LAFAYETTE — Superintendent Pat Cooper has asked for a rehearing or new trial on his claims that the Lafayette Parish School Board’s budget was illegally adopted and that district operations should continue with last year’s spending plan.
Cooper’s request for Conque to reconsider is based on a memo from Louisiana Superintendent John White, received after the hearing, that addresses the legality of the budget, wrote Lane Roy, Cooper’s attorney, in the recent filing.
In the memo, White informed Cooper he had not received a certified copy of the board’s general fund budget nor certification that the board followed state laws in its preparation and adoption of the budget.
White’s memo also included a copy of a memo from the Legislative Auditor’s general counsel that affirmed the opinion of the education department’s attorney that the School Board didn’t follow procedures set out by law.
Roy submitted White’s memo to Conque prior to the judge’s ruling on Oct. 22, “but it is believed that the Court did not consider the letter in evidence and, therefore, did not consider the letter to be relevant to its decision in this matter,” Roy wrote in the recent filing.
Based on state law, Cooper is obligated to submit a certified, signed copy of the budget to the state superintendent, the board’s attorney Bob Hammonds said last week following Conque’s decision to reject Cooper’s request for an injunction.
“According to the letter from State Superintendent White, that has not yet occurred” despite direction from the board to do so, Hammonds wrote in an email to The Acadiana Advocate last week.
Hammonds is the board’s general counsel and did not represent the board in the hearing.
Cooper has said he submitted the budget to White without his signature because of his objections to the adopted budget. While Cooper disputes the legality of the spending plan in terms of whether the board followed preparation and adoption steps outlined in law, he also claimed the board’s adopted budget included cuts that would be detrimental to the school system.
Conque had considered Cooper’s request for an injunction to force the board to continue school system operations at 50 percent of last year’s budget until a new board took office in January.
While the school board adopted its 2014-15 budget by the Sept. 15 deadline set by the state, Cooper challenged the budget’s legality because the spending plan approved by the board was not properly advertised or vetted in a public hearing.
Conque wrote that there were not two budgets — only a proposed one and an adopted one and indicated he thought the board had followed the state budget procedures in its actions.
He noted chief financial officer Billy Guidry’s testimony that the differences between the proposed and adopted budgets were not legal in nature, but rather differences in policy views.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.