An East Feliciana School Board member has missed roughly three-quarters of scheduled meetings since 2016, including 16 of 19 meetings last year.
That has drawn the attention of the local district attorney, whose office is considering charging him with payroll fraud.
Edward Brooks Jr. acknowledged his infrequent attendance at school board meetings, telling The Advocate that his job as a truck driver and Clinton Police officer has made it difficult to attend every meeting. He said he was available to parents and constituents outside of school board meetings when their needs arose, even making calls while on the road at his trucking job.
"You can't make the statement that I'm receiving a check but not doing nothing,” Brooks said. “That's so false because that's not the only thing that a school board member does."
School district records and meeting minutes show Brooks missed 37 out of 49 meetings, and the last meeting he attended was in March 2019. That year, he attended only three out of 19 meetings, while still earning a $550 monthly salary.
The records say he attended six of eight meetings in 2016, but later missed 10 of 12 meetings in 2017. In 2018, Brooks missed 10 of 14 meetings and attended only three meetings last year, records show.
An audit shows Brooks was paid $18,450 from July 2016 through June 30, 2019. The district deducted $50 from board members each month they didn't attend monthly meetings.
Brooks was appointed to the position after his brother, Broderick Brooks Sr., a school board member, was fatally shot in Baton Rouge in 2016. He served the rest of his brother’s term after no one qualified to run against him, and he won reelection in 2018.
When legal issues arose because of his attendance, Brooks submitted his resignation. But it was not accepted because it wasn’t notarized or sent to the Louisiana Secretary of State's Office to declare the elected seat vacant.
The Aug. 18 letter he sent to school leaders touches on his father’s death and his inability to attend meetings regularly due to his work schedule.
District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla said Thursday that he will ask a grand jury whether the absences amount to a criminal offense.
He said he plans to ask jurors whether Brooks committed public payroll fraud, a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum two-year prison sentence and fines up to $1,000.
Earlier this year, Brooks sought a position on the parish police jury following the death of his father, Edward Brooks Sr., in April after the longtime police juror contracted COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
A majority of police jurors voted against appointing Brooks to the panel, but didn’t bring up his school board attendance during their meeting in May.