Lafayette board delays hearing report on Cooper investigation

A special School Board meeting to receive an attorney’s report on an investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper won’t happen until next week.

Cooper and the attorney hired to conduct the investigation, Dennis Blunt are scheduled to meet sometime Wednesday, so the board likely won’t meet until next Wednesday or Thursday to receive the attorney’s final report, board president Hunter Beasley said Tuesday.

“That will give Mr. Blunt enough time to complete his report,” Beasley said.

Beasley initially set the meeting for Tuesday and pushed forward with a public notice late Monday — despite Cooper’s objections that afternoon to the short notice and his inability to attend due to a prior commitment. The School Board canceled the meeting early Tuesday morning.

Blunt’s investigation began sometime in May at the request of a majority of board members. The board originally approved the investigation in July 2013, but its start was delayed due to several factors. Those factors included the board’s former general counsel informing the state Attorney General’s Office in October 2013 that there was no cause for an investigation.

The board’s request to the attorney general to hire special counsel to investigate Cooper wasn’t approved until April, at the request of new, interim general counsel Bob Hammonds. The investigation was again delayed when the initial attorney who was hired quit, citing insufficient time to do the work.

The board meets for its regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Cooper has placed on the agenda a request that the board explain its attempt to call the special board meeting for Tuesday.

Cooper said Blunt contacted him for the first time Monday to ask if the two of them could meet on Tuesday. The superintendent questioned the timing of the meeting — which was to be held hours before Blunt was initially scheduled to report his findings to the School Board.

Beasley said Monday he has received a draft of Blunt’s report, but declined to comment on the findings because it was a personnel issue.

He said the findings are confidential and that it’s Cooper’s decision whether to discuss the findings. Cooper said Monday that he had not received any information related to the report.

Board member Mark Cockerham asked Beasley for a copy of the report after Cooper sent reporters and others a text message that questioned why Beasley had a copy of the draft but not other board members.

“How can there already be a draft of the report that is fair and unbiased when Mr. Blunt has not talked to me at all? Sounds like it is pre-determined,” Cooper wrote in the text.

In the text message he also asked whether other board members received copies.

“Has (there) been collusion?” Cooper texted.

Beasley said Tuesday he doesn’t plan to release a draft of the report unless directed to do so by a majority of the board.

“What I have is a document that is going to be completely different from the finished document,” Beasley said.

He added that Blunt gave him a copy of his preliminary report in advance of the expected special meeting with the full board.

“I feel that for the integrity of the investigation that they should receive the report that’s finalized with Dr. Cooper’s input and Mr. Blunt’s input,” Beasley said.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.