There’s a mostly new Lafayette Parish School Board and a new superintendent, but the ramifications of the acrimonious relationship between the former board and its ousted superintendent still linger.
Next month, a judge will decide whether to throw out former Superintendent Pat Cooper’s demand for damages in his breach-of-contract claim against the Lafayette Parish School Board. That claim is in response to the board’s insistence he pay for expenses incurred when he acted against board decisions.
The hearing, scheduled July 13, is related to Cooper’s October court filing against the board and three members serving on the board in 2014: Hunter Beasley, Mark Babineaux and Tehmi Chassion, who was re-elected to the current board. In that matter, Cooper asked the court to intervene in the board’s budget process and also to ban the three board members from voting in a termination hearing, claiming the three were biased against him. A judge declined to intervene and denied Cooper’s requests.
In March, board attorneys filed a counterclaim for damages against Cooper, seeking 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 whom Cooper continued to employ; and expenses incurred when Cooper refused to implement the board’s adopted budget.
In response to that demand, Cooper’s attorney, Lane Roy, filed a demand in May that the board pay Cooper for damages for breach of contract and for “slander, loss of reputation and income and loss of business opportunity.”
The board’s attorneys responded with a request that the judge toss Cooper’s demand. The judge will rule on that request after the July hearing.
Cooper also has another legal challenge pending against the full board related to his November termination. A trial on that matter is scheduled for September.
The current board voted Wednesday to hire Baton Rouge attorney Dennis Blunt to handle all legal matters stemming from the two lawsuits Cooper filed last year. While Blunt was hired by the board in 2014 to investigate Cooper and also represented the full board in court, another attorney, Brian Blackwell, had represented the three board members accused of bias.
Blackwell recently stepped down as their attorney and suggested that Blunt take over. Blackwell said there is no longer a conflict of interest for Blunt because Cooper is no longer employed by the board, Superintendent Donald Aguillard explained to the board prior to the vote.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.