Lafayette Parish School Board member Greg Awbrey’s plan to do away with the free legal counsel offered by the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office boils down to a disagreement over the board’s politically-motivated desire to hire an outside law firm to investigate the superintendent.
|Photo by Robin May|
Since the September retirement of James Simon, the board’s former appointed legal counsel from the District Attorney’s Office, the board has been confronted with a relatively new concept: a legal counselor who actually does his job, meaning his advice doesn’t always jibe with the board’s wishes.
During Simon’s stint as the board’s appointed counsel, the legal advice provided to the board rarely, if ever, went against the board’s wishes, especially in relation to its fight against Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper.
Simon, in fact, stated in an email to the board that his representation of the school system did not include the superintendent, only the board. According to board policy, and state law, Simon’s assessment was wrong, as his representation should have included all aspects of the school system, from the board to the administration.
Enter Roger Hamilton, the ADA selected to take Simon’s place as the board’s appointed counsel. Hamilton came on the scene in the midst of the board’s attempt this summer to hire an outside law firm to conduct an "investigation" of Cooper. That push for an investigation was wrought with questions, largely over whether it was valid in the first place as such requests by public bodies require approval from the Louisiana's attorney general. As stipulated by state law, several requirements must be met before a public body can legitimately request the AG’s approval for hiring outside counsel, such as a specific set of reasons for the investigation and the dollar amount that will be spent in the process. Simon even broke with tradition on the matter and advised the board in July to flesh out the resolution and get it in line with the requirements of state law. The board, however, didn't listen, and the resolution sent to the AG's office met none of state law's requirements, despite repeated calls from the public to justify spending the money on an investigation deemed by many in the community as a “witch hunt.” The result: an opinion from Hamilton, one he submitted to the AG’s office stating the board’s request was bunk; i.e., no investigation was warranted since the board failed to follow any of the guidelines established by state law.
That, coupled with District Attorney Mike Harson’s admonishing of the board for violations of the state’s Open Meetings Law during a special meeting in late-October, are arguably the impetus behind Awbrey’s attempt to cut ties with the DA's office (let us reiterate that the service is provided free of charge).
Awbrey, who has been one the biggest opponents to Cooper’s superintendency, has introduced a package of items for Wednesday’s meeting related to the termination of the school system’s relationship with the DA’s office.
Included among those items is a resolution to eliminate the board’s policy making the DA its official legal counsel, as well as an item calling for the creation of a committee charged with finding a replacement. Another of Awbrey’s resolutions calls for hiring the Baton Rouge law firm of Hammons & Sills as the board’s interim legal counsel, which will be anything but free.
For a board already facing a budget crunch, not to mention an electorate suspicious of passing any additional tax measures to alleviate the school system’s funding woes, Awbrey’s plan is fiscally unsound. Likewise, Awbrey gives no explicit reason to justify a termination of the board’s relationship with the DA’s office, except that he didn't like Hamilton's opinion and the fact that Hamilton forwarded it to the AG before Awbrey could object.
Awbrey liked Simon’s one-sided approach to the job (even though it conflicted with state law), and when he didn’t hear what he wanted to hear from Hamilton and Harson, he set out on a mission to find a legal counselor whose advice may be more in line with his positions — no matter the cost.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)