The Tangipahoa Parish School Board has spent more than $4.7 million related to its desegregation lawsuit since it was revived in 2007, not including any payments owed to plaintiffs’ attorneys for work completed after the federal court approved a plan for drawing the case to a close in 2010.
The School Board has paid more than $1.7 million since 2011, when School Board member Brett Duncan circulated an initial report on expenses associated with the 48-year-old lawsuit.
The most recent expense report, prepared by the school district’s administration in response to a May 14 request from Duncan, indicates the School Board has paid nearly $2.5 million in attorney fees since 2007.
Of that total, $1.5 million went to the board’s own attorneys, with the remaining $995,123 going to plaintiffs’ attorneys Nelson D. Taylor Sr., James A. Gray II and the ACLU Foundation.
The plaintiffs’ attorney payments were made in 2010, following court approval of the district’s desegregation plan. Taylor, Gray and Gideon T. Carter III had demanded payment of more than $2 million in attorney fees, but the School Board agreed to pay only $874,000 to the trio in settlement of all fees accrued through April 1, 2010, according to court records.
The board paid an additional $67,882 to Gray and $10,001 to the ACLU Foundation, according to the latest expense report, but made no more payments to the plaintiffs’ attorneys since that time, Duncan said.
Other costs associated with the case include $820,572 in salaries and benefits for a court compliance officer and chief desegregation implementation officer — positions created by the federal court — and for an assistant. Nearly $350,000 of that total has been paid since the 2011 expense report.
The School Board also has paid $507,831 in salaries and benefits for “principals in waiting.” Those are school system employees who either the district’s administration or plaintiffs’ attorneys believed should have been given a principal position but for various reasons were not, Duncan said. The employees are now paid as principals despite holding a different position within the district, he said.
Another $94,529 was paid to call an April 2011 special election on a tax proposal overwhelmingly rejected by the parish’s voters, as well as $84,051 in public relations consulting work and media buys related to the proposal.
Tangipahoa Parish school desegregation costs, April 2007-May 2013.
BOARD ATTORNEY FEES: $1.5 million
Kean Miller: $995,123
Cashe, Lewis, Coudrain and Sandage: $382,192
Jay Augustine: $91,068
Hammonds, Sills, Adkins and Guice: $40,217
PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEY FEES: $951,883
Nelson D. Taylor: $874,000
James Gray: $67,882
ACLU Foundation: $10,001
COURT-CREATED POSITIONS: $820,572
Arlene Guerin (July 2007—May 2013): $248,666
Lynell Higgenbotham (Sept. 2008—Aug. 2011): $362,310
Theresa Hamilton (Aug. 2011—Aug. 2012): $94,421
Lionel Jackson (Aug. 2012—May 2013, 50 percent split): $53,275
Donna Carral (June 2011—May 2013): $61,900
SPECIAL ELECTION AND PUBLIC RELATIONS: $178,580
Cost of calling April 30, 2011, election: $94,529
Gagliano Group public relations work: $56,294
Gagliano Group media buys: $27,757
OTHER COSTS: $1.3 million
Salaries and benefits for principals in waiting: $507,831
Salaries and benefits for athletic director: $366,458
Outside academic consultants for desegregation plan: $368,529
Economic impact study for desegregation plan: $21,750
Experts preparing district’s needs assessment: $3,084
Scope audit: $22,500