The Hillsborough County School Board hired a talented lawyer Tuesday in selecting Jim Porter as its new board attorney. Now it needs to ensure he's not taking on an impossible job.
The board voted unanimously to hire Porter for the new position of board attorney. In that role, he will advise the elected, seven-member board, peeling that responsibility away from Tom Gonzalez, who will narrow his focus to litigation and other administrative legal matters.
As a board-certified attorney in local government law who spent years in the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office, the 49-year-old Porter has the background in land use, open government and city-county relations to deftly guide board members through policy discussions. But the board and the administration need to draw clear lines of responsibility between the two attorneys. The new setup could make for a cleaner arrangement, sparing one attorney from being caught between board members and the executive staff.
Gonzalez and Porter don't see a problem and are committed to ensuring the arrangement works. But that's also going to require the board to respect those lines of authority. The purpose here isn't for board members to put the lawyers in a bind by fishing around for self-serving legal advice and pitting one lawyer against the other.