Cam School Board seeks audit help & special attorney - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Cameron Parish School Board seeks audit help, special attorney

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CAMERON PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

More fallout from the controversy surrounding the Cameron Parish School Superintendent, and a $50,000 check she received last December.
  
Now, the Cameron Parish School Board wants the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to review its finances since 2007 -- when they hired a new superintendent. And members want to hire another outside attorney.

A $50,000 check issued to the school superintendent during Christmas vacation last year, seems to have triggered recent public concern over school finances -- and whether such actions are being property vetted to the board.

Superintendent Stephanie Rodrigue said she was due the money from raises she never took and that they owe her another $50,000. She's written a five-page letter to board members explaining and apologizing for her handling of the situation. A link to the letter follows this story.

At their meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, board members voted to ask the Legislative Auditor for an audit starting back in 2007 when Rodrigue became superintendent.

Board member Karen Nunez made the motions. 

"I would like to have a clean slate, from whenever Mr. Chance left, right after the storms, all through, up to today. I guess the thing that most concerns me is some of the check writing that has been done in the past," said Nunez.
   
The board also decided to create a finance committee and to begin the process to hire outside attorney Richard Gerard, of Lake Charles, for advice, where there may be a conflict for attorneys they already have.

Their attorney from Monroe, Jon Guice, said hiring another outside attorney must be approved by the Louisiana Attorney General.

"It does take a special counsel resolution, approved by the board, submitted to the attorney general, and the attorney can't perform services for which the board is billed until he's been approved by the attorney general," said Guice.

The board also got an update from a communications company called TCI  hired after the May election when their tax failed. TCI  arranged focus groups and paid 60 people $75  each for participating.

"We ask people to come to the focus group and the standard fee for a focus group is $75 a person.  We have found at that level, that people will come and they will share their opinions," said TCI President Barbara Carey. 

According to their contract with TCI, the board had planned to spend up to $144,000, but now are re-thinking that since they've canceled their November tax election.

"We were not hired to help them pass a tax. However, if they had the tax on the ballot in November, we would have helped do public outreach and communication on what the tax was about, how much it would cost the individual homeowner and the procedures in terms of voting," said Carey.

She says they will also produce a community report and that the payment they receive will now be less than $144,000 and be based on service rendered. Look for more of Carey's comments on a KPLC web extra at www.kplctv.com.

To read Rodrigue's letter to the school board, click here.

Also, today she released the following statements regarding board action last night.

"We have provided all information to the Board, both in Executive Session and in a letter from me to the Board which I understand Board Members have shared with you.  I would be more than happy to email you a copy directly.  Although I believe everything has been provided to the Board and no additional questions were asked of me by the Board before or after last night's meeting, the Board is well within its right and I invite them to do whatever they feel is necessary, including hiring an additional attorney and paying for an additional audit.  I would note, however, as Board members pointed out during last night's meeting, that the Board already has general counsel and multiple special counselors to whom specific  items are referred by the District Attorney. The School Board also has as an independent auditor on contract that is approved by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor and whose reports are submitted directly to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor each year," said Rodrigue.

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