Rep outraged by bus driver controversy

by Walter Pierce

Rep. Rickey Hardy: "So much for the new direction of the LPSS."

State Rep. Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette, a former member of the Lafayette Parish School Board, is coming out swinging against the school system's central office following revelations that a suspended bus driver is back at work, albeit as a bus attendant.

Kenny Mire, 51, was suspended with pay by the board in 2009 after being charged with drunk driving. The alleged infraction occurred in Mire's personal vehicle, although he was back behind the wheel of a school bus running his route hours after bonding out of jail.

The school board was set to reinstate Mire last December, believing the charge against him had been dropped. However, upon learning that the DWI charge stood, the board decided to leave him on paid administrative leave. A tenured bus driver, Mire has earned his more than $17,000 annual salary since being suspended. Board members learned Tuesday that school system officials allowed Mire to return to work as an attendant.

In a letter to the editor emailed to The Ind, Hardy characterizes the decision to put Mire back to work as a circumvention of the board's authority:

As a four time elected former member of the Lafayette Parish School Board, I am shocked and appalled at the decisions and actions of attorney Dawn Morris, Superintendent Burnell Lemoine and Assistant Superintendent Lawrence Lilly. The decisions and actions I am referring to are in regard to bus driver Kenny Mire's return to work. These three central office administrators did an end run around the board's suspension of Mire by returning him to work as a school bus attendant while being paid his full salary as a driver. With that in mind, it would seem as though the elected members of the Lafayette Parish School Board have no authority to hire, suspend and/or fire based upon the actions of Morris, Lemoine and Lilly.

So much for the new direction of the LPSS touted by board member Greg Awbrey.

In fact, board members were unaware of Mire's return to work. The superintendent's authority comes from the elected members of the school board. Based on what has taken place regarding Mire, it seems as if said authority comes from Morris. District Attorney Mike Harson has provided a paid assistant prosecutor, Jimmy Simon, from his office to render legal decisions for the board. Morris is another LPSS attorney, with no affiliation to the DA's office, who was hired by the current administration at more expense to the taxpayers. By who's authority do her recommendations take precedence over board attorney Simon?

Bottom line: The Lafayette Parish School Board suspended Kenny Mire. The Lafayette Parish School Board is the body that decides when, if, how, where and/or why Mire is to return to work, not Morris, Lemoine, and Lilly. Kenny Mire is now working illegally. Period. Read more about the Mire controversy here.

For background, read The Ind's Oct. 14, 2009 cover story about Mire, "Asleep at the Wheel."