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Vermilion Parish School Board votes to place superintendent on leave, again

Superintendent to remain at work until investigation concludes
Posted: 5:55 PM, Jul 25, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-31 17:46:58-04
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UPDATE: The Vermilion Parish School Board has voted to place Superintendent Jerome Puyau on administrative leave by a vote of 4 - 3.

Once again the superintendent will be investigated on the following accusations;

  • Failing to put items on Board agendas as requested by Board members, in violation of Board policy and District Court orders
  • Failing to acknowledge and implement Board action on May 30, 2019 to eliminate position of Risk Manager/Legal Counsel, effective that date
  • Failing to acknowledge and implement Board action on May 30, 2019 to name Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice as Board General Counsel and to direct that all legal matters concerning school system be referred to that firm for handling, effective that date
  • Hiring administrative personnel who do not meet the qualifications for the position outlined in Board-approved job description
  • Authorizing the payment of private attorneys’ fees with Board funds without the knowledge or approval of the Board

Even though the board voted to place him on leave, Puyau says he is still the superintendent and will show up to work in the morning. He said nothing is final until the investigation is over.

"We have a board that says im suspended, the actual agenda items do not indicate that I am suspended until after the investigation." Puyau said.

He adds that the board violated the open meeting law.

"They went into executive session, the agenda did not state there was an executive session, and they did not allow me the right to have the executive session to be held in an open session." Puyau said.

Puyau said during the meeting he has no problem being investigated, but he believes he should not be on leave, stating "This will shut the system down."

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UPDATE: The Vermilion Parish School Board was considering discussing Superintendent Jerome Puyau's leave behind closed doors.

Superintendent Puyau rejected the proposal, saying any discussion about him needs to be in public. He cited the Louisiana Open Meetings Law.

R.S. 42:12 - 42:28 ensures that government decisions are made in a public forum, and states that "no person shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies and examine public documents, except in cases established by law."

"Public bodies" includes Parish governing authorities, including school boards. The law is intended to ensure integrity and strengthen the public's faith in elected officials.

The School Board is currently holding a session behind closed doors to confer with lawyers.

Puyau asked for his lawyer to be present, but President Laura Lebeouf said he could not have his lawyer present.

Board member Dale Stelly argued that the executive session's purpose is to discuss details with their lawyer, not their decision or the investigation.

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The Vermilion Parish School Board will consider placing Superintendent Jerome Puyau on leave once again.

Thursday's agenda item comes just days after a judge lifted a court order that prevented the board from even discussing the topic of investigating the superintendent.

Puyau was placed on leave for two and a half months last year over complaints against his character and competency but a hearing officer later found those allegations didn't have any merit. Puyau then returned to work.

The board wants to once again investigate the superintendent and hire a special counsel. Those items will be addressed at the meeting, that starts at 6:00 pm Thursday.