Lafayette Parish School board member Mark Cockerham is trying to figure-out the board’s rationale for spending money on an investigation of Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper; while an $18 million budget shortfall for next school year looms in the distance.
“There’s a huge price tag on that investigation and it could be going to the classroom instead of paying attorneys and law firms when there’s no basis for the investigation,” says Cockerham.
Plus, Cockerham sees no basis for hiring special counsel especially when the district attorney’s office is willing to provide legal services for free. Recently, the board voted and approved the hiring of a private law firm. The chief financial officer explained the proposed legal budget for next school year is at $108,000.
“It’s only fair. Cops aren’t going to arrest you without telling you why your being arrested for. They are going to let you know what you’ve done wrong. I think it’s only fair to Dr. Cooper and the taxpayers that they come clean on what’s being talked about what’s their intentions.”
Board member Mark Babineaux says the answer to that was resolved during Wednesday’s board meeting. If there would be charges, he says the superintendent should really be the first to know.
“Under the advice of counsel, I’m not making any comment in that regard; and rightfully so. You would hate to say some things that have not been thoroughly vetted out and investigated by an independent source,” explains Babineaux.
In terms of the anticipated $108,000 legal budget for the board to hire a private law firm to serve as special counsel. “That’s a budget issue. I know that we have a substantial budget for legal services anyway. I don’t know if that’s a real issue,” adds Babineaux.
Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper says “we are more than doubling our legal budget this year by going from $92,000 to over $200,000; that doesn’t include the additional estimated $50,000 to $60,000 for special investigation.
Furthermore Dr. Cooper says “that Board travel has more than doubled this year from $17,000 to $35,000; and they are worried about a $3,000 per month public relations contract.”