LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board owes one of its attorneys more than $13,000 for his defense of the three board members named in a lawsuit filed last month by Superintendent Pat Cooper seeking to bar the trio from voting in his employment hearing.
A district judge denied Cooper’s request that board members Hunter Beasley, Tehmi Chassion and Mark Babineaux be disqualified from voting in his employment hearing due to their alleged bias against him. Attorney Brian Blackwell handled the board members’ defense and submitted an invoice of $13,256.54.
Beasley placed the invoice on the board’s agenda for its Wednesday meeting to ask the board to pay it, which he said is in line with state law that allows for reimbursements for board members’ legal expenses. The invoice was on the agenda as an introduction item and no action was necessary.
Cooper filed an injunction in district court asking a judge to bar the three board members from voting and also to force the full board to continue district operations at 50 percent of last year’s budget because he claimed the board illegally adopted its 2014-15 budget. Last month, the judge also denied Cooper’s claims related to the budget.
Board member Rae Trahan asked if Cooper was responsible for the attorney fees because his request was denied and the judgment referenced court costs.
The board’s attorney, Danielle Boudreaux, told Trahan that court costs don’t cover attorney fees unless specified in the judgment and that she’d review the ruling to double-check the judge’s wording.
Invoices for the two other attorneys, Dennis Blunt and Paul LeBlanc, who represented the school board, have not been submitted. Blunt and LeBlanc’s services haven’t ended. The attorneys were in the board room earlier Wednesday for Cooper’s employment hearing. Blunt was initially hired by the board in May to conduct an investigation of Cooper, and the attorney’s findings led to the board accepting five charges against Cooper that could lead to his termination.
The hearing began Wednesday and will continue at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Wednesday’s board meeting fell a day after the school board elections that resulted in the ouster of four of the six incumbents who sought re-election.
In January, two board members will return: Tommy Angelle and Chassion. Beasley, Shelton Cobb, Kermit Bouillion and Mark Cockerham were not re-elected.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.