LAFAYETTE — A preliminary investigative report of Superintendent Pat Cooper released by School Board President Hunter Beasley reveals no new information relevant to pending charges against Cooper that could lead to his dismissal.
Beasley released the draft of an attorney’s investigative findings to board members late Thursday after the board voted unanimously Wednesday that he share the report with the full board.
The draft released by Beasley is not the final investigative report, a document that not even board members have read. The School Board refused to publicly release the final investigative report upon the advice of attorneys who expressed concerns that it included information not pertinent to the charges against Cooper that could prejudice board members before Cooper’s hearing.
The findings included in the 19-page preliminary report involve nine complaints that attorney Dennis Blunt and two of his associates investigated at the board’s request.
Based on the attorneys’ findings, the board voted 6-3 last month to accept five charges against Cooper. The superintendent will have the opportunity to defend himself against the charges during a hearing scheduled for Oct. 14.
Cooper said Friday he has not received a copy of either the preliminary or final reports. He has denied claims that he’s broken any state laws or policies.
The preliminary draft of the report released late Thursday expands on findings that Blunt outlined to the board during a PowerPoint presentation on Aug. 28.
On Friday, Beasley said he did not have a copy of the PowerPoint presentation nor the final report. Blunt deferred The Advocate’s requests for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation and a copy of his final investigative report to Beasley. Attorneys had previously informed the board that it would need to take a vote to authorize Beasley, as board president, to release documents prepared by Blunt.
The preliminary draft of the report contains more in-depth explanations and references to state law and board policies that weren’t included in Blunt’s Aug. 28 presentation.
Blunt advised against both the release of the preliminary report and his final investigative report.
Last month, board member Mark Cockerham questioned why Beasley was the only one allowed to view the preliminary report. At that time, Blunt said Beasley was provided with the preliminary report to help him verify facts.
Although board members eventually received the preliminary report, no board member has read the full and final investigative report.
Board member Shelton Cobb requested that the board release a copy of Blunt’s final report, but his request received support from only two other members, Cockerham and Kermit Bouillion.
The three board members argued they need to read the document to be prepared to vote on the charges against Cooper.
The board’s general counsel and Blunt both advised the board that it was not in the board’s best interest to view a copy of the full and final report because it could prejudice them in future decisions on Cooper and the charges.
Four of the charges accuse Cooper of “unworthiness, inefficiency, breach of contract and failure to comply with board policy and state law.” The fifth charge was for unworthiness related to the board’s evaluation this summer of his job performance.
Two charges stem from the March 2012 hiring and continued employment of Thad Welch, a special assistant to the superintendent over facilities, grounds, transportation and maintenance.
In the preliminary report, Blunt wrote that Cooper should have fired Welch after he was directed to do so by the board. Welch didn’t have the required high school education for the job but was recommended by Cooper for the job anyway.
Blunt also found that Welch was still considered for the job even though his application for the job was submitted after the deadline, which is against board policy.
Another charge is related to Cooper’s submission of his legal bill for payment by the board. Cooper hired an attorney from April 2013 through May 2013 — the time frame of the board’s formal reprimand of him over the Welch issue.
The payment of $5,100 to Cooper’s attorney, Lane Roy, was made without the board’s approval. The preliminary report details that the board’s then-special counsel Jon Guice and then-general counsel James Simon both advised the board not to pay the bill. The board hasn’t been reimbursed for the expense.
The board accepted another charge against Cooper related to the payment of some principals at a different rate than the salary schedule for school administrators. Blunt, in his report, found that Cooper does not have the authority to deviate from a board-approved budget to pay some people more than the schedule allows.
Though it was not included as part of the investigation, the board also charged Cooper with “unworthiness” for his scores on his job evaluation. Board members rated him as a 3 on an overall scale of 8 points. Cooper’s contract provides that he may be fired for cause if a majority of the board gives him a negative evaluation.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.