A judge has shot down an attempt by two St. Landry Parish School Board members to have their federal bribery charges dismissed.
Board members Quincy M. Richard Sr. and John Miller, both of Opelousas, are accused of asking superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere for $5,000 each last year in return for their votes to name him to the job.
Richard and Miller had argued that federal prosecutors did not have jurisdiction to pursue the case because the allegations do not directly involve federal money.
Most criminal cases handled in federal court need some connection with the federal government.
Federal prosecutors countered that the only connection needed is the fact that board members oversee the spending of federal education dollars.
In a ruling filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Haik agreed, meaning the case will move forward.
Cassimere, who cooperated with federal agents, met Miller and Richard at the Quarters Restaurant and Casino in Opelousas on Sept. 24 in an exchange of cash that was videotaped and audiotaped by FBI agents, according to the court filings from prosecutors.
Prosecutors allege Miller and Richard made clear that the $5,000 payment also “secured their favorable vote for an inflated superintendent’s salary, once Cassimere was elected” and that the salary boost was intended to cover the cost of the alleged bribe.
FBI agents confronted Miller and Richard as they left the casino “with their vote payoff in hand,” according to the court filings.
Miller and Richard have both pleaded innocent.
They have not stepped down from the School Board, which is scheduled to select the new superintendent at its Feb. 7 meeting.
Miller and Richard are still eligible to vote on who fills the job, and neither has indicated he will abstain from the decision.
The vote was originally scheduled for September but was delayed after the bribery investigation began.
The board last month voted to move forward with the selection of the superintendent despite the pending charges against Miller and Richard.
Cassimere, who has been serving as acting superintendent, is among five candidates for the superintendent’s job.
The school system has been without a permanent superintendent since former Superintendent Michael Nassif stepped down in October 2011.