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.

The Lafayette Parish School Board will consider formal charges against Superintendent Pat Cooper during its 5:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday though an effort is underway to block at least two board members from voting on the charges.

A request for a temporary restraining order to prevent board members Mark Babineaux and Tehmi Chassion from voting was filed in federal court Tuesday. The order is related to a federal lawsuit filed by Cajundome director Greg Davis last month that claimed Babineaux and Chassion are biased against the superintendent and should be barred from voting in any future termination proceedings against Cooper.

The board may consider the charges in executive session. If the board approves charges against Cooper, it will schedule a termination hearing for a later date when Cooper will have a chance to defend himself.

The charges stem from an investigation by the board’s special counsel, Dennis Blunt, which allege Cooper violated board policy, state laws and his own contract in making some personnel, budgetary and contracting decisions. The board hired Blunt to investigate Cooper and the attorney delivered the findings of his investigation to the School Board during a special meeting on Aug. 28. Blunt described Cooper’s conduct as unprofessional and advised the board that if the superintendent was unwilling to resign, then the board should consider whether it would be proper to fire him.

During that meeting, the board asked Blunt to prepare formal charges against Cooper based on his findings. The board had considered holding a special meeting Wednesday to consider the formal charges and a time of 3:30 p.m. was blocked off on the board’s online calendar.

In his request for a temporary restraining order, Davis asked that a judge schedule a phone conference with attorneys involved with the case prior to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, no conference had been scheduled.

Davis’ lawsuit also asks the court to intervene in the board’s budget process and claimed the board’s budget cuts would disproportionately impact the school district’s disadvantaged and minority students.

In the lawsuit, Davis claimed that Cooper’s “constitutionally protected property interest in his employment is being impaired without due process as a result of the established bias” of Babineaux and Chassion.

On Tuesday, the School Board’s attorney, Bob Hammonds, filed the board’s response to the claims and asked the court to dismiss the case.

In the motion for dismissal, Hammonds stated Davis lacks standing to file the lawsuit and also challenged whether the federal court was the appropriate jurisdiction.

In the motion to dismiss, Hammonds said the speculative and inflammatory nature of Davis’ allegations “justifies a determination that the complaint was filed for the improper purpose of politically motivated harassment or delay.”

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.