Photo by Jon Anderson.
Attorney Donald Sweeney speaks to Hoover parents in a meeting about school rezoning at Brock’s Gap Intermediate School on Feb. 11.
The Hoover school board has hired a new legal firm that board President Derrick Murphy says will transition to become the lead law firm for the district.
The board chose the law firm of Bishop, Colvin, Johnson & Kent, which specializes in representing school boards, local governments and related agencies.
Donald Sweeney with the law firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings has been Hoover’s school board attorney for many years and will continue to work with the district, but Bishop, Colvin, Johnson & Kent will transition into the lead role, Murphy said.
The school board does not have concerns about Sweeney but wants to make sure it has another legal team in place for whenever Sweeney gets ready to retire, school board member Earl Cooper said.
“This is not about Donald Sweeney,” Cooper said. “He has been so highly respected by so many people for so long. The guy’s an institution unto himself.”
Murphy said Sweeney has served the Hoover school district well, “but moving forward, we want to make sure we have a firm for the long term.”
Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy said Sweeney will continue to represent the school system on matters in which he is already involved, such as the system’s effort to redraw attendance zones and effort to get dismissed from a decades-old federal school desegregation court case.
“There are just so many moving parts and pieces in our school district,” Kathy Murphy said. “The board has a lot of respect for Mr. Sweeney, but there’s so much work to do in our district.”
The school board won’t be duplicating costs because the two firms will not be working on the same issues for the most part, she said.
Board members said they chose the law firm of Bishop, Colvin, Johnson & Kent because it has an excellent reputation across the state. Cooper said Hoover school officials have worked with the firm some in the past through the Alabama Association of School Boards, which is one of the firm’s clients.
Carl Johnson, the longest-serving partner in the firm, said his firm is pleased to be able to work with the Hoover school board and school district.
“Hoover’s a very dynamic community, growing,” Johnson said. “Obviously, the city of Hoover has high expectations of their board. We’re looking forward to helping the board meet those expectations.”
Bishop, Colvin, Johnson & Kent’s other clients include the Alabama Department of Education, Jefferson County Board of Education, Birmingham Board of Education, Alabaster Board of Education, Pelham Board of Education, Anniston Board of Education, Calhoun County Board of Education and University of Montevallo.
While Johnson has been the one attending school board meetings recently, other active attorneys in the firm include Burgin Kent, Whit Colvin, Claire Puckett, Melissa McKie, Robin Andrews, Steve Stine and Drew Morris.
Sweeney was a partner in the firm when it was called Bishop, Sweeney & Colvin years ago, and Johnson said Sweeney served as kind of a mentor to him.
“He got me involved in school law,” Johnson said. “You couldn’t have a better mentor, teacher and role model than him.”
Sweeney declined to comment about the school board’s decision to hire a second legal firm, other than to say he has no plans to retire anytime soon.