Lawsuit against Lafayette School Board dismissed _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Lafayette Parish School Board Superintendent Pat Cooper, left, speaks to Cajundome director Greg Davis prior to the start of the board's budget meeting on Sept. 11. Davis' federal lawsuit was dismissed Monday. Davis had asked the court to intervene in the board's budget process and to disqualify two board members from voting in any future termination proceedings against Cooper.

A federal judge has dismissed Cajundome director Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the Lafayette Parish School Board and two board members, saying Davis has no standing to assert the claims in federal court.

“It is unfortunate because this Court agrees the dysfunction, inaction, and poor example being exhibited by the Lafayette Parish School Board and some parties associated with the Lafayette Parish School System continue to negatively impact the children of this community and should be addressed,” U.S. District Judge Richard Haik wrote in a court filing late Monday dismissing the suit.

Haik wrote that the parties involved ideally would “put their personal differences behind them and work together to responsibly carry out the duties entrusted to them by this community.

“In the absence of that, judicial intervention might, under some circumstances, become necessary. This court and this plaintiff, however, are not the proper vehicle for redress.”

Davis filed the lawsuit last month asking the court to intervene in the School Board’s budget process and also asked the court to disqualify two board members — Tehmi Chassion and Mark Babineaux — from any votes in potential termination proceedings against Superintendent Pat Cooper. Davis alleged both board members are biased against Cooper and wanted the court to intervene to bar them from casting votes in a termination hearing.

An attorney hired by the board was conducting an investigation of Cooper at the time Davis filed the suit. Since then, a majority of the board has accepted formal charges against Cooper and could vote to take disciplinary action against him, including possible termination, at a hearing tentatively set for Oct. 10.

In his lawsuit, Davis alleged that Cooper’s constitutional right to due process and a fair hearing would be violated if the two board members alleged to be biased against him are allowed to vote in Cooper’s termination proceedings.

No action has been taken against Cooper, and Davis can’t file a lawsuit to protect Cooper’s own constitutional rights — not when Cooper is capable of filing suit on his own behalf, Haik wrote.

“Although the ongoing discourse is disappointing and a threat to the entire community, particularly those young members who have entrusted those in power within the Lafayette Parish School System to carry out their duties honorably and in the best interest of their charges, it is an ongoing process which does not appear to be ripe for adjudication at this time, in this court, nor through this plaintiff,” Haik wrote.

Davis also raised claims related to the budget, accusing the board of making budget cuts that would disproportionately impact the district’s disadvantaged and minority children. Haik wrote that those claims were speculative and were not timely because deadlines for budget decisions had not yet expired.

Haik continued that even if the claims weren’t speculative, Davis did not show how he would be injured by the board’s budgetary decisions. Haik wrote that some violations of state law may have occurred in the budget process, however, federal court isn’t the proper venue for those claims.

The School Board adopted a budget for 2014-15 Monday that includes cuts Cooper disagreed with, saying that some of the cuts were made in violation of state law.

Davis said Tuesday that he’s reviewing other options available to him in state court and that he hoped that more people would speak out against the cuts approved by the board Monday.

“This is not time for anyone who believes that the School Board is dismantling the system to give up,” Davis said.

The board’s attorney, Bob Hammonds, could not be reached for comment. However, board President Hunter Beasley said he was pleased with Haik’s decision.

“I felt that the lawsuit did not have merit,” he said.

Cooper was complimentary of Haik’s judgment.

“I appreciate the position and his wisdom. I don’t have any problem with any of that at all. I understand his logic,” Cooper said.

Cooper said he’s in discussions with his attorneys and exploring his legal options related to Haik’s judgment.

“My attorneys and I are looking at the implications of it in terms of two things because he (wrote) about — timing and the harm being done to the individual. Both of those relate to whether I would present myself as a plaintiff. We haven’t made a decision on it,” Cooper said.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.