After helping put an end to the graft and corruption that had long plagued the Lafayette Parish School System’s maintenance department, Thad Welch was rewarded with his termination; he filed suit Friday.
With ties tracing back to McComb, Miss., Welch was brought over shortly after Cooper’s arrival in Lafayette in 2012 to help with a maintenance department in dire need of an overhaul. Cooper named him the assistant to the superintendent for facilities, grounds, maintenance and transportation, paying him an annual salary of $75,000.
Welch also was at the center of the board’s nearly two year fight with Cooper, with his lack of a high school diploma providing ample ammunition in the board’s quest to oust Cooper as superintendent. The strategy proved successful, and within weeks of the board’s firing of Cooper in early November, Welch also got the pink slip, but instead of the board, it came from Cooper’s interim replacement, Burnell LeJeune.
Welch’s lawsuit, which was filed Friday by his attorney Lane Roy, reads:
After many months of successful performance, compliments on work, reorganization of maintenance and far better results than had been previously obtained ... [Welch] was advised by the current Board Superintendent, Burnell LeJeune, that unless he was willing to transfer to the position of custodian at a salary less than a third of what he was currently earning, a salary which he could not afford to take, Thad Welch’s position was immediately terminated and he would be without employment.
Thad Welch was never given a reason for his termination, except that the Interim Superintendent advised him that there was simply “no money in the budget” to fund the position.
The suit also notes that shortly after his firing (allegedly because of budgetary constraints), LeJeune was given a $50,000 board approved raise, bumping his salary to $150,000 a year — just $40,000 shy of what Cooper was making as a full-fledged super.
The suit cites the board’s more than $70 million reserve fund — a “rainy day” fund it refuses to use, even at the costs of teachers, programs and other personnel — and about $200,000 in savings created under Welch’s watch:
Thus, clearly, budgetary constraints were not the reason for the termination of [Welch], and if that had been the case, [Welch] was entitled to considerations that he never received in this matter. Instead. the subterfuge of budgetary constraints was used to do nothing but terminate an excellent employee, doing a good job, as the last vestige of Dr. Pat Cooper as Superintendent of Lafayette Parish Schools.
It’s unclear who’s been tapped to take Welch’s place heading up maintenance. And as of this posting, a court date had yet been set for his lawsuit against the school system.