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Attorney to board: Let the superintendent do his job

Posted at 1:44 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 17:30:24-04
Attorney for Vermilion Parish School Board resigns
Vermilion Parish School Board

In anticipation of tomorrow’s Vermilion Parish School Board meeting, Superintendent Jerome Puyau’s attorney has sent a letter to board members, accusing them of trying to get rid of him.

“In fact, it has been clear for some time that for reasons unknown, this Board has been determined to eliminate the Superintendent of Vermilion Parish Schools from his position, and having been unsuccessful in many ways, it now is attempting to remove an advisor from the Superintendent and force him to resign or otherwise become so frustrated that he will allow you to terminate him,” wrote Lane Roy. “The indications are obvious to me, and will be to the court, should it go to court.”

The Vermilion School Board has been in turmoil for several years, with arguments on the board floor, arguments in the parking lot and even a period of time during which some board members refused to attend meetings – sparking a grand jury investigation into possible malfeasance. To read some of our stories about the situation, click here.

Roy’s letter, which you can read by scrolling down, was sparked by tomorrow’s agenda, which has only two items on it:

1. Discussion and/or move to action concerning elimination of the position of “Risk Manager/Legal Counsel”, as submitted by Mr. Kibbie Pillette.

2. Discussion and/or move to action concerning employment of Board General counsel (Hammond, Sills and Guice), as submitted by Mr. Kibbie Pillette.

Roy says he knows of know legitimate reason why the board would want to fire its lawyer to hire Bob Hammonds, but it’s still clear why.

“It has become obvious that the Board will go to any lengths to have someone give the Board an opinion that what it is doing is correct and advancing its position as overseers of the educational process in Vermilion Parish. The move to hire Bob Hammonds does not advance that position in any way,” he wrote.

Hammonds was the attorney who advised the Lafayette School board in its firing of Pat Cooper, who also is Roy’s client, and that board lost that lawsuit, Roy wrote. He also writes about another Louisiana case in which a board relied on Hammonds’ advice, and lost that case as well.

Regarding Puyau, Roy writes that his client is doing his job.

“He has a limited time left on his current contract, if the Board does not want to rehire him, it does not have to do so. What it does have to under the law is to allow him to handle the duties of his job, which he has done very well, without interference from this Board,” Roy writes. “If the Board fails to do that, then Superintendent Puyau plans whatever legal action is necessary to address what I have advised him is a breach of his contract, as well as bad faith.”

If a court find bad faith on the part of board members, they would be personally liable for damages, Roy writes.

“If bad faith is proven, then there can be damages awardable and payable out of the board members pockets, not the School Board coffers. This is a significant item and it is typically not covered by any insurance of any kind,” Roy writes.

Finally, Roy reminds the board members that the appeal of the recent ruling regarding the January 2018 meeting during which Puyau’s contract was addressed has been granted “suspensive” status. That means no related action can be taken until the appeal has been heard by the appeals court.

We’ve reached out to the board president, and to Hammonds, for a response.

Here’s Roy’s letter if you’d like to read it for yourself: