Despite so many pressing issues — like the plea from Acadian Middle administrators for a reconstitution of their troubled school — Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion is still waging his unspoken war against Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper, this time by asking for what is no doubt an illegal executive session during Wednesday’s board meeting.

 

RMay_130306_7388_Chaisson
  Photo by Robin May
 Tehmi Chassion

Chassion’s request, according to Wednesday’s meeting agenda, is for a closed-door executive session (out of the public’s eye) to again discuss Thad Welch, the super's special assistant for facilities, maintenance, grounds and transportation.  

At issue, claims Chassion, is Welch’s lack of a high school diploma, which is listed as one of many requirements in the position’s job description. The argument for Welch’s ouster, however, is weak: In recent years Chassion and his fellow board members repeatedly hired LPSS employees who did not fully meet the education requirements of their respective job descriptions (and Welch is working toward his GED).

Chassion and the board members who support him on the issue, Rae Trahan, Greg Awbrey and Mark Babineaux (Tommy Angelle may be on the fence), have repeatedly been asked by the public and LPSS administrators and employees to drop the issue — so the real problems facing the school system can be addressed.

Those pleas are falling on deaf ears, with Chassion’s call for Wednesday’s closed-door discussion yet another example of the obstructionist, grand-standing plaguing the board.

It’s no secret Chassion’s fight over the Welch issue — especially in light of the 34 employees hired by the board since 2009 who also didn’t meet all the requirements listed in their job descriptions — has far less to do with Welch and far more to do with an as-yet-undisclosed beef the board member has with the superintendent (more on that later).

The reason Chassion cites for calling Wednesday’s executive session —  which will require a two-thirds vote of the board — comes nowhere close to falling under the state’s guidelines for making a public meeting private.

Louisiana Revised Statute 42:17 clearly defines when it is allowable for a public body to convene behind closed doors. Based on our reading of those 10 reasons, Chassion needs to get a schooling on Louisiana’s Sunshine Laws or rescind his request for Wednesday’s executive session and start doing what he was elected to do: focus on issues that matter, like that poor performing middle school in his district.

Since Chassion didn’t respond to a message left Tuesday morning on his cell phone — it’s actually been months since The IND has heard back from the board member — here's RS 42:17 in its entirety (hopefully he’ll read up before Wednesday):

1) Discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person, provided that such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours before the meeting and that such person may require that such discussion be held at an open meeting. However, nothing in this Paragraph shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract.  In cases of extraordinary emergency, written notice to such person shall not be required; however, the public body shall give such notice as it deems appropriate and circumstances permit.

2)  Strategy sessions or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining, prospective litigation after formal written demand, or litigation when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigating position of the public body.

3) Discussion regarding the report, development, or course of action regarding security personnel, plans, or devices.

4)  Investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct.

5)  Cases of extraordinary emergency, which shall be limited to natural disaster, threat of epidemic, civil disturbances, suppression of insurrections, the repelling of invasions, or other matters of similar magnitude.

6) Any meeting of the State Mineral and Energy Board at which records or matters entitled to confidential status by existing law are required to be considered or discussed by the board with its staff or with any employee or other individual, firm, or corporation to whom such records or matters are confidential in their nature, and are disclosed to and accepted by the board subject to such privilege, for the exclusive use in evaluating lease bids or development covering state-owned lands and water bottoms, which exception is proved pursuant to and consistently with the Public Records Act, being Chapter 1 of Title 44 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as amended, and other statutes to which the board is subject.

7)  Discussions between a city or parish school board and individual students or the parents or tutors of such students, or both, who are within the jurisdiction of the respective school system, regarding problems of such students or their parents or tutors; provided however that any such parent, tutor, or student may require that such discussions be held in an open meeting.

8) Presentations and discussions at meetings of civil service boards of test questions, answers, and papers produced and exhibited by the office of the state examiner, municipal fire and police civil service, pursuant to R.S. 33:2492 or 2552.

9)  The portion of any meeting of the Second Injury Board during which records or matters regarding the settlement of a workers’ compensation claim are required to be considered or discussed by the board with its staff in order to grant prior written approval as required by R.S. 23:1378(A)(6).

10)  Or any other matters now provided for or as may be provided for by the legislature.

B.  The provisions of this Chapter shall not apply to judicial proceedings.

C.  The provisions of this Chapter shall not prohibit the removal of any person or persons who willfully disrupt a meeting to the extent that orderly conduct of the meeting is seriously compromised.

D.  The provisions of R.S. 42:19 and R.S. 42:20 shall not apply to any meeting of a private citizens’ advisory group or a private citizens’ advisory committee established by a public body, when the members of such group or committee do not receive any compensation and serve only in an advisory capacity, except textbook advisory committees of the State Department of Education or the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  However, all other provisions contained in this Chapter shall be applicable to such group or committee and the public body which established such group or committee shall comply with the provisions of R.S. 42:19 in providing the required notice of meetings of such group or committee.

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