Aug 5, 2014 4:54 PM by KATC

Potential lawsuit looms over school board budget, Cooper investigation

Two public school advocates are threatening to file a federal lawsuit against the Lafayette Parish School Board if the board does not agree to drop its investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper and take action on the budget impasse.

Lafayette attorney Gary McGoffin is potentially filing the lawsuit on behalf of Cajundome Director Greg Davis. The federal complaint requests that the investigation into Cooper be halted and also asks that board members Mark Babineaux and Tehmi Chassion be permanently barred from voting to reprimand or terminate Cooper due to their "established bias" against the superintendent.

The board has hired outside counsel to oversee an investigation of Cooper, though the six board members who voted for the investigation have repeatedly declined to state why Cooper is being investigated. Three board members - Shelton Cobb, Mark Cockerham and Kermit Bouillion - have not voted in support of the investigation.

The federal complaint also asks that the board immediately dedicate 50 percent of the 2013-2014 budget for the upcoming school year so school system students and employees will not be disrupted by what the lawsuit calls "budget chaos."

The school board has been at odds with the administration over the 2014-2015 budget. The two sides have failed to reach an agreement on spending for the upcoming school year, despite the current fiscal year beginning on July 1.

According to the lawsuit, state law requires that 50 percent of last year's budget be appropriated for the current budget if a new budget has not been approved by the start of a new fiscal year.

McGoffin sent a letter and a copy of the complaint to Cooper, board president Hunter Beasley and board attorney Robert Hammonds. He has requested a meeting with them before the start of Wednesday's regular Lafayette Parish School Board meeting, where McGoffin and Davis also plan to address the board publicly.

Beasley was not immediately available for comment.


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