Lafayette Parish School Board accepts 5 formal charges against Superintendent Pat Cooper

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LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — The Lafayette Parish School Board has voted 6-3 to accept five formal charges against Superintendent Pat Cooper.

The charges against Cooper are related to personnel decisions, payment of his attorney's legal bill and a majority of the board's evaluation of his performance.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1Byl5DC) the board set a hearing within 30 days for Cooper to defend himself against the charges. The board resolution accepting the charges allows Cooper to continue working until it holds a hearing.

Cooper denied the allegations.

"After hearing the charges, my true belief is further confirmed that the charges are not brought to help children but to prevent change," Cooper said before the board voted. "They are not brought because I have done anything wrong but because I have pushed the envelope ... and cut out the politics."

During its special meeting Thursday, the board also voted 6-3 to hire James "Jam" Downs, 9th Judicial District attorney, to act as its hearing officer. A date for the hearing on the charges will be worked out among attorneys.

Dennis Blunt, the attorney hired to investigate Cooper, prepared the charges for the board to consider at the meeting. They were included within two resolutions that presented the option of Cooper continuing to work pending the hearing or for the board to suspend him with pay until a hearing is held. The board opted against a suspension.

The charges against Cooper were not read aloud at the meeting, however, Cooper provided a copy of them to news reporters after the meeting.

In four instances, he was accused of "unworthiness, inefficiency, breach of contract and failure to comply with board policy and state law." In the fifth, relating to the board's evaluation of his performance, he was charged only with unworthiness.

Two charges stem from the March 2012 hiring and continued employment of Thad Welch, a special assistant to the superintendent over facilities, grounds, transportation and maintenance.

The resolution containing the charges notes that Cooper refused to fire Welch after the board voted in February 2013 to reconsider its decision to hire Welch for the position and that Cooper continued to pay Welch after the board removed line-item funding for Welch's job.


Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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