It’s been two weeks since the Clinton City Board of Education severed its ties with board attorney Albert Kirby, and during that time the owner of the Kirby Law Firm has remained mum on the subject, that is until Tuesday night.
Before the school board went into closed session at its meeting Tuesday night, board chairman E.R. Mason gave the floor to the embattled attorney, who has served as the system’s attorney for over 20 years and will end his tenure on July 15.
“This is the last chance that I will have to speak publicly and I would like to say something,” Kirby told the board. “I come here tonight wishing no ill will, bearing no grudge, with no malice in my heart …”
At a work session last week, that Kirby did not attend, board member Carol Worley asked Kirby’s colleague Ana-Cristina Jimenez if Kirby could show up at Tuesday’s meeting to give her some “clarity” on some issues before his firm ends its association with the system. Board member Randy Barefoot said having Kirby speak at the meeting would be a “moot” point, a comment that Kirby agreed with Tuesday.
“Mr. Barefoot was correct when it comes to the Kirby Law Firm representing the board, it is a moot point,” he said. “That is over as of July 15. I am totally satisfied with that, totally content with that. It has been a long time and I have been doing this, representing the school system for a long time. No one at this table, except Clyde (Locklear, finance/facilities director), was here when I started. I am sure Clyde would agree that we have gone through a lot over the past 23 years. We have had some difficult times and some good times during that period.”
Kirby went on to remind the board, whose members remained silent during his time on the floor, that in those years representing the school system his firm has never been on the losing end of any court proceeding.
“I have never been reprimanded or punished by the board for any action as board attorney,” he acknowledged. “I represented this system diligently because this school system is more to me than just any school system. I am a product of Clinton City Schools. This school system and the many fine teachers and staff prepared me well for Wake Forest University and Campbell University School of Law. I will continue to support this school system; I will also not hesitate to criticize those in charge of the system when criticism is warranted.”
But Kirby was adamant that the way he was fired was unfair” and “wrong”.
” … when after nearly 23 years of service the board voted to terminate my services without giving me the chance to be heard, that was unfair and wrong. When I say wrong, I don’t mean the fact that I was terminated was wrong; no, the board had the right to terminate me for any reason at any time. When I mean wrong, it was the way it was done.”
Kirby was out of town during the June 28 meeting and colleague Jimenez filled in.
“I was unable to attend the meeting and was not given a chance to respond or answer any questions before the action was taken,” he stressed. “I don’t even know why it was done.”
The board remained silent as Kirby explained that his 80-year-old mother read the news of his termination from the school system in a Sunday edition of The Sampson Independent.
“The first thing that you would want to know from the child or from somebody is why?” he said. “My 80-year-mother is no different from you.”
He continued, “When she read it on the front page of the paper, she called me and said, ‘Son, what happened? Why were you fired from that position?’ I said, ‘I don’t know mom.’ She said, ‘Well, did you get a letter or a call from someone explaining the action?’ I said, ‘No’ and I still have not. I would like to know from the board during closed session, why?”
The board then went into closed session, and after 20 minutes, Kirby and Jimenez came out.
In an exclusive interview after the closed session, Kirby said even after the explanation from the board, which was not released, he didn’t believe the firing was justified and could be politically motivated.
“Look, I don’t want to say anything to make this board look bad,” he said. “But from what they told me, no, it (the firing) really was not justified. I really feel like other factors played into it.”
Kirby hinted that his work as a Sampson County commissioner may have played some role in his firm’s dismissal.
“Perhaps it’s politics,” he said. “I don’t know. But I will tell you this, if being fired from the Clinton City School system means giving up the principles I hold true, then I will be fired. I am and have always been against increasing taxes against our citizens and I will not give up that fight. If it means that I will be fired, then I will be fired a thousand times. As long as I am breathing, I will vote no against raising taxes for our citizens.”
Giving no other explanation, Kirby walked to his vehicle in the rain.
Board members remained in closed session for another hour and 15 minutes before coming out with no action taken. It was said that new superintendent Stuart Blount presented information and options on how the board could retain legal council with resources from the N.C. School Boards Association.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.