Former superintendent’s legal fight with the Lafayette School Board has September court dates _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRAD KEMP -- Lane Roy, left, and Pat Cooper, center, listen during an employment hearing for Cooper at the Lafayette Parish school board offices on Nov. 6, 2014 in Lafayette, La. Attorney Dennis Blunt who was hired by the school board to investigate Cooper is on the right.

A hearing about whether to throw out former Lafayette Parish Superintendent Pat Cooper’s breach-of-contract claim for damages is scheduled Sept. 8.

Cooper, who was fired by the Lafayette Parish School Board in November, filed a claim for damages alleging breach of contract in response to the board’s demand that he repay the board for expenses incurred for not complying with board decisions. Those expenses included: more than $5,000 to cover Cooper’s legal bill; the salary of Thad Welch, an employee whose salary the board eliminated from the budget but Cooper continued to employ; and expenses incurred when Cooper refused to implement the board’s adopted budget in 2014.

The hearing is related to Cooper’s initial legal challenge filed in October against the School Board where he questioned the board’s handling of the budget process. He alleged three board members were biased against him and should be barred from voting in his termination proceedings. A district court judge declined to intervene in the matter.

Cooper has a separate wrongful termination claim that he filed with state district court in November. That challenge is set for trial Sept. 21 before Judge Patrick Michot. In recent court filings, Cooper’s attorney, Lane Roy, defends Cooper’s right to supplement the record of his hearing by providing additional evidence during the trial.

“Here, the superintendent, Pat Cooper, would plan to introduce evidence which is totally non-duplicative and was not presented earlier. It will not be lengthy, it will not involve any School Board members, but it will involve testimony from (Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White), whose advice and orders were being complied with by (Cooper) at all times in this matter,” Roy wrote.

In response to Roy’s filing, board attorney Dennis Blunt said the board doesn’t object to Cooper’s wish to share additional evidence but questions whether the additional evidence is required.

“The board does not believe that there is any basis for concluding that additional evidence is required to decide the appeal,” Blunt wrote.

This week, Roy filed an exhibit and witness list into the record. Aside from Cooper, the witness list also includes former School Board member Shelton Cobb; White; state Sen. Elbert Guillory, a member of the Senate Education Committee; and Stephen Carter, chairman of the House Education Committee.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.