The Lafayette Parish school board is ignoring a three-week-old demand letter sent on behalf of Pat Cooper, the ousted superintendent whose termination was deemed arbitrary and capricious by an appeals court. Cooper is now threatening to individually sue every school board member who voted to fire him in 2014.
The Louisiana Supreme Court in October declined to hear the appeal, effectively concluding the case in Cooper’s favor. Cooper’s attorney, Lane Roy, last month sent a demand letter seeking $4.1 million. As he did then, Roy reiterated in a Dec. 1 letter threatening individual litigation that Cooper wants a settlement with the board, as opposed to obtaining a court judgment.
But the school board has not responded to Roy’s Nov. 14 demand letter, Roy said Monday.
“I’ve gotten nothing. Not ‘we think you’re crazy’ or ‘go to hell’ or ‘can we talk about it,’” Roy said. “Nothing.”
The board in November 2014 voted 7-2 to terminate Cooper on four charges related to his personnel and budgeting decisions. State Judge Patrick Michot of the 15th Judicial District Court upheld the firing on one of those charges, which accused Cooper of paying principals at five failing schools more than what board policies allowed.
Cooper had agreed to pay the principals for 244 work days, in excess of the 224 days provided in the board’s guidelines. The appeal court initially confirmed Michot’s ruling but then reversed itself under Act 1, a 2012 state law that shifts power over certain personnel decisions from school boards to superintendents.
The threat of personal liability lawsuits is to motivate the school board to engage in settlement talks, Roy said Monday. Cooper’s standing to do so is the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ruling, which finds the school board acted in bad faith, Roy said.
The members who voted to terminate in November 2014 were Hunter Beasley, Greg Aubrey, Mark Babineaux, Tommy Angelle, Rae Trahan, Tehmi Chassion and Melinda Mangham. Only two of them — Angelle and Chassion — are still on the board. Attempts to reach all seven on Monday were unsuccessful.
The current school board president, Dawn Morris, did not return a call for comment. Attorney Dennis Blunt, to whom Roy addressed his recent letters, declined to comment Monday.
The initial demand letter opened the possibility of paying any settlement amount over a period of time, and Roy said Cooper remains open to that scenario.
“If we get a judgment against them, they don’t get that opportunity,” Roy said.