KATC Investigates

Mar 21, 2013 6:33 PM by Chris Welty & Tina Macias

Special Assistant Salary Source Questioned After Funding Eliminated

There are many questions, as to how a special assistant to the Lafayette Parish Superintendent will be paid or even if he still has a job.

This after the Lafayette Parish School Board voted to eliminate funding for Thad Welch's job.

By a vote of five to four, the Lafayette Parish School Board decided to eliminate funding for Thad Welch's position. For months, Welch has stirred up controversy as the board was split on whether or not he was qualified. The job calls for a high school diploma, Welch doesn't have one.

Board member Tehmi Chassion says it was time to eliminate funding for the position because the board is facing tough economic times.

"We have a right based on the economy to eliminate any budgetary item as a board member. Any person can bring up any budgetary issue to eliminate, add any number of positions, it's all up to our discretion."

Superintendent Pat Cooper maintains hiring Welch didn't violate any policies. Despite eliminating funding for the special assistant position, Cooper says Welch still holds the same job title.

"The law says I'm the only one who can terminate an employee. We'll just wait and see how this plays out in the courts, but until that happens, the man will work and he'll be paid."

Chassion says, "The way the position is paid for is effectively eliminated so I don't know technically what's next."

Cooper says the only thing changing for Welch is how he's paid. His salary, 76 thousand dollars a year, will stay the same.

"I don't know where the funds are exactly going to come from. We know we have dollars available. This position is too valuable for him not to be working," said Cooper.

It's unclear how Cooper will continue to pay Welch. A KATC Investigation has looked at possible scenarios.

Remember that by eliminating the special assistant funding, the school board freed up money. It is a probability that could be reallocated and used to pay Welch, CFO Billy Guidry said. Budget transfers only need superintendent approval but must be ratified by the board, according to board policy.

And Cooper could try to keep him on as an employee or pay him as a contracted employee. But it is unclear whether he could be hired as a consultant. The board recently adopted a policy requiring that all consultants have a high school degree.

In January last year, Welch began working as a contract employee for LPSS at $320 per day plus $180 per diem for a total of $500 a day. He earned $14,500 between January and March last year.

The board only has to approve professional services over $15,000, according to its policy, so it did not approve Welch's contract last year.

He was paid out of the contracted services portion of the maintenance budget. This year, $199,430 was allocated to pay for contracted services in the maintenance budget. As of Thursday, $63,887.67 was left to spend through June, Guidry said.

Theoretically, Welch could be contracted for several different projects that all have contracts under $15,000 and never need board approval, Guidry confirmed. He also could receive a larger contract without board approval if the superintendent and board president decide the contract is "of great urgency," according to board policy. The contract would be presented to the board as an information item at its following board meeting.

Chris Welty


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