Lafayette Parish School Board to appeal court ruling in Pat Cooper case

Pat Cooper listens to testimony during his termination hearing in November 2014. The school board is now appealing a court decision to award damages to Cooper. (Photo Credit: The Daily Advertiser file photo)

(The Daily Advertiser) – The Lafayette Parish School Board will appeal a court’s decision to award financial damages to former Superintendent Pat Cooper.

Last week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal determined the board did not properly apply state law when it terminated Cooper’s contract in November 2014. The three-judge panel found Cooper did not violate the state’s Act I law, which transferred many duties from school boards to superintendents.

The appeals court sent the matter back to the 15th Judicial District Court to determine how much money would be awarded to Cooper.

However, on the advice of legal counsel, the school board voted Tuesday to pursue an appeal with the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Board President Dawn Morris said the Supreme Court will determine whether the case moves forward.

“If they say no, then the current judgment becomes the final judgment,” Morris said. “If the court says yes, then they will set it for oral arguments. The court could say the judgment is fine, or go back to an earlier judgment.”

Board attorneys will file their application within the next few weeks. It could take several months for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear the case. The board will not make any payments to Cooper until the Supreme Court makes a decision.

Cooper was fired with approximately one year remaining on his contract. The board alleged he violated state law and/or board policy on multiple occasions, mostly in personnel and budgetary decisions. Cooper has maintained that all of his actions were legal and aboveboard.

Current board members Tommy Angelle and Tehmi Chassion are the only ones who were also on the board in 2014. The other seven current members took office in January 2015.

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