St. Landry School Board OKs superintendent contract

The St. Landry Parish School Board on Thursday approved a contract with new school Superintendent Edward Brown after a failed attempt to delay action on it.

Board member Randy Wagley said it would be “more prudent” to wait until a state district court judge rules on a petition filed in April by District Attorney Earl Taylor to remove board member Quincy Richard Sr. from public office.

The petition is based on Richard’s 2004 felony conviction on a charge of filing false records in an investigation into the buying of grades and degrees at Southern University.

Wagley’s motion to delay approval of Brown’s contract failed, 6-3, with board member Raymond Cassimere abstaining.

After that, the board voted 10-0 with Wagley abstaining to approve Brown’s two-year contract.

It includes a base salary of $118,000, plus a $2,500 annual expense allowance.

Brown became superintendent May 3 after the board selected him over former interim Superintendent Joseph Cassimere.

Board attorney Gerard Caswell said Brown requested that his base pay be about $5,000 less than former Superintendent Michael Nassif’s, who resigned the position in 2011.

Caswell said Brown agreed to be paid less than Nassif due to the school system’s ongoing financial difficulties.

Richard and board member John Miller were indicted in November for allegedly asking for $5,000 each from superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere in exchange for their support in the board’s scheduled September vote for superintendent.

Miller did not attend Thursday’s meeting.

Richard voted against delaying approval of Brown’s contract.

Richard has filed papers in 27th Judicial District Court challenges Taylor’s attempt to remove him from office.

District Judge James Doherty has scheduled a hearing on the matter Monday.

Wagley told the board that he wanted to wait to act on Brown’s contract until after Doherty rules on whether Richard should be removed from office.

Wagley also questioned whether the selection of Brown as superintendent was valid, since Richard’s legal status as a board member is the basis of Taylor’s court petition.

Richard told the board he was tired of Wagley bringing up the issue.

“You (Wagley) keep bringing it up. I’ve talked with you and you have shared with me your opinion. If you’ve got some inside scoop about my case, I would like to know,” Richard told Wagley.

Richard also said he understood Wagley had already learned how Doherty plans to rule following Monday’s state court case.

“You told me that you got your information directly from the judge,” Richard told Wagley.

Wagley denied that he and Doherty have held any private conversations about the district court hearing.

According to Taylor’s petition, Richard agreed to enter a guilty plea in 2004 to a charge of filing false records in connection with a state investigation into the alleged purchasing of grades and diplomas from Southern University.

The petition also says state law prohibits a convicted felon from holding public office unless granted a governor’s pardon or unless 15 years have passed since the completion of the sentence.

Richard won a 2006 election to regain his board position and was re-elected in 2010.

State law also says the 15-year prohibition of felons holding public office is not automatic and depends upon a formal challenge of the office holder’s qualifications.

Taylor has said he began researching Richard’s legal status as a public officer holder in March, after a person he declined to identify, filed a complaint with the DA’s Office.

Caswell said at Thursday’s meeting that Richard’s vote to select Brown as superintendent was valid, since Richard was elected by the voters in Richard’s election district at the time of last month’s vote.