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Frazee goes local

After doing business with the Twin Cities law firm Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney for six years, the Frazee-Vergas School District has changed to Pemberton law firm.

"I am convinced that they are highly competent attorneys that can serve our needs. And there's the local aspect as well. I know their reputation because I deal with them," board member Rich Ziegler, an attorney himself, said of Pemberton.

Board members Dana Laine and Keith Janu said they didn't agree with changing legal council and that Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney had been an asset to the district, winning a case as recently as last year.

"I'm extremely happy with Roszak, and (Pemberton attorneys) are not cheaper," Janu said.

Laine said she doesn't agree that because Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney is based in the Twin Cities it hasn't given the district the same attention a local firm would.

Pemberton has offices in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Wadena and Alexandria.

"It's that they have a relationship with us as a district," she said of Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney.

Still not understanding why the request for change in counsel, Laine said she suspects that the request came out of a meeting the men elected to the board held before being elected to the school board.

New members Matt Bauer, Jim Nelson and Ken Fett said they got together with Ziegler and board member Steve Jepson before elections last November. The meeting was legal because there were only two board members at the meeting.

Fett said he took offense at the accusation, and that as a new board member, he felt he had every right to question issues and ask for more information.

Superintendent Deron Stender said the board should be careful in saying it wants to go with a firm because it is local, because other vendors in the future may not submit proposals to the district if it is known for only going with local vendors. That could curtail competition, he said, and local vendors could charge what they want for services, not just legal services.

As superintendent and the one who has most contact with the law firm, he added, "not once was I ever asked, 'how is that relationship?'"

He corrected himself after Jepson pointed out that he had asked.

The motion to hire Pemberton, effective immediately, passed 5-2, with Laine and Janu voting no.