Long legal battle with St. Charles Schools finally pays off for Luling realitor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Staff Reporter

NEW ORLEANS – A 27-month-long legal battle between a Luling man and the St. Charles School Board came to a close Wednesday, when a federal jury awarded damages to Kevin Friloux for wrongful termination by the Board in 2004.

The seven-person jury concluded that the St. Charles School Board violated Friloux’s civil rights by terminating him shortly after he ran for public office, and awarded him $43,500 in back pay.

&#8220I felt like a big burden had been taken off my shoulders,” Friloux, 56, said. &#8220I’ve been having to face this for the last three years, and I just felt relieved and vindicated. It was a very quiet but happy moment.”

&#8220We are deeply disappointed in the jury’s verdict awarding Mr. Friloux back pay,” School Board Representative Rochelle Cancienne said in a statement. &#8220The board will have to consider its options in response to this verdict after conferring with its attorneys and the Superintendent.”

The School Board terminated Friloux from his 12-year tenure on Jan. 21, 2004, for what they claimed was a reorganization of the department that eliminated his position, but the jury found the Board removed him because of his political activities, most notably, running for Parish Assessor in 2003.

Friloux claimed in the lawsuit that he was discouraged from running for political office and threatened with retaliation from his superiors, and also that his supervisors removed him from a position of authority when he pointed out financial discrepancies.

&#8220The Board, of course, reaffirms the right of its employees to seek and hold public office as they continue to do,” Cancienne said in the School Board’s statement.

The back pay awarded to Friloux was an adjusted settlement for what he would have made on the school board minus his current revenue at Realties of St. Charles, his employer since his termination. Friloux also asked for damages for emotional distress, which the jury did not award.

After attorney’s fees and court costs Friloux’s compensation was minimal, but he said his personal vindication was sufficient reward.

&#8220It was never done from a monetary standpoint even though I did lose some income after I was terminated,” he said. &#8220I was done wrongly and I felt I had to stand up and protect my good name.”

&#8220I think it’s a victory for him and free speech,” Friloux’s attorney Alexandra Mora said. &#8220I’m thrilled for my client. I believed in him.”

Cancienne would not comment on whether or not the school board plans to appeal the decision.

&#8220They had an opportunity to present their case and we had an opportunity to present ours,” Friloux said about a possible appeal. &#8220The vote was a unanimous decision by my peers, 7-0. I don’t think it should be belabored.”