Former Lafayette School Superintendent Pat Cooper is demanding that the School Board pay him millions of dollars in the wake of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s refusal last month to revisit an appellate court decision in Cooper’s favor.
An attorney representing Cooper on Tuesday delivered a demand letter that seeks $4.1 million for lost salary, future wages and consulting fees, reputation loss and other damages, as well as attorney’s fees.
A negotiating period is likely to ensue, and Cooper will accept half of any settlement upfront and the other half over a three-year period if the settlement is reached within 30 days, according to the letter from attorney Lane Roy.
“We are simply at this time trying to get it resolved without going back to court,” Roy said.
School Board President Dawn Morris declined comment.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal initially upheld a 15th Judicial District Court judge’s determination that Cooper’s 2014 firing over principal salaries was legal. But the appellate court reversed itself, citing a 2012 state law known as “Act 1” that transferred power over certain personnel decisions from elected school boards to superintendents.
Cooper, without seeking prior board approval, had agreed to pay principals at five failing schools on the basis of full work year, or 244 work days. The board's salary schedule capped the number of days a principal could be paid for at 224 days.
Cooper was receiving a $190,000 in annual base salary with a little more than one year remaining on his contract when the school board voted in November 2014 to terminate him in a 7-2 decision. He filed a wrongful termination suit the next month.
Cooper's demands include somewhere "in the neighborhood of $500,000" for reputation loss, and an additional $750,000 for pain and suffering.
A Louisiana Supreme Court decision in the case of former Lafayette School Superintendent Pat Cooper could prove costly for the parish school system.
Roy's letter accuses some board members — not by name — of demeaning or otherwise sabotaging him. The stress, including that of trying to find a new job, resulted in Cooper needing intensive therapy as well as treatment for a variety of stress-related disorders, according to the letter.
"Pat was ostracized and criticized by even other local superintendents who only knew what they were reading, seeing on television, hearing on the radio," Roy's letter states.