Insurance won’t cover school’s legal fees


By Kay Braddock
Legal fees accumulated by Terry Schools in response to an unfair labor practice charge are not covered by the school’s insurance.  
During a 20-minute insurance policy coverage presentation at the Oct. 26 school board meeting, insurance agent Dale Hellman explained the difference between a lawsuit and an unfair labor charge.
“It’s a complaint. It’s not a suit,” Hellman said. “It’s part of the bargaining process.”
If a lawsuit were filed against the school, insurance coverage would kick in to begin reimbursement to the school for attorney expenses accrued, Hellman explained. 
So far, the school’s attorney fees have totaled about $6,000, according to Terry Schools Superintendent Charles Deisher. A lawyer from the Montana School Board Association has been hired to represent the school in the charge, which is scheduled to go before a hearing officer in February.
The Terry Teachers Union MEA-MFT filed an unfair labor charge earlier this year with the Montana Board of Personnel Appeals, stemming from the school board’s decision to pay three individuals stipends for summer open gym positions. 
The teacher’s union contends those positions should have been negotiated at the bargaining table. 
School officials believe the positions aren’t part of the union’s collective bargaining unit and therefore don’t require the same negotiations as certified positions do.  
Hellman said he checked into the matter thoroughly and found other government agencies, including Buffalo Rapids and Montana Association of Counties would face similar situations in regards to insurance coverage on labor charges. 
Attorney expenses are expected to come out of the school’s general fund budget.

Oct. 11, 2009

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