The Lafayette Parish School Board’s attorney is asking the court to dismiss a lawsuit former superintendent Pat Cooper filed claiming wrongful termination.
Cooper filed the suit about two weeks after the School Board fired him on http://theadvocate.com/news/10765234-123/lafayette-school-board-votes-to">Nov. 6, 2014. The board’s attorney, Dennis Blunt, filed a response to the suit on Monday, denying Cooper’s claims and asking for a dismissal and for Cooper to pay court costs associated with the litigation.
The case has been assigned to 15th Judicial District Judge Patrick Michot.
In his lawsuit, Cooper claims he was terminated without cause by a 7-2 vote of the school board. He asks that the court reverse the board’s decision and reinstate him to his position as superintendent.
In the event he’s not reinstated, Cooper wants the board to pay out the remainder of his contract. He claims he was terminated “in an arbitrary and capricious fashion for political reasons and reasons of vindictiveness.”
The board’s decision to fire Cooper ended his employment a year ahead of the Dec. 31, 2015, expiration of his contract.
Cooper found himself at odds with a majority of the then-board over some of his management decisions. The board decided in July 2013 to hire Blunt to investigate Cooper’s actions, though that investigation didn’t get underway until sometime after May 2014.
In September 2014, the board brought charges against Cooper that stemmed from the investigation’s findings related to management and budgetary decisions. Cooper had an opportunity to defend himself against the charges during his November employment hearing.
One of Cooper’s hiring recommendations in the first months of his tenure appears to have triggered the board’s investigation. In March 2012, Cooper recommended a former coworker, Thad Welch, for a new position of special assistant to the superintendent: facilities, maintenance, grounds and transportation.
The board later — in January 2013 — began questioning the decision after it was brought to light that Welch didn’t have a high school education, which was one of the requirements for the supervisory position.
Cooper refused to fire Welch, so the board sought to rescind its March 2012 decision to hire him. And when Cooper continued to refuse to terminate Welch, the board removed funding for the position from the budget.
Welch remained employed until Nov. 26, when his termination became effective.
Welch filed his own wrongful termination lawsuit in December and a judge recently agreed with the board’s attorney that Welch had no cause to bring the claims.
Interim superintendent Burnell LeJeune noted there was no funding in the budget for the position, and court records showed Welch was also offered a vacant position within the school system that he refused to accept.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.