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.

Superintendent Pat Cooper’s employment hearing set for Oct. 14 has been postponed, pending a decision by a judge on whether three School Board members should be barred from voting on charges against him.

District Judge Durwood Conque has set a hearing for Oct. 16 to consider a suit filed by Cooper to disqualify the three board members from voting, Cooper and board member Hunter Beasley confirmed on Thursday.

The School Board had planned on an Oct. 14 administrative hearing to consider five charges against Cooper, who faces possible termination related to the claims against him.

Cooper filed a lawsuit on Monday in district court asking a judge to disqualify board members Beasley, Tehmi Chassion and Mark Babineaux from voting in any proceedings during the administrative hearing based on their alleged bias against him.

In the lawsuit, Cooper also asked Conque, who was assigned to hear the suit, to stop the scheduled Oct. 14 administrative hearing if a judgment on his bias claims was not made in time.

On Wednesday, Cooper’s attorney, Lane Roy, said Conque was trying to work out a time for the parties to meet in court on the morning of Oct. 14 — prior to the 12:30 p.m. scheduled administrative hearing.

Beasley confirmed the effort.

Now, the matter has been scheduled for Oct. 16 and the board’s hearing on Cooper’s charges has been postponed, Beasley said.

“I’ve been in touch with our attorney and it’s been canceled because of Dr. Cooper’s court challenge,” Beasley said.

Cooper alerted media to the development late Thursday in an email.

“Board has been told by Judge that they cannot schedule any disciplinary hearing for me until he has ruled on the disqualification suit,” Cooper wrote in the email.

Beasley said Cooper’s administrative hearing will be rescheduled, following the judge’s determination.

“I’m hoping in a few weeks that we would be able to have the hearing on Dr. Cooper’s alleged violations,” Beasley said.

The board voted 6-3 last month to accept five charges against Cooper related to an attorney’s investigation of the superintendent’s management decisions.

Cooper will have the chance to defend himself against the charges during his administrative hearing.

Two of the charges are related to the 2012 hiring and continual employment of Thad Welch as a special assistant to the superintendent over maintenance, grounds, transportation and facilities who did not have the required education for the job.

Other charges relate to Cooper’s job evaluation, the payment of $5,100 to Cooper’s attorney, Roy, in 2013 without board approval and the payment of some principals at a different salary than the set salary schedule dictates.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.