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UPDATE: Four Vermilion Parish School Board members walk out of committee meeting

Posted at 11:40 AM, Nov 14, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-31 16:14:35-04

On Monday night the Vermilion Parish School Board was forced to cancel four of their five committee meetings because there was not a quorum for them to take place.

Four of the eight school board members showed up at 6 p.m. when the meeting was set to start and left shortly after.

Two of the board members who left, Laura LeBeouf and Kibbie Pillette, said they did so because it was illegal for Superintendent Jerome Puyau to be on school board property becausethe board had not voted him back in.

Puyau said he has followed regulations and is free to be back at work and on the property.

During one of the committees Monday night, the board was to consider an agenda item to “hire an investigator to look into complaints of employees” and “to enforce the motion from Aug. 6 placing the superintendent on leave.”

“The board had their opportunity to appeal it or throw it out,” Puyau said. “They failed to meet that time frame, so now all those allegations are finalized and will not be heard again.”

The board members who left the meeting were Laura Lebeouf, Kibbie Pillette, Sara Duplachain and David Dupius.

“They’re supposed to be representing their constituents and they’re not doing that,” said one audience member at Monday’s meeting. “It’s a protest for some reason and it’s no secret. It’s not the first time they’ve done that.”

The board president said if the four members come to the regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday, there is a chance their proposed items can be placed on the agenda.

However, the current situation is not new. Last fall, an emergency meeting of the board was called due to a similar problem of no quorum, but only after a petition was circulated to force the meeting.

KATC Investigates has obtained a letter dated Aug. 14, 2017 sent from 15th Judicial District Attorney Keith Stutes to Puyau and members of the school board denying requests to pursue criminal charges against the school board, which he states:

I am clearly led to the conclusion that the ultimate “blame” for the turmoil is the fact that the Vermilion Parish School Board is a public body of eight voting members (wherein a majority vote may never occur on any issue if all members are in full attendance at a meeting). This is unworkable in the reality that now exists and has resulted in the present turmoil.

Also in the letter, Stutes cites R.S. 17:81 that sets for several legal procedures for the board including:

“…The regular meetings of each….parish school board shall be held at least once a month on such days as each board shall select.”

He also noted that R.S. 17:81 sets forth the legal procedure to “require” its members to attend school board meetings:
“…The members of a…parish school board that fails to meet…shall not be entitled to compensation or per diem for that month…”
Stutes also cites an opinion by the Louisiana Attorney General that states:
“…Failure to hold at least one regular meeting each month with quorum could be considered malfeasance in office. Malfeasance in office is a criminal matter under La R.S. 14:134, and whether to pursue such charges is in the broad discretion of the local district attorney,” La. Atty. Gen. Op. No. 15-0198.

Stutes closes the letter by recommending that board members not intentionally absent themselves from future scheduled board meetings  – without a legitimate medical excuse  – for the sole purpose of causing the failure of a quorum. He also recommends that the board legally change their number to an odd number of members.

Read the letter in full below.