Tangipahoa desegregation lawsuit costs exceed $4.7 million

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board has spent more than $4.7 million related to its desegregation lawsuit since it was revived in 2007, not including any payments owed to plaintiffs’ attorneys for work completed after the federal court approved a plan for drawing the case to a close in 2010.

The School Board has paid more than $1.7 million since 2011, when School Board member Brett Duncan circulated an initial report on expenses associated with the 48-year-old lawsuit.

The most recent expense report, prepared by the school district’s administration in response to a May 14 request from Duncan, indicates the School Board has paid nearly $2.5 million in attorney fees since 2007.

Of that total, $1.5 million went to the board’s own attorneys, with the remaining $995,123 going to plaintiffs’ attorneys Nelson D. Taylor Sr., James A. Gray II and the ACLU Foundation.

The plaintiffs’ attorney payments were made in 2010, following court approval of the district’s desegregation plan. Taylor, Gray and Gideon T. Carter III had demanded payment of more than $2 million in attorney fees, but the School Board agreed to pay only $874,000 to the trio in settlement of all fees accrued through April 1, 2010, according to court records.

The board paid an additional $67,882 to Gray and $10,001 to the ACLU Foundation, according to the latest expense report, but made no more payments to the plaintiffs’ attorneys since that time, Duncan said.

Other costs associated with the case include $820,572 in salaries and benefits for a court compliance officer and chief desegregation implementation officer — positions created by the federal court — and for an assistant. Nearly $350,000 of that total has been paid since the 2011 expense report.

The School Board also has paid $507,831 in salaries and benefits for “principals in waiting.” Those are school system employees who either the district’s administration or plaintiffs’ attorneys believed should have been given a principal position but for various reasons were not, Duncan said. The employees are now paid as principals despite holding a different position within the district, he said.

Another $94,529 was paid to call an April 2011 special election on a tax proposal overwhelmingly rejected by the parish’s voters, as well as $84,051 in public relations consulting work and media buys related to the proposal.

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Tangipahoa Parish school desegregation costs, April 2007-May 2013.

BOARD ATTORNEY FEES: $1.5 million

Kean Miller: $995,123

Cashe, Lewis, Coudrain and Sandage: $382,192

Jay Augustine: $91,068

Hammonds, Sills, Adkins and Guice: $40,217

PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEY FEES: $951,883

Nelson D. Taylor: $874,000

James Gray: $67,882

ACLU Foundation: $10,001

COURT-CREATED POSITIONS: $820,572

Arlene Guerin (July 2007—May 2013): $248,666

Lynell Higgenbotham (Sept. 2008—Aug. 2011): $362,310

Theresa Hamilton (Aug. 2011—Aug. 2012): $94,421

Lionel Jackson (Aug. 2012—May 2013, 50 percent split): $53,275

Donna Carral (June 2011—May 2013): $61,900

SPECIAL ELECTION AND PUBLIC RELATIONS: $178,580

Cost of calling April 30, 2011, election: $94,529

Gagliano Group public relations work: $56,294

Gagliano Group media buys: $27,757

OTHER COSTS: $1.3 million

Salaries and benefits for principals in waiting: $507,831

Salaries and benefits for athletic director: $366,458

Outside academic consultants for desegregation plan: $368,529

Economic impact study for desegregation plan: $21,750

Experts preparing district’s needs assessment: $3,084

Scope audit: $22,500