[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect new information from Lafayette Parish School Board vice president Hunter Beasley.]
“I just want to make sure we’re following policy,” said Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion while calling for a vote last week that, well, broke policy.
Last week’s meeting agenda included two items pertaining to Thad Welch, the special assistant to Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper for facilities, maintenance, grounds and transportation. One was a request by board member Greg Awbrey for an executive session listed only as “Personnel Action.” That item was eventually pulled, likely because it didn’t fall under the state’s guidelines for calling a closed-door executive session.
The second item, introduced by board member Tehmi Chassion — the most outspoken of the anti-Welch/Cooper board members — also called for an executive session. Unlike Awbrey's vague request, Chassion's at least included some description and was listed on the agenda as an executive session to discuss the “Elimination of Budget Line Item regarding the Special Assistant to the Superintendent" — still not an appropriate topic for making a public meeting private.
Chassion claims his push for the board to reconsider Welch’s hiring, allegedly over his lack of a high school diploma, is all in an effort to uphold policy. Though the board discussed the issue in public, Chassion himself is guilty of violating board policy by calling for last week's reconsideration, which passed by a vote of 5-4. You see certain rules must be followed when a board member calls a vote to reconsider a previously approved measure, such as eliminating funding for Welch’s position, funding the board — sans Chassion and fellow board member Tommy Angelle — OKd when it approved last year’s budget. By missing last year's budget vote, Chassion should have been prohibited from calling on last week's vote of reconsideration. Angelle, who was one of the five in favor of Chassion's motion to remove funding, also should be disqualified from voting on the reconsideration.
If Chassion wants to be a stickler for policy, we suggest he get a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, since it lays out the meeting guidelines to which LPSB and other public bodies are supposed to adhere. In addition to detailing when an executive session is allowable, Robert's Rules also spells out, quite clearly, the "unique characteristics" of a legit vote of reconsideration, namely that: "It can be made only by a member who voted with the prevailing side" of the original vote.
Also problematic is that the board voted on the issue without properly moving its placement on the agenda, which would have required a two-thirds majority vote to move it from executive session to action. If policy were followed, the board would have first voted to authorize the item be moved to the action portion of the agenda, followed by a second vote on the issue itself.
So if the Welch "issue" is all about following policy, a whole lot of policy was broken to prove that point.
Board vice president Hunter Beasley tells The IND that he allowed the vote to go forward based on his reading of Robert's Rules, adding he considered Chassion's agenda item to be a motion for amending the budget, not a motion to reconsider. A motion to amend, according to Robert's Rules, can be made by any board member regardless of how they voted at the time of the original vote.
According to the minutes from last week's meeting, however, when LPSS administrative assistant Melva Perry asked if the motion was to ""amend" the budget line item pertaining to the funding of Welch's position, Chassion simply responded "eliminate."
Click here to read more on the issue, including a response from Welch's attorney Lane Roy.