LOWELL -- The School Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to request Superintendent of Schools Jean Franco provide a report on the hiring process for the committee's attorney for contract negotiations.

Mayor Rodney Elliott, who filed the motion for the report, said he was concerned that there had been no solicitation process for a collective-bargaining attorney since Attorney Jim Hall of Lowell was first brought on board about 10 years ago.

"You want to get the best price and get the best service when you use taxpayers' dollars," said Elliott, who said a public solicitation process is the best way to do that.

Elliott also raised concerns about the appearance of Hall, whose wife is a teacher, representing the city in negotiations with the teacher's union.

Deputy Superintendent Jay Lang said Hall was hired in either 2004 or 2005 after the previous collective-bargaining attorney died. A request for services was issued, and the School Committee selected Hall after interviewing some of the roughly 12 applicants, Lang said.

Lang said since Hall came on board, the city has not issued a request for such services again, though he noted that legal services are exempt from the state's public-bidding laws.

Committee member Kimberly Scott said what is missing is that there is no annual committee process to formally review Hall's performance and determine whether to renew his services. Scott told The Sun the review would be a time in which issues, such as Hall's family ties, could be addressed.

Hall does not have a contract and is an at-will employee who is paid $50,000 a year to help with contract negotiations with all schools unions. He also handles unfair-labor practice issues, civil-service complaints and teacher and paraprofessional discipline issues in the school district.

His wife, Kerry, became a physical-education teacher at the Pyne Arts School last summer, which Hall disclosed in ethics forms the committee recently accepted. Hall's mother, Cheryl, is a retired teacher from the Sullivan School who is receiving a pension.

Committee member Jim Leary lauded Elliott for his motion and said it is always wise for the committee to review costs. He also reminded the committee that since Hall is an at-will employee, the committee could easily let him go if they were not pleased with his services.

But Leary said he believes once Elliott gets to work with Hall, Leary is confident he will develop the confidence in him that Leary has.

Lang told the committee that the prior collective-bargaining attorney was paid more than Hall, but Lang will provide detailed information in the report.

Committeeman Leary also requested information about the costs for attorneys working on special-education matters.

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