BISD trustees sued over legal fees

BISD Trustees Mike Neil (left) and Tom Neild


Beaumont Independent School District Trustees Mike Neil and Tom Neild are being sued for sanctions and attorney fees in excess of $70,000 stemming from 2012 litigation brought by the two elected officials against BISD and BISD Board of Trustees attorney Tanner Hunt for failing to release documents to the trustees needed for use in their official capacity. Also cited as responsible parties for the requested sanctions are Neil and Neild’s attorneys, Mike Getz and Vann de Cordova.

According to the attorneys representing BISD in the litigation, David and Cade Bernsen, the litigant trustees and their legal counsel frivolously and “prematurely” brought suit against the district in 2012 after requesting documents and e-mails related to incoming superintendent Dr. Timothy Chargois’ employment contract.

Under direct questioning, both Neil and Neild admitted that they were never denied the documents – but they were told the documents never existed in the first place. According to Neil, the lawsuit was instigated, “so I could get the documents that I knew was out there.”

The day after litigation was filed, the documents were proven to indeed exist and were produced post haste.

“(Neild and Neil) had to file the lawsuit in order to get BISD to produce the documents, which BISD denied even existed — and surprise, after the lawsuit was filed, the documents were produced,” Neild and Neil attorney Mike Getz stated. “But the whole thing really chapped BISD’s hind side and they have filed a counterclaim against (Neild and Neil) claiming that (their) lawsuit was frivolous.”

David Bernsen, on behalf of BISD, said the documents “may have” been produced anyway, if the trustees would’ve waited a little longer.

Mike Neil said he waited 14 days, and that was plenty long enough.

Neild and Neil said they were “duped” by language that ultimately ended up in Chargois’ final contract that called for an automatic pay provision, although all negotiations prior to then had expressly prohibited any such allowance. Neil stated on the witness stand in Judge Milton Shuffield’s court that he trusted BISD attorney Tanner Hunt to see to it that the will of the board was adhered to. Both trustees said they never read the final contract, having been told that there was no need to go over the fine print.

“We had an attorney who we trusted,” Neil said, adding that in hindsight he should have read the contract first. The litigation brought by Neild and Neil was dismissed earlier this year as “moot” since the documents had been produced after the lawsuit was filed. Shuffield said he should rule on whether sanctions will be ordered within the week.