AMITE — Two Hammond residents are competing for an appointment as an interim representative on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board until a new board member can be elected in the spring.
The development comes in the wake of Friday’s state court ruling that board member-elect Eric Dangerfield cannot take office in January because of the conditions of his plea deal in a Medicaid fraud case.
A group of Hammond residents told the School Board on Tuesday that they want a parish educator and member of the local NAACP chapter to represent their district until Dangerfield is replaced. But the man already serving as interim board member for that seat said he would like to continue serving until the special election.
Dangerfield pleaded guilty in May to misdemeanor theft and tax evasion charges stemming from fraudulent Medicaid claims made through his and his wife’s personal care business. As part of his plea deal, Dangerfield resigned from the School Board in July and agreed to be barred for life from working for any entity that receives Medicaid funding, including school systems.
Despite the agreement, however, Dangerfield qualified in August to run for the same District G seat he had just vacated, beating his only opponent, Tara Hudgins, with 64.8 percent of the vote Nov. 4.
Judge Mike Erwin, of the 19th Judicial District Court, said Friday he didn’t know how Dangerfield had been allowed to run for the Hammond-based School Board seat. Erwin ordered Dangerfield to permanently remove himself from any involvement with the school system.
Hammond resident Charles Terry, a member of the Tangipahoa Parish NAACP chapter, told board members Tuesday that District G residents want Betty Robinson to serve as the interim representative for their district until a special election can be held in the spring.
Michael Wells, a program coordinator with Southern University, has been serving as the district’s board-appointed interim representative since Dangerfield’s resignation in July.
Wells did not seek election to the seat last month, but said after Tuesday’s meeting he is strongly considering running for the seat in the spring.
“I haven’t made my mind up yet, but I’m highly thinking about it,” Wells said. “I would at least like to serve as the interim board member until the election.”
School officials were unsure Tuesday when a special election to replace Dangerfield might be called.
Under state law, the seat will be considered vacant as soon as Dangerfield notifies the Secretary of State’s Office of his intent not to take office or when he fails to take the oath of office Jan. 6.
Dangerfield had not notified either the Secretary of State’s Office or the School Board of his intentions as of Tuesday, officials said.
Dangerfield received a suspended four-year sentence after pleading guilty to six misdemeanor counts of theft and two misdemeanor counts of tax evasion in May. He faces possible revocation of his probation if he and his wife, Cassandra, cannot show evidence of good-faith efforts at paying their court-ordered $3.5 million in restitution, fines and costs by March 17.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.