Controversy has shrouded the St. Landry Parish School Board for close to a year, and while board member John Miller tendered his resignation Friday, just days before pleading guilty in federal court for his role in a behind-the-scenes conspiracy to profit off the superintendent selection process last September, his alleged accomplice, board member Quincy Richard Sr., has refused to vacate his seat.
Richard's seat is actually in jeopardy on two fronts as a result of his 2004 guilty plea for a separate conspiracy in which he allegedly bought grades and a degree from Southern University.
Following Monday’s announcement by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office of Miller’s guilty plea to one count of bribery, The IND learned this morning that it wasn’t until Friday that he resigned his office, 10 months after he and Richard were indicted by a federal grand jury.
According to federal court documents, Miller admitted that beginning in the summer of last year, as the board began the process of finding a new superintendent, he and Richard began meeting with one of the candidates, Joseph Cassimere, who at the time was the acting interim superintendent. Between July and September, according to Miller, he and Richard convened a number of private meetings with Cassimere.
During its Sept. 16 meeting, the board made public its list of the five applicants to be considered for the position. Cassimere’s name was on the list. With a final vote set for Sept. 26, one last private meeting was called between Cassimere, Richard and Miller on Sept. 24 at the Quarters Restaurant and Casino in Opelousas.
According to the court record, here’s what went down:
The meeting was video and audio taped by the FBI and involved the cooperation of candidate Cassimere. At this meeting, which lasted approximately  minutes in total, Cassimere presented each of the defendants [Miller and Richard] $5,000 in cash. This exact amount had been arrived at in discussions the week before and was below the much earlier initial proposal by Miller and Richard of $7,500 per vote. In this meeting ... Richard and Miller, made it clear by virtue of this payment that Cassimere had secured their votes for his candidacy ... [and] had secured their services, efforts, influence, and due diligence to secure the votes of other members of the [board].
In addition, defendant Richard made clear to Cassimere the means by which the $5,000 per payment could also secure their favorable vote for an inflated superintendents salary once Cassimere was elected. By this means, Richard indicated how it would be possible for Cassimere to recoup his total $10,000 payment. Miller instructed Cassimere on how to make and justify a meritorious salary request above the amount listed for the superintendent’s salary as advertised.
As Miller and Richard left the restaurant that night, both were greeted by federal agents, and the $5,000 bribe money was found in the possession of both board members.
Cassimere's decision to blow the whistle on the bribery scheme may very well have cost him the job. When it came time to vote on the superintendent's job in May, Miller abstained, and Richard threw his support to Edward Brown, who got the job.
Miller faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. For Richard, the September arrest marks his second bout with allegations of behind-the-scenes payoffs.
|Quincy Richard Sr.|
His current trouble with the feds aside, Richard's office is in jeopardy over a separate incident, which prompted a ruling last month by 27th Judicial District Court Judge James Doherty Jr. that he be removed from office over his 2004 guilty plea in the Southern University scandal in which he purchased grades and a degree. Though that conviction did result in his resignation in 2004 from the board, Richard was able to get the felony conviction expungted from his record in 2006. According to Doherty’s ruling, however, that didn’t make him eligible to run for office four years later, as state law requires a 15-year grace period before a convicted felon is allowed to run for office.
A school system official confirmed Tuesday morning that Richard will maintain his seat on the board for now, as his son/attorney, Quincy Richard Jr., filed an appeal last week with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.
In the event the appeals court sides with the board member and he is allowed to keep his seat, he’ll still have the trouble with feds hanging over his head. His trial on the bribery charge is tentatively set for trial in August.
Though Richard maintains he’s not guilty of the federal bribery charges, being outed Monday by his fellow board member and alleged accomplice is not a good sign, and won’t bode well for his ability to keep his seat on the school board.