OPELOUSAS — Stephen Woods was sworn in at a St. Landry Parish School Board meeting Thursday as the interim replacement for former board member Quincy Richard, Sr., whose appellate court appeal of his removal was dismissed on Tuesday.
Woods, an accountant, who once worked for the school district, was chosen to replace Richard at the board’s Sept. 5 meeting, but board attorney Gerard Caswell told the board then that Woods’ selection would have to remain on hold until the Third Circuit Court of Appeal heard Richard’s appeal of a June ruling by state judge James A. Doherty.
Doherty’s ruling said that Richard should be immediately removed from his District 10 seat because Richard had not waited until the required 15 years for persons to seek public office following felony convictions.
Caswell presided over swearing in Woods at Thursday’s meeting after he board voted unanimously to appoint him at the start of the meeting. Caswell said he recommended that Woods be appoint on Thursday.
“If you don’t do that now, you will have to call a special meeting, since the Secretary of State gives you 20 days to make an appointment following the decision by the Third Circuit, which upheld (Richard’s) removal,” Caswell waid. “I think you should also do this because if you don’t, the voters in District 10 will go another month without representation,” said Caswell.
Caswell said a special election will be held April 5 to fill the remainder of Richard’s term which expires on Dec. 31, 2014. He said the qualifying for the District 10 seat will be Feb. 12-13-14.
Richard was convicted in federal court last month on accepting a bribe in return for casting his vote for a school superintendent candidate in September, 2012.
He was removed from office by Doherty following a one-day hearing in 27th Judicial District Court dealing with a separate matter — Richard’s guilty plea in 2004 to falsifying public records in an attempt to purchase a degree from Southern University for his wife.
Doherty ruled that pleading guilty to a felony made him ineligible to serve on the School Board. Under the Louisiana State Constitution, convicted felons are not allowed to hold public office for a period of 15 years following their convictions or until they are granted a governor’s pardon, according to Doherty’s ruling.
Former board member John Miller was also arrested and charged along with Richard for accepting a bribe from superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere. Cassimere was working with law enforcement authorities and secretly recorded the bribe offers.
Miller pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this year and was replaced by interim board member Faltery Jolivette.