School Board members face fines for absences

Some Lafayette Parish School Board members could owe the board as much as $1,400 in fines for missing too many board meetings in 2012.

Board policy allows members to miss five committee, special or regular board meetings or face a penalty of $100 per unexcused absence. Excused absences include illness, work or board-related training or business.

A chart logging each members’ absences and the potential penalty fees was posted as an informational item with the board’s Wednesday agenda. The chart gives notice that board members have until February to turn in written excuses for missed meetings or face fines.

Based on a review by the district’s auditing firm, Burton, Kolder Champagne, five board members face fees: Mark Allen Babineaux, $100; Tehmi Chassion, $600; Rae Trahan, $1,100; Tommy Angelle, $1,300; and Greg Awbrey, $1,400.

The tally of absences includes all scheduled board business — workshops, public hearings, special committee meetings, special board meetings and regularly scheduled board meetings. School Board members are paid $800 a month and the board president is paid $900 a month. Policy requires that board members fines for unexcused absences be deducted from their salary.

The absence review was a result of complaints made last year about excessive board member absences, board President Shelton Cobb said. Earlier this year, the board revised its attendance policy to clarify how board members should submit excuses. Now, board members are required to submit written excuses, while previously, excuses were submitted via phone calls to board staff.

Cobb said board members have ample time to submit written excuses for why they were unable to attend the meetings in 2012.

Awbrey missed the most meetings — 19 — in 2012, though only five were regularly scheduled board meetings, based on the chart.

“There’s only one of those that I wasn’t out of town at work,” Awbrey said. “I have my work schedule and can attach it for them.”

Awbrey questioned why 2012 absences were being reviewed when the board discussed the issue and revised its policy earlier this year.

The chart sets Angelle’s absences at 18 in 2012. Angelle said because he travels across the state with his job, he plans his work schedule around regular board meetings, which are scheduled the first and third Wednesday of the month. Of his 18 absences, only one was for a regular board meeting, according to the attendance chart.

Angelle said previously he may not have notified board staff in advance of an absence, but following board discussion and action on the issue earlier this year, he has notified the staff of his reasons for missing board meetings.

Cobb said auditors suggested that the board require written notices of absences, in line with current policy for the 2012 absences under review.

Trahan missed 16 meetings, though only three absences were for regular board meetings. Chassion missed 11 meetings and none of his absences were for regularly scheduled board meetings. Babineaux missed six meetings, including two regularly scheduled meetings.