The board that oversees the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging voted Wednesday to ratify its May 24 decision to terminate Johnny Dykes as executive director, essentially firing him a second time.
The board’s 7-2 vote was characterized as a necessary step to limit the nonprofit agency’s possible exposure to damages from a lawsuit brought by Dykes.
Dykes, who attended Wednesday’s board meeting with his attorney but did not speak, has filed suit in 19th Judicial District Court challenging his dismissal.
His attorney, J. Arthur Smith III, contends the board’s action of May 24 violated the state’s Open Meetings Law because Dykes was given no advance notice and his proposed firing was not listed on the board’s agenda.
Floyd Falcon Jr., an attorney for the Council on Aging, advised the board to ratify the May 24 firing to cap any damages a court might award Dykes in the event his lawsuit is successful and he is awarded back pay.
The motion by COA board member Julie Cherry at Wednesday’s meeting was to “terminate the services of Johnny Dykes … effective May 24, 2011, or the earliest date possible subsequent to May 24, 2011.”
The motion continued: “In doing so, we ratify the termination of Johnny Dykes as Executive Director of the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging which occurred in open session on May 24, 2011, so as to cure any potential technical defects in that process related to alleged deficiencies in that meeting’s notice, the agenda and/or the alleged meetings law violations.”
COA board members voting in favor were Cherry, Johnny Anderson, Dorothy Jackson, Carolyn Fabre, Ernest Stephens, Alfred Williams and Roger Pippin.
Voting against were board members John Brown and Boyce Smith.
Not present for the meeting were Evert Bennett, A.J. Walls, Jason Wall and the Rev. Leo Cyrus Sr.
The board’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting originally was to reinstate Dykes and terminate him “contemporaneously.”
Falcon said that after further discussion it was decided to just have the board ratify its action of May 24, without reinstating Dykes.
The board also voted to approve paying Dykes $5,431 in legal fees and expenses related to a public records lawsuit he brought against COA Chairman Ernest Stephens.
State District Judge William Morvant ruled in Dykes’ favor and also levied daily fines that totaled about $2,500 for the COA’s delays in providing the requested information to Dykes.
Stephens blamed the problems on the board’s previous attorney.
Falcon said Dykes also claims to be owed for 194.45 hours in vacation pay.
However, Falcon said, the agency has long had a “use it or lose it” policy in which departing staff cannot make a claim for vacation time in excess of 40 hours. He said Dykes received that upon his termination.
The board also voted to authorize Falcon, Stephens and the new COA executive director, Tasha Clark-Amar, to meet with Dykes and his legal counsel to try to work out a settlement.
Falcon said an effort should be made to “see what might be done to wrap up all these controversies … to at least look into the possibility of putting this behind us so Ms. Amar can spend her time running this agency” instead of talking to lawyers.
The nonprofit COA gets federal, state and local tax money to help seniors live independent and active lives. Its programs include Meals on Wheels for the homebound, the Senior Olympics and social activities at senior centers.