For the second time in two months, an employee of the Jefferson Parish public school system has filed a complaint accusing School Board President Cedric Floyd of creating an unduly hostile work environment.
The state Board of Ethics informed Floyd in an Oct. 7 letter that he was under investigation following a sworn complaint alleging that he attempted to get Chief of Legal Services Patricia Adams’ job eliminated from the school system’s budget in retaliation for her reporting of Floyd’s interactions with Sharon Hunter, a former School Board staff secretary who in mid-August formally accused Floyd of being verbally abusive to her.
The letter, obtained by The New Orleans Advocate, said Floyd was accused of violating a state law prohibiting elected officials from attempting to retaliate against public employees who try to bring alleged acts of impropriety to light. Punishments for violations range from a public censure to a fine of up to $10,000.
Floyd didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment.
According to multiple people familiar with the situation, Floyd’s clash with Hunter occurred after he asked her to keep a $24.5 million check from BP — money from the settlement reached with various government bodies over the company’s 2010 oil spill — in her desk until he could be photographed with it.
She felt uncomfortable doing that and gave the check to the school district’s chief financial officer, prompting Floyd to verbally lash out at Hunter, who lodged a complaint against him with the system’s Human Resources Department.
Floyd has denied that version of events, maintaining he was always appropriate and professional when interacting with Hunter, who later resigned and joined the staff of the Orleans Parish school system.
An investigation prompted by Hunter’s complaint spread to involve Adams, an attorney for the school system. At a Sept. 14 hearing about the 2015-16 budget, Floyd and fellow board member Ray St. Pierre moved to eliminate Adams’ job.
Floyd and St. Pierre — recently elected to succeed Floyd as School Board president in January — later backed off when system Superintendent Isaac Joseph said the elimination of Adams’ position hadn’t been discussed with him.
But two weeks after the budget hearing, the state Board of Ethics received a sworn complaint accusing Floyd of trying to retaliate against Adams.
Hunter and Adams are not the only colleagues with whom Floyd has had problems.
Former School Board member Michael Delesdernier secured a restraining order against Floyd after a screaming match in 2014. Floyd also repeatedly feuded with former parish schools Superintendents James Meza Jr. and Diane Roussel.
Separately, Floyd received a misdemeanor disturbing the peace citation in March 2014 after he was accused of bashing the windshield and headlight of a car his adult son was in.
Floyd has said prosecutors never pursued a charge against him in the case involving the car and his son, and he’s dismissive of the notion that he has a short temper.
Complaints filed with the state Ethics Board are largely handled in secret. Staff officials first vet the complaints and forward findings to the full board, which then decides whether to conduct a full investigation. After that investigation, the panel can decide to file charges, which would be ruled on by a three-person Ethics Adjudicatory Board.
Staff writer Jessica Williams contributed to this report.