|"It's as if they are shaking their finger at me that I'm doing wrong and they're going to tell my mama on me." — School board member Tehmi Chassion in an interview with The Daily Advertiser over being named a defendant in a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday.|
Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion's dismissive attitude over being named in a federal lawsuit alleging bias against Superintendent Pat Cooper should come as no surprise.
In an interview with The Daily Advertiser, Chassion scoffs at the lawsuit, saying his inclusion as one of two board members — the other is Mark Allen Babineaux — cited in the suit for having a history of bias toward the superintendent is of little concern.
“I would describe this as legal blackmail,” Chassion tells the Advertiser. “It’s as if they are shaking their finger at me that I’m doing wrong and they’re going to tell my mama on me, but saying, ‘I won’t tell her if you let me do these things that I want to do, and do these favors for me.”
Though it may seem like a distant memory, Chassion was once a supporter of Cooper, and as a member of the so-called “Gang of Five,” his vote played a critical role in Cooper’s selection for the superintendency. Those days are long gone, yet Chassion, in his interview with the Advertiser, uses his one-time backing of Cooper and the Turnaround Plan as an argument against the lawsuit’s allegations of bias.
“He can’t ever say that I’m biased against him,” says Chassion. “I guess a federal lawsuit should have been filed by the 30 other candidates I passed over when I chose to make him superintendent. I guess back then, I was biased against the other candidates and biased for him. None of what they are trying to distract the public with makes any sense.”
By making light of the lawsuit — filed in federal court Thursday by attorney Gary McGoffin on behalf of Cajundome Director Greg Davis in part to stop the board’s attempted termination of Cooper — Chassion is employing a tactic he’s used over and over again in his last few years on the board.
Despite numerous instances of his bad behavior, Tehmi Chassion just denies the facts and fabricates tall tales.
This approach was evident even before Cooper's superintendency, when Chassion possessed a master key to all the gyms in the school system and would stage after-hours basketball practices and pick-up games at Northside High with friends, despite not having paid for an insurance policy to cover any injuries or potential damages to the school facilities. It’s the same mind-set he had while coaching his daughter’s youth recreation basketball team, when he refused to leave after being ejected from the game for shouting at the referee and encouraging his team to mock its opponents. This mentality was present during his daughter’s social studies fair, when he tried intimidating a group of teachers for not allowing him to break the rules of the event because of his status as a school board member. It was seen again in his attempt to sway school system officials and his fellow board members to approve an insurance plan that would have financially benefited his half-brother, Lafayette City-Parish councilman Brandon Shelvin, at the expense of rising insurance costs for school system employees. It’s the same tactic he used to avoid questions about his felony arrest in 2001 on a number of counterfeit money charges; rather than address this reporter's inquiry about the arrest, he called local police alleging he’d been roughed up by me in the bathroom.
And it resurfaced earlier this year following a dispute with Cooper in an executive session in which he called police — again — alleging he’d been accosted, this time by the superintendent (as they were when he first called police on this reporter, charges were rejected by prosecutors because of a lack of evidence).
Simply put, Tehmi Chassion has no respect for any rules or laws that don’t fall in line with his political or personal aspirations.
But, and this may be a first, he will respect the federal judge assigned to McGoffin and Davis' lawsuit.
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