St. Landry board member’s conviction may factor into bribery case

A recent Louisiana Supreme Court ruling could open the door for the removal of St. Landry Parish School Board member Quincy Richard Sr. because of a 2004 felony conviction.

Richard, who is facing an unrelated federal bribery charge, was forced to step down from office after a 2004 plea to filing false records in an investigation of grade- and degree-buying at Southern University.

He regained the seat in a 2006 election and was re-elected in 2010.

The state constitution prohibits a convicted felon from running for office unless he has been granted a governor’s pardon or unless 15 years have passed since the completion of the sentence.

The state election code also sets a tight legal deadline to protest a candidate’s fitness for office: seven days after close of qualifying, the period in which candidates sign up to run for office.

No challenge was made to Richard in 2006 or 2010, but the state Supreme Court ruled in a similar case in January the election code’s seven-day time limit does not always apply because it might limit the state’s ability to uphold the constitutional ban on felons holding office.

Richard, St. Landry Parish School Board President Harry Fruge and parish District Attorney Earl Taylor are all aware of the possible implications.

Taylor said he would investigate the matter, but only if someone filed a formal complaint with his office, mainly because he does not want to make what might be perceived as a political move against another elected official in the parish.

“I don’t want to be out there leading the parade,” Taylor said.

He said that, as of Wednesday, no one had filed a complaint.

Richard said he had the 2004 charge expunged from his record and believed that cleared the way for him to run for office again.

“We are just going to let the chips fall where they may,” Richard said when asked about any possible attempt to remove him from office.

Taylor said his legal opinion is that only a governor’s pardon or a 15-year time lapse would allow a felon to seek office, not an expungement.

Fruge said he is aware of the “rumors” over Richard’s qualifications to hold office but believes it is not an issue to be addressed by the School Board.

“That has to be determined by the (district attorney). It’s not a board function,” he said.

Richard’s 2004 plea to filing false public records came in a wide-ranging investigation into grade- and degree-buying at Southern University.

Richard’s wife, at his urging, paid a Southern University official $1,500 for a fake transcript indicating she had obtained a master’s degree needed for teacher’s certification, according to news reports at the time.

The husband and wife were each sentenced in state District Court in Baton Rouge to two years probation, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and ordered to resign their respective positions as School Board member and teacher, according to a news article about the plea deal.

The court record contains no information about the case because it has been expunged, meaning the public can no longer access details about it.

Richard is facing new charges.

A federal grand jury in October indicted Richard and fellow board member John Miller on bribery counts for allegedly asking superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere for $5,000 each last year in return for their votes to name him to the job.

Cassimere, who cooperated with federal agents, met Miller and Richard at the Quarters Restaurant and Casino in Opelousas on Sept. 24 in an exchange of cash that was videotaped and audiotaped by FBI agents, according to the court filings from prosecutors.

Miller and Richard have both pleaded innocent and remain on the board.

The pending federal charge cannot be considered as a factor for their removal because only a conviction can bar someone from holding elected office.

The recent state Supreme Court case addressing the time constraints for removing an elected official for a felony conviction came in the case of former Baldwin Alderman Tony Gibson, who was elected in 2010 even though he had a 1997 felony conviction of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

Gibson had argued a challenge to his fitness for office came too late because it fell outside of the seven-day window after the close of the qualifying period for the election.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with Gibson, but the state Supreme Court overturned the appeals court decision in January, ruling the alderman must step down.