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.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.