Jul 19, 2013 3:45 PM by Tina Macias

Cooper asks board to reconsider investigation

Lafayette Parish school superintendent Pat Cooper wants the school board to reconsider hiring a special attorney to investigate some of his hirings and decisions.

In a letter Cooper sent to the board, he says he's "very disappointed" in a resolution the board passed Wednesday, which he says could "lead the public to think there was some criminal activity involved."

"I have even had some people ask if there was some criminal wrongdoing such as theft or child molestation!" Cooper says.

Instead of paying a new law firm to look into their concerns, Cooper is asking the board to consider using his attorney and the current law firm they already use.


Here is the full letter:

Dear Board Members:

First, I want to thank the Board for the work done at last night's Board meeting. For the first time in a long time I feel as if we are making headway in understanding each other and felt very proud of us! I think we have the opportunity to have an outstanding school year.

I would like to take another step in diffusing some of the rhetoric and discord by making a suggestion. As you would probably know, I am very disappointed in the resolution proposed to employ special counsel.

First, I believe it has led to public media reporting that could lead the public to think there was some criminal activity involved. I have even had some people ask if there was some criminal wrongdoing such as theft or child molestation!

Second, I believe that the resolution does not meet the standards set forth in the law (see below). It is open-ended with no specificity as to the reasons, nor does it address compensation. It leaves it wide open relative to the what the firm "investigates". It states "any complaints regarding the job performance...". If I am doing my job correctly, there will certainly be complaints, for a Superintendent or Mayor or President cannot make everyone happy! Where does it much money will it cost. These seem to be valid concerns, especially in fiscally tight times.

Third, I would be hard-pressed to sign a resolution indicating hiring another law firm is "...a real necessity...", as the information below indicates it must be. We have an Assistant District Attorney and a very respected and well paid private law firm, Hammonds and Sills, who can both handle any of these issues.

Fourth, the issues that Ms. Trahan has outlined in the newspaper seem to be the same ones that we have been discussing before, the hiring of Thad Welch and the hiring of principals on a 244 day schedule. And as we know, I am relying on personnel law, education law, specifically Act 1 of the 2012 Legislature, and the opinion of my attorney to support my reasoning on these two issues. Another attorney's opinion in isolation of other discussions will not alter that support.

So, I have an option that I would like for the Board to consider. Mr. Lane Roy, my attorney, has offered free of charge to work with Mr. Ken Sills of the Hammonds and Sills law firm to go through Act 1 and other pertinent legislation to create a document that would give guidance to the Board and Superintendent relative to what the new world of public education governance and operation looks like. They would outline for us, to incorporate into board policy, the revised duties and responsibilities and authority of the Superintendent as well as Board so we can move on common ground into the future. I think this is a generous offer that could help us avoid many problems in the future. Please give it your most serious consideration. I would like for the Executive Committee to consider this as soon as possible.

Again, thank you for the mutual respect you all portrayed and the careful consideration of issues you undertook at the budget meeting. I think we made great progress!

Pat Cooper, Superintendent



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