Investigation, Legal Fees in Spotsylvania

The School Board has retained a Norfolk-based law firm to investigate the Riverbend Swim Team debacle; plus, information on fees for “legal services” outside of general representation.

The Spotsylvania School Board has retained the Norfolk-based firm Yeng Collins Law, PLC to conduct an investigation “related to certain issues surrounding the Riverbend High School swim team,” according to an email received by several varsity swim team parents this week and shared with the Advance.

The email, from attorney Deborah Yeng Collins, asked the parents for their availability for an interview next week. Collins has also contacted the swim team coaches.

School division spokeswoman Rene Daniels confirmed that there is an “active, ongoing investigation” and said that Yeng Collins Law was hired “in March 2024.”

She said the division is unable to provide further details about the scope of the investigation because it is on-going.

The Advance has made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the report resulting from the investigation when it is completed.

The Riverbend High School swim team issues came to a head during a contentious meeting between former principal Xavier Downs and parents on December 20, 2023.

The Advance has extensively covered the issues leading up to and following the meeting.

The Spotsylvania School Board receives general legal advice from the firm Sands Anderson, which also represents the division in matters involving special education.

But since January, the division has paid a total of $173,348 to several other attorneys and law firms, according to the bill lists that are posted in the Open Checkbook section of its website.

This includes $78,053 to McGuireWoods for “legal services” and $75,495 to Williams, Mullin, Clark & Dobbins for “legal fees,” as well as $5,000 on January 26 to attorney Malik Drake for “legal services – retainer;” $4,500 on March 8 to attorney David Gaston for “legal fees;” $2,800 on March 29 to Bluewater Dispute Resolution Group for “personnel investigation;” and $7,500 on April 12 to Lawrence & Associates of Virginia for “legal services.”

The division has not yet paid Yeng Collins for any legal services, according to the bill list.

The School Board held a regular meeting on Monday, but it ended abruptly before the Board was able to get to any of the action items on the agenda due to interruptions from members Lisa Phelps and April Gillespie.

The meeting will be continued on Tuesday evening.

by Adele Uphaus

Managing Editor and Correspondent