the First class are deprived of the right to vote for some school bond referenda that citizens in all other Minnesota municipalities and districts enjoy. (The ACLU has been contacted but declined to take our case due to limited resources but might be willing to join us with an amicus brief)

We are confident that we can raise approximately $20,000 in a short time. Other resources will be solicited from the public depending on the need. In the event of a constitutional challenge which could nullify several state laws the challenge would be of long standing yet in many ways it would be the most gratifying.

Because our principal immediate desire is to slow down the “Red Plan” it may not be critical to have a court victory immediately just a court delay. We wish legal firms considering an offer of their services to consider this practical objective. How are they suited to helping us slow down the Red Plan.

Before hiring attorneys to help us we would like to know in addition to hourly costs and other expenses something about the experience of the firm with regard to the three principal legal challenges we have outlined. Their recommendations on the practicality of pursuing any of the three avenues, and any predilection to pursue that avenue. (For instance is a law firm or lawyer particularly drawn to the idea of making a Constitutional Challenge or particularly experienced in untangling complicated contractual arrangements or drawn to cases of civil rights enforcement. Because cost will be a factor we would like you or your firm to provide an analysis of the possible costs of any legal work you or your firm would be willing and competent to perform and which might be expected in your preferred legal challenge on our behalf.

Fill out this application form copy it and email it to Harry Welty via email to harrywelty@charter.net or print it and mail it via postal service to: Harry Welty, 2101 E 4th St. , Duluth MN 55812 by August 31, 2008 .

We will contact our top applicants by phone for an initial short interview and then conduct a longer interview in your offices or at any reasonable locale of your choosing.