During seven hours of sometimes contentious testimony Tuesday, attorneys for former John Ehret football coach Corey Lambert sparred with school system lawyers over the district's recent decision to oust Lambert, who took the Patriots to the 2015 Class 5A state championship game for the first time in three decades.
Lambert, who also served as an assistant principal at Ehret, challenged his August firing. Tuesday was the first day of the appeals hearing, which is being held before attorney Stanley Kottemann, who is serving as the hearing officer. It is expected to last several days. Because Lambert has tenure with the Jefferson Parish School System, he is on a paid suspension until the case is resolved.
Corey Lambert, who was relieved of his duties as head football coach and assistant principal…
Three school system witnesses were called Tuesday: Maria Landry, now-retired principal at Ehret; Sheena Smith, the school's athletic director; and Glenn Delcarpio, an assistant principal at Ehret. Through their testimony, the school system's attorney, Patricia Adams, attempted to show Lambert had mismanaged football team finances, neglected his duties as an assistant principal and bullied and threatened colleagues and superiors.
Landry, who retired after last year, testified she had begun to notice problems with Lambert in the fall of 2016. He had started neglecting some of his administrative duties and spending an inordinate amount of time in the athletics building, she said.
Specifically, she said he had fallen way behind on observing teachers and was ignoring admonitions to catch up. He was also spending too much time with college football recruiters.
Corey Lambert has been fired as head football coach and removed from his assistant principal…
Then, in December, Landry said she was notified that the football team was $14,000 in the red.
She said Lambert was not following school procedure when it came to filling out proper paperwork and she asked him to stop spending money until the matter could be fixed. But he ignored her, she said.
During one meeting, she said, Lambert became very angry and began to "speak very aggressively" to her.
"That was the first time in my career that I felt scared," she said. "The word that came to mind was 'unhinged.' "
Smith, in her testimony, said Lambert's constant and berating text messages and emails wore on her so much she was ready to resign. She felt "bullied and harassed," she said.
Lambert's attorney, William Zanders, painted the entire effort as a plot against his client. He noted that Lambert had been suspended in the spring while allegations against him were investigated, and asked if that was standard policy.
"Was Superintendent Isaac Joseph suspended while the current investigation progresses?" Zanders asked, drawing a fiery and immediate response from Adams, who called the question "irrelevant." Kottemann agreed, and Zanders eventually agreed to drop the analogy.
The Jefferson Parish School Board is hiring an attorney to look into allegations leveled aga…
Zanders also argued that the school system had removed Lambert and then went looking for evidence to justify their action.
And he noted that Landry said there had been problems all year, but in the fall when she evaluated him, he received a high evaluation. It wasn't until the spring that she wrote him up or gave him a low evaluation, he said.
Zanders conceded several times during the hearing that he was working to get objections into the record for the "district judge." If Lambert loses the appeal hearing, the matter can be appealed to the 24th Judicial District, where a judge would review the record of the hearing, but not retry the case before ruling.
Lambert, a former quarterback at Ehret, spent six years as head coach at his alma mater.
Lambert led the Patriots to the Class 5A state championship game in 2015, where they lost to Zachary High School. He was named Coach of the Year on The New Orleans Advocate's All-Metro team after the season. It was the school's first trip to the title game since 1985, when they won.
The 2015 title run came three seasons after the Patriots were without any wins in Lambert's first year.
Ehret reached the 5A nonselect quarterfinals last season, finishing 10-3. During Lambert's time at Ehret, 38 former players have gone on to play in college.
Several of Ehret's players attended a portion of Tuesday's hearing.
Last spring, the school was the focus of an LHSAA investigation into an ineligible player. Allegations about Lambert were not confirmed, but the school was placed on a year's probation and fined $1,000 and Lambert was required to attend training, according to a letter from the LHSAA to the school.
Advocate staff writers Chad Calder and Rod Walker contributed to this report.