In December, at his last meeting as a Jefferson Parish School Board member, Michael Delesdernier voted in favor of reimbursing himself for legal fees he incurred in a case he opened against a colleague, but then he returned the check of $14,750.85 that he received as a result of the affair.
A School Board with a new composition voted Wednesday night to rescind the check it already had back in its possession.
Board President Cedric Floyd — Delesdernier’s opponent in the legal matter — said Thursday that he and his fellow members simply wanted to eliminate the possibility of Delesdernier attempting to collect the payment, after all. However, Delesdernier expressed suspicion that something else was at play.
He said he thought the board — and Floyd, against whom he took out a restraining order — was trying to shame him.
“It was over with — I gave the money back,” said Delesdernier, who had accused Floyd of physically attacking him in the summer. “They voted to create a political embarrassment.”
Floyd shot back, “The purpose was for the board to acknowledge that an illegal vote took place ... and (that it had) rectified it.”
Meanwhile, some of his critics still claim that Delesdernier violated Louisiana’s Code of Ethics by his December vote.
The vote in question came after Marion “Coach” Bonura defeated Delesdernier in the Nov. 4 primary election but before he took office. It was at the last meeting in which the board faction — including Delesdernier — backed by Jefferson Parish’s business community held a majority. A “supermajority” — six of nine votes — was required to pass the motion because it involved expenditures outside the budget. There would not have been six votes without support from Delesdernier.
The other four members of that business faction — Larry Dale, Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge, Mark Jacobs and Pat Torvea — also voted in favor of reimbursing Delesdernier, as did then-board President Mark Morgan. Morgan was not part of the 2010 electoral wave that put those members on the board, but he often took their side in recent years.
Floyd and the other two board members sympathetic to the Jefferson teachers union — Ray St. Pierre and Etta Licciardi — voted against the reimbursement.
The only members of the former business-aligned faction remaining on the School Board are Denapolis-Bosarge and Dale, though Melinda Bourgeois joined them after the latest election. Morgan is still on the board, too.
Floyd and St. Pierre also are still on the board, and they were joined after the latest elections by fellow pro-union members Ricky Johnson, Melinda Doucet and Bonura.
On Thursday, Delesdernier contended that Floyd should not have participated in the December vote because of the problems he and Floyd were having. If Floyd and Delesdernier had both recused themselves, five votes would have made a supermajority in favor of the legal fees, the ex-board member said.
Floyd denied having any personal interest in Delesdernier’s legal fees and said that kind of thinking is exactly what got Delesdernier “kicked out of office.”
The union had threatened to sue over any payment to Delesdernier, decrying that as an inappropriate use of public money. On Wednesday, a motion to prohibit any payments to Delesdernier was approved without dissent.
Some discussion did precede the vote, however. Bourgeois said she understood the decision the School Board was working toward, but she said she was worried about setting a precedent that members would be on their own legally in the event of an incident while on official business.
Doucet countered that anyone on the board hoping to have legitimate legal fees covered by the public should “be upfront with the full amount.”
It was repeatedly said during the December meeting that Delesdernier’s fees were $8,000.
Delesdernier said Thursday that misconception was not his responsibility, and he bristled at suggestions that it was. He said the only person to whom he gave a figure about his legal fees was School Board Chief Financial Officer Robert Fulton, and the amount was accurate.
Delesdernier obtained a restraining order against Floyd over the summer after he claimed Floyd attacked him during a contentious, closed-door board meeting involving the conversion of Woodmere Elementary into a charter school. A Jefferson Parish judge sided with Delesdernier in the fall and ruled that Floyd must stay at least 3 feet away from him.
Floyd on Thursday said he’s pursuing an appeal of the ruling. For his part, Delesdernier implored the public to demand that the School Board spend money outside the budget only on items ratified by a supermajority.