In a letter presented to the board in November, Hinojosa announced he had hired Clay to replace Karen Hallacy, who was running to replace Rep. Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) in the state House.
Hallacy withdrew from the race in February, citing a family illness.
His contract runs the length of the legislative session, which runs from January through the end of this month. Clay will be paid $9,000 for his work, he said.
“We welcome Mr. Chuck Clay, Legislative Liaison for the Cobb County School District. Please let me know if you have any questions,” Hinojosa’s note to the board read.
The board was not required to vote on Clay’s hiring because he is being paid less than the required amount for a board vote, which is $200,000, said Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci.
Clay said he was hired by Hinojosa to be the district’s “eyes and ears” at the Golden Dome downtown, and was “honored and flattered to do so.”
The job consists of tracking legislation and keeping board members and district employees in the loop with updates to education-related legislation and the state’s budget, Clay said.
He believes Cobb School District needs an ally at the state House each day during the legislative session to keep an eye on bills that may affect the district’s schools.
“It is important for school systems in this day and time, you need to have your voice heard, and it doesn’t do any good to have someone just drop in and drop out,” Clay said. “It’s important to have some eyes and ears to keep us apprised”
Board members said the extra set of eyes were nice, but keeping abreast of legislative issues was also part of their jobs.
“I think that’s our job,” Angelucci said.
The chairwoman has been to the Capitol several times this year to speak with politicians and to testify on bills.
“He is more of a representative than a lobbyist,” vice chairman Randy Scamihorn said.
When Clay’s contract runs out, he is not guaranteed the job for next year’s session. He will have to be rehired if the district decides they like him, according to his contract.
Clay lobbies for a number of organizations downtown, including Georgia Bio, a trade association for the bio-sciences industry and the Georgia Education Coalition, a group of six school systems including Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, Cherokee, Coweta and the city of Cartersville.
The Coalition was formed in 2005 to unite some of the state’s largest school systems and to give them an outlet to protect their interests in the Legislature, said Jay Dillon, a spokesman for the district.
Hinojosa sits as the chair of the group this year, and he said it wasn’t that much of a time commitment. The group has conference calls about once a week during the legislative session to discuss pending legislation and takes about 30 minutes of time each week.
“It’s an inexpensive way for the larger systems to put in small amounts of money to group together to have a voice on those issues that are able to provide timely information,” Clay said.
Hinojosa said Cobb pays an estimated $10,500 to be a member of the Georgia Education Coalition, which pays for meeting rooms and Clay’s lobbying services.
Clay lobbies for Cobb in addition to lobbying for the Georgia Education Coalition, Hinojosa clarified.
Clay is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and received a law degree from the University of Georgia, according to a biography provided by the school district. He is a former Cobb assistant district attorney and served as a state Senator for six terms representing west Cobb from 1998 to 2004. Clay now works as a partner at the Marietta law firm Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun and Rogers, LLC.