Federal suit seeks to stop LPSS termination vote

Alleged biased has once again become a topic of concern for the Lafayette Parish School Board, in the form a restraining order. In August of 2014, Greg Davis, Sr., the Director of the Cajundome, filed a lawsuit against LPSS and specifically board members Mark Babineaux and Dr. Tehmi Chassion, seeking to disqualify them from voting in any termination decision regarding the parish’s superintendent. Attorney for Davis, Gary McGoffin said the lawsuit could take a year or two before it is heard in front of a judge. In the meantime, board members could move forward with trying to terminate Dr. Pat Cooper’s contract early.

At the present moment, Davis has filed an application for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the board, Babineaux and Chassion.

“We are requesting a conference with the court to be able to set a date in which the preliminary hearing would be heard on their bias, ” McGoffin began. “All we are asking on the temporary restraining order between now and then is that the status quo be maintained. In other words, don’t take any votes until we determine whether or now there is bias.”

The acceleration of a decision on any alleged biased screams urgency. According to McGoffin, the school board planned a special meeting on August 3rd, to discuss and possibly bring charges against Cooper, based on an investigation by attorney Dennis Blunt. The investigation painted Cooper as incompetent, inefficient and alleged he failed to comply with board policy. The allegations have been denied by Cooper and his attorney. Still, the board may plan to take immediate action, terminating Cooper almost a full year before his contract expires. That is, unless the restraining order can keep board members from taking a vote.

“It does not seem appropriate, from out point, to go forward with that process, if two of its members are considered to be biased,” McGoffin said.

The order asks that Babineaux and Chassion refrain from making any votes relative to Cooper’s removal prior to a preliminary hearing. A conference has been requested with counsel from all parties before the special board meeting on August 3rd.

Speaking on behalf of his client, McGoffin said Davis and the community would be unfairly represented by a board that will not see 75 percent of its members returning. It only takes six votes to terminate a superintendent and six of the nine board members that indicated their desire to terminate Cooper will not be returning to the school board.

“Why should they on their last months on the school board make a determination that is going to effect the kids in our community for years to come,”

Babineaux has a run for judge, but Chassion will return to his seat. The two members said they had no comment on the restraining order.

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