AMITE —The Tangipahoa Parish School Board soon may be required to vote on whether a board officer should be removed from leadership following a felony arrest or indictment or an ethics fine.
The School Board’s Policy Committee on Tuesday considered a proposal to require a vote on the need for new officer elections within 14 days of any such instance. The group failed to reach a consensus, though, and instead deferred the proposal to the next committee meeting to allow all nine board members to participate in the discussion.
The School Board does not have a policy on whether or when a board president or vice president should be removed from leadership, said Brett Duncan, Policy Committee chairman.
However, the board selected new officers in March after then-President Eric Dangerfield was indicted on nine felony counts of theft by fraud from the state’s Medicaid program. Dangerfield and his wife, Cassandra, operated the 1st Thessalonians home health-care business in Hammond.
The proposal would not make an officer’s removal automatic, but would require a board vote on whether new officers should be elected following a sitting officer’s “arrest or indictment for a felony-level offense and/or (fine of) $4,000 or more by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.”
Duncan said he drafted the policy because he had promised Dangerfield something would be presented at the next committee meeting following Dangerfield’s removal as president.
Dangerfield said he “wanted to see a policy that would hold us all to the same standard.”
But the proposal offered Tuesday doesn’t guarantee equal treatment, he said, because it requires only that the board “consider” electing new officers.
Dangerfield said he would prefer that the policy require a guilty verdict or plea before an officer’s removal, but in any event, it should require removal in all like cases to ensure fairness.
Committee member Al Link questioned the need for requiring a vote at all, when the proposal also clarifies that the board “may consider the election of new officers at any properly noticed and open meeting.”
Duncan said the lack of a specific written policy had opened the board up to criticism during Dangerfield’s removal.
Link also expressed concerns about the inclusion of ethics-related fines as a basis for a required vote.
“Most of you haven’t been before the Ethics Board, but I’ll tell you, it’s not very ethical,” he said.
Link was fined $1,000 by consent agreement with the Ethics Board in 2009 because he voted on a district policy change that cleared the way for his daughter’s promotion. He had abstained from voting on the promotion itself.
Link said the proposed policy was also so specific as to become limiting to the board.
“This School Board violates rules all the time,” he said. “But you operate your life in the gray, knowing you can be called to task at any time for a decision you made that you know is right but that was against some rule.”
Link suggested the committee defer the proposal to the group’s next meeting, when the full board could be present to discuss it.
Committee members Gail Pittman-McDaniel and Sandra Bailey Simmons agreed, and the matter was deferred.