PPS Extends General Counsel Job to Attorney Who Pleaded No Contest to Violating Florida Records Law

The offer comes as PPS struggles to reform its own method of handling public records request.

Interim Superintendent Bob McKean (photo by Beth Slovic)

Portland Public Schools' interim superintendent, Bob McKean, just stepped in it.

The Ledger newspaper in Lakeland, Fla., reports that PPS has offered to hire as its next general counsel a Florida school district lawyer who in 2009 pleaded no contest to violating public records law.

The offer comes as PPS struggles to fill dozens of top-level vacancies in the wake of former Superintendent Carole Smith's departure in July.

It also comes as PPS works to fulfill a backlog of public records request—a backlog that drew a strong rebuke from Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill last month.

McKean, who has vowed to reform PPS's central office, issued a written statement after The Oregonian reported Wednesday on The Ledger's report.

"We are pleased that Mr. Bridges has agreed to join Portland Public Schools bringing with him 18 years of experience as a school district general counsel," he said in a prepared statement. "We have extended a conditional offer to Mr. Bridges based on completion of a background check."

A spokeswoman declined to say whether PPS was aware of the records violation—a misdemeanor—when it extended the offer to the Florida lawyer, Wes Bridges.

The spokeswoman also declined to say whether PPS would rescind the offer. "The process isn't over yet," Courtney Westling tells WW, echoing the superintendent's statement that the offer was contingent on a background check.

If PPS failed to Google its new hire, it wouldn't be the first time.

In 2012, PPS offered a Florida woman a top job overseeing charter schools and alternative schools after failing to realize she'd been reassigned from her job due to an internal investigation that was widely reported in The Miami Herald and other news outlets. That investigation focused on the overuse of involuntary psychiatric evaluations, The Oregonian reported.

PPS withdrew the offer the day after The Oregonian reported on the candidate's connection to the investigation.

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