Lafayette School Board accumulated legal expenses beyond budget during superintendent firing

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LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — The Lafayette Parish School Board has accumulated more than $120,000 in legal expenses for work related to an investigation leading to the firing of its former superintendent. The invoices also involve work related to representation of the board against Pat Cooper's legal challenges, including his pending wrongful termination claim.

In addition, the board also has paid $178,247 to Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice for legal services. Last year, the board opted to have the private firm as its general counsel instead of the free general counsel services it had received from the District Attorney's Office.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1PC4FiK) with all of its legal expenses, the school board surpassed its $183,000 budget. Since January, the board has twice shifted funds around to cover its legal expenses.

Board President Tommy Angelle says the board will meet Tuesday to review how it moves forward. Angelle questioned the need of having a law firm attend board meetings and provide counsel on daily operations.

"There's no question that we need the firm of Hammonds and Sills for any kind of litigation or serious suits, but for every day and routine meetings, I think it bears looking into either - and I'm just brainstorming - having our own counsel or someone that's less expensive," Angelle said.

Angelle said the board could discuss hiring a staff attorney or using the district attorney's services again.

The board stopped working with the District Attorney's Office in November 2013 after their request to hire special counsel to investigate Cooper was deemed unwarranted by an assistant district attorney.

Costs associated with Cooper's lawsuit are expected to continue. On May 4, Cooper's attorney asked the court to set a trial date.


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

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