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.
In reacting to the recently resurrected allegations of sexual abuse among local clergy, is the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette maintaining its old stance of protecting their own?
Louisiana's annual state sales tax holiday is Friday and Saturday.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
NJ lady beats Donald Trump; Israel calls up more troops; border hearings accelerated and more national and international news for Thursday, July 31, 2014.
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.