OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish School Board voted unanimously at a special meeting Thursday to appoint a replacement next month for a School Board member convicted on a bribery charge in federal court earlier this week.
A federal jury convicted board member Quincy Richard of accepting a $5,000 bribe in exchange for casting his vote for Joseph Cassimere in a school superintendent’s election.
Cassimere, who was serving at the time as the district’s interim superintendent, had gone to federal authorities about the bribe offer. Richard and another board member, John Miller, were subsequently snared in an FBI sting operation.
Board attorney Gerard Caswell said state law prohibits Richard from continuing to serve as a public official.
Caswell cited a state statute that says “a felony conviction of a public official automatically suspends that person from serving in public office and receiving any compensation.”
Caswell said Richard’s status as a public official is suspended, meaning he cannot serve on the board until all aspects of federal appeals process are completed.
“The law says you have 20 days from the day of (Richard’s) suspension to appoint someone to the seat in District 10. The person you appoint will serve on the board until any appeals that Mr. Richard might make are completed,” Caswell said.
Caswell said the board has time to wait until the board’s Sept. 5 meeting to make an appointment.
Board member Kyle Boss said he has already had contact with at least one individual who is interested in serving in Richard’s absence.
Caswell told Boss he did not see any reason why the board could not appoint someone Thursday after Boss asked if the board could do so.
“There are no rules governing it,” Caswell said.
Caswell, however, advised the board that it would be better to wait until the Sept. 5 meeting to allow time for a notice to go out to others who might have an interest in the board seat.
Richard is also appealing a separate legal matter after a state judge ruled in June that Richard could not serve on the board because he pleaded guilty to a felony in 2004 for paying a Southern University employee to alter his wife’s college transcript.
State Judge James Doherty Jr. ruled that state law requires felons to wait at least 15 years before running again for office following a conviction.
Richard ran again in 2006 and was elected to serve District 10. Richard was re-elected for the same seat in 2010. His current term is scheduled to end Dec. 31, 2014.
A discussion of Richard’s status was not on Thursday’s meeting agenda. The board’s agenda said the purpose of the meeting was to make adjustments to the current employee salary schedule.
The board voted 11-1 to allocate $566,879 toward the salaries of 1,562 employees after the current pay schedule indicated some workers were making less money than they during the previous school year.
Superintendent Edward Brown said in an interview after the meeting that the current salary schedule was created so the school district could afford to pay stipends to teachers whose classroom evaluations were excellent under new state standards.
“The current (pay) schedule was created so that the school system would have enough money to compensate teachers for the stipends that they earned,” Brown said.
Brown told the board that employee morale is low in the school district and that adjusting the salaries would help keep them from moving to other school systems.
“This is an inequity that needs to be compensated,” Brown said.
Finance Director Tressa Miller said revenues used for the salary adjustments will come from an Educational Facilities Improvement District fund that receives about $2.15 million annually.
Miller said EFID revenues originate from a 1998 parishwide sales tax dedicated for employee benefits and salaries.
Board members Anthony Standberry, Charles Ross, Raymond Cassimere, Roger Young, Huey Wyble, Boss, Randy Wagley, Donnie Perron, Candace Gerace and board President Harry Fruge voted in favor of providing the salary adjustments.
Josie Frank voted against the issue. Frank said she voted “no” because she does not think the school district’s financial situation could sustain such a large expenditure.
Frank also said she opposed the motion because some teachers who worked hard to obtain superior evaluations were being penalized, since the adjustment did not give some of them the full amount of the stipend.