Solana Beach school board member working for education law firm

By Marsha Sutton

Senior Education Writer

Solana Beach School District board member and attorney Art Palkowitz is providing general legal advice to school districts as Senior Counsel at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, a San Diego County law firm specializing in education law.

Formerly Assistant General Counsel at San Diego Unified School District where he worked for nine years, Palkowitz joined Stutz Artiano in March 2010.

Palkowitz, whose second four-year term on the SBSD school board expires in November 2012, has been a practicing attorney for over 28 years, with background in public education and civil litigation.

Since Palkowitz joined Stutz Artiano, the Solana Beach School District has continued to have the law firm represent the district on two cases. SBSD superintendent Leslie Fausset said there is no conflict of interest.

“Art has nothing to do with any of the cases that the firm represents,” she said.

Also, she said he recuses himself from voting on all decisions involving Stutz Artiano cases that involve expenses with the firm.

“We’ve taken probably a more cautious approach, but that’s how we’ve handled it,” Fausset said.

She said Palkowitz shared with her his intent to join the law firm in advance, and she said she had “no misgivings at all.”

“We took all of the appropriate precautions,” she said, adding that “it’s very beneficial to a district” to have attorneys on school boards who understand education issues.

Palkowitz’s professional experience, according to his profile on the Stutz Artiano Web site, includes an understanding of the California Education Code, certificated and classified employee suspension and termination proceedings, strategy and compliance in collective bargaining, employment-related litigation, wrongful termination, the Brown Act, Public Records Act, California Tort Claims Act, preparation and review of district policies and administrative procedures, and charter school petitions, operations, renewals and appeals.

One of the two cases Stutz Artiano has handled for the SBSD since Palkowitz was hired began in September 2010 and was concluded earlier this year. The district paid about $6,300 to the law firm for the case.

The other case, concerning a preschool special education student, is continuing through the court system and is on appeal at the Ninth Circuit, Fausset said. To date, the district has paid Stutz Artiano about $11,600, and the Special Education Legal Alliance has paid the firm about $40,000 on this case.

With miscellaneous fees of $823 for opinions on Public Records Act requests and student fees, the total paid to Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz by the district from 2010 to the present is about $18,745.