After 26 years as school board attorney, the Graves County Board of Education fired David Hargrove earlier this month and hired his replacement Thursday.
The board hired Jesse Wright as the new attorney in a unanimous 4-0 vote by acclamation during Thursday evening's school board meeting.
"I'm very appreciative for the opportunity, and I look forward to doing work on behalf of the Graves County school board and the school district," Wright said.
The board terminated Hargrove's employment by a 3-2 vote immediately following an executive session April 8 to discuss personnel matters.
Board member Jim Wurth made the motion to remove Hargrove as the attorney, seconded by board member Kelly Whitaker. They were then joined by vice chairwoman Julie Moffit in voting for the removal, according to Superintendent Kim Dublin's review of the meeting minutes. As the board had not approved minutes from the meeting yet, they were unavailable for public inspection.
Voting against the removal were chairman Charles Ronnie Holmes and the newest board member, Kenneth House, Dublin said.
Hargrove said later a difference of opinion led to his termination, although he declined to go into details.
"You serve at the board's pleasure, and they have the prerogative at any time to take a different direction," he said.
The move was not immediately publicized, with no news release issued. As recently as Saturday, the district's website continued to list Hargrove as the board of education's attorney.
Dublin said she was not in attendance at the April 8 meeting, which she described as primarily for the purpose of seeking a new superintendent. Dublin has announced she is retiring at the end of this school year. There had been no discussion of Hargrove's termination previously, she said, and the board had unanimously reappointed him to the position in January.
Dublin said she received a phone call following the meeting to inform her of the board's action.
"I just know evidently they weren't happy," she said.
Dublin said the board has the ability to hire or fire three positions with complete discretion: the board of education attorney, the architect and the superintendent. The attorney does not work under a contract, she said, and no bidding process is required for replacing someone in the position. Instead, she said, board members can reach out on their own to potential candidates and interview them. Attorneys then give proposals for how much they will charge the board for services. Some work on a flat fee, and others charge based on their hours of work.
"They have been reaching out to candidates, and I have not been privy to that," Dublin said immediately before the board meeting.
As the meeting began, Wright was sitting at the board table. The first action taken after the pledge of allegiance Thursday was the board voting, without discussion, to hire him as attorney. Whitaker made the motion with Wurth seconding and both Moffit and Holmes joining them to vote aye. Board member Kenneth House was absent.
At that point Wright turned around a sign in front of him engraved "Jesse Wright, attorney." Board members already had nameplates in front of their seats.
Wurth welcomed Wright during a board comment period during the meeting. When asked about his vote to remove Hargrove, he said only, "That's a personnel matter" and declined to say anything further.
Both Whitaker and Moffitt asked for more time to think before making any comments but did not ultimately say anything.
Holmes explained his vote to retain Hargrove, saying, "I felt like supporting him because I think he does a good job."