SMILE board president resigns

SMILE Parliamentarian Deidre Ledbetter, left, President Marcus Bryant and Secretary Geri Brown were cited for violating the Louisiana Open Meetings Law April 12, 2017. (Photo: Claire Taylor/Daily Advertiser)

(The Daily Advertiser) –  Another SMILE board member, this time the board president, resigned suddenly Wednesday.

Lafayette attorney Marcus Bryant submitted a letter Wednesday to the SMILE board announcing his immediate resignation. He did not provide a reason for resigning and did not return calls and emails requesting comment for this story.

Bryant joined the volunteer board in 2016 and was elected president in January 2017.

At least two board members resigned in 2016, citing bickering among board members as their reason for leaving. Another board member, Willie Smith, also recently resigned.

The resignation comes at a time when SMILE is under investigation and faces two legal challenges.

SMILE’s Head Start early learning program is under review by officials with the federal Office of Head Start under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

The federal agency began a review to determine if the agency complied with federal Head Start standards after learning two cases of alleged child abuse were not properly reported.

The Daily Advertiser was told by current and former board members that the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office also is investigating SMILE.

On top of that, District Attorney Keith Stutes in April filed a complaint against SMILE and board members Bryant, Richard Potier, Geri Brown, Zachary Landry and Deidre Ledbetter alleging they violated the state’s open meetings law.

The case is scheduled for a court hearing Aug. 21.

Another civil case is pending against board members Bryant, Janice Dixon, Potier and Brown, and CEO Chris Williams. Africa Arceneaux filed the lawsuit in March alleging she was improperly removed from the board. She alleges board members and others conspired to kick her off the board after she did not support the hiring of Williams as CEO.

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