Lafayette superintendent criticized over ‘black mafia’ remark _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper at a School Board meeting in 2014.

A state district judge has rejected former Lafayette Parish schools Superintendent Pat Cooper’s demand that the School Board pay him for breach of contract in response to the board’s demand that he repay the board for expenses he approved without its consent.

Because Cooper was not the defendant in the matter, he doesn’t have a legal right to bring a counter or reconventional demand in a lawsuit he filed against the School Board, 15th Judicial District Judge Laurie Hulin said in her ruling filed into the court record this week. The ruling is dated Oct. 23; however, attorneys were given official notice of the signing of the judgment on Tuesday.

The financial claims are related to a lawsuit Cooper filed in October 2014 seeking the court to intervene in the board’s budget process and also to bar three board members from voting in any future termination proceedings brought against him. Cooper alleged the three board members were biased against him. The seated judge at the time, Durwood Conque, who is now retired, refused to intervene in the matter. The board voted to terminate Cooper in November .

The board then filed a counterclaim to Cooper’s lawsuit, demanding he repay more than $5,100 in school district funds he spent on attorney services in 2013 and repay an undetermined amount of operational expenses that the board had not authorized.

The board’s demands for repayment are still pending.

The litigation is separate from Cooper’s legal challenge of his termination, which was upheld by another state district judge last month. That matter may get revived because Cooper’s request for a new trial goes before 15th Judicial District Judge Patrick Michot in December.

Last month, Michot found that Cooper’s contract allowed him to use board fees to pay the $5,100 legal bill and that the board misinterpreted Cooper’s contract when it used that decision as a reason to fire him.

While Michot also found that the board erred in its decision to fire Cooper based on his continual employment and payment of a special assistant after the board removed funding for the position, the judge upheld the termination based on the board’s decision to fire Cooper for the payment of some principals at rates that didn’t comply with the board-approved salary schedule.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.