Dec. 5, 2014 11:46 AM
bob hammonds 2

Remove former LPSS Superintendent Pat Cooper from the equation and the legal opinions given by attorney Bob Hammonds will be completely different.

Hammonds is a partner in the Baton Rouge firm of Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice. His firm represents school boards throughout the state, as well as the Louisiana School Board Association. Among Hammonds’ clients are the school boards in Lafayette and St. Landry parishes. Hammonds became LPSB’s general legal counsel after his firm was picked to replace the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s office, which for years had provided its services free-of-charge. Hammonds also played a pivotal role in the recent termination of Pat Cooper, arguably tailoring his legal opinions to fall in line with a majority contingent of the LPSB that dedicated the last year to ousting its superintendent.

We’ve long argued that Hammonds’ approach to Cooper was one-sided, that he catered his legal opinions to fit the desires of the board.

And now there’s some evidence of Hammonds’ alleged hypocrisy, namely through his handling of a contract renewal between the St. Landry Parish School Board and its superintendent.

In an opinion given during Thursday’s meeting of the St. Landry Parish School Board, Hammonds advised that it would be inappropriate for two of the board’s 13 members to vote on whether to renew the superintendent’s contract in the New Year.

From The Advocate:

Hammonds said that, in his opinion, it would not be proper for the two new board members — Mary Ellen Donatto and either Albert Hayes Jr. or Roland Miller, depending who wins in Saturday’s runoff election — to vote on Brown’s contract or evaluate him at such an early point in their terms of office, which start in January.

Now here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. On Nov. 6, when the LPSB voted 7-2 to fire Pat Cooper, one of those votes in favor of termination came from Melinda Mangham.

Neither Hammonds nor his partners raised any objections to Mangham voting on Cooper’s future with the school system, allowing her to be among the seven to end his tenure as superintendent. At the time of the vote, Mangham had been a board member for a mere 11 days, having just been appointed as the interim replacement for Mark Cockerham, who was forced to vacate his District 7 seat because he had moved out of the district. It’s worth noting that by the time the two new St. Landry Parish School Board members vote on the contract of their superintendent, they’ll have already been sworn in for at least two months.

So the question for Hammonds: What’s the difference between the two incoming St. Landry board members and the LPSB’s Melinda Mangham? Why was it OK for Mangham to have a say? Sure, it wouldn’t have made a difference on Cooper’s fate, but why didn‘t he offer up the same advice to Mangham and the Lafayette board, which appears to be his legal obligation regardless of whether he‘s asked for an opinion?

Mangham is only serving out the rest of the term for Cockerham and won’t be returning when the new board is seated Jan. 1. If anything, Mangham should have been disqualified from having a say on Cooper; at least the two new St. Landry Parish board members will be working directly with their superintendent for the next four years.


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