LPSB_trigger2The Lafayette Parish School Board has jumped the gun in hiring the Gretna-based law firm of Grant & Barrow to investigate Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper, as state law requires a specific set of reasons and an amount to be paid in retaining special legal counsel before such action can be taken. Not to mention that written approval by the attorney general and governor are also required.

Following the resolution’s passage in a 5-4 vote Wednesday, its author, board member Rae Trahan, was unable to cite specific reasons or the cost of hiring a special legal counsel for the investigation into the superintendent. Based on state law, and two opinions from the AG's office, it appears Trahan and her fellow board members — Tommy Angelle, Greg Awbrey, Mark Allen Babineaux, Tehmi Chassion —  failed to do their homework before approving Wednesday’s resolution.

Louisiana RS 42:263 (with emphasis added) states:
No parish governing authority ... parish school board, city school board, or other local or state board shall retain or employ any special attorney or counsel to represent it in any special matter or pay any compensation for any legal services whatever unless a real necessity exists, made to appear by a resolution thereof stating fully the reasons for the action and the compensation to be paid. The resolution then shall be subject to the approval of the attorney general ... and governor.

The attorney general's office issued opinions on the hiring of special legal counsel by the Lakeshore Crime Prevention District in 2005 and the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle Commission in 2009. In both cases, the AG’s office stipulated that before special counsel could be employed, the public bodies must first establish the existence of a “real necessity,” and receive written approval by the governor and AG.

The Lafayette Parish School Board has neither established the reasons nor the cost, nor has it received approval from the AG and governor, meaning Wednesday’s decision to hire Grant & Barrow is nothing more than a bogus side-stepping of state law.

That said, Trahan and Co. may want to return to the drawing board before embarking on further Cooper hunting.

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