D.A.: $100K settlement puts residents on hook; superintendent says he did nothing wrong

Published 12:13 am Saturday, November 11, 2017

RESERVE — A $100,000 settlement between the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board and an outgoing employee led to intense legal disagreement and an accusation of poor handling of taxpayers’ money.

The discourse took place over an hour during Thursday’s School Board meeting, which also included a tabled effort to remove sitting School Board President Ali Burl from the president’s position.

At the center of concern was a settlement reached in a lawsuit between Elton Oubre Jr. v. the School Board.

School Board litigation attorney Kevin Klibert, managing attorney of Becnel Law Firm, told School Board members that Superintendent Kevin George worked within standard procedure practiced over the past decade in working for a beneficial outcome through Klibert that did not include updating School Board members with the lawsuit’s settlement status.

“It goes to previous Board policy where the ability to negotiate settlements has always been delegated to the Superintendent and administration,” Klibert said. “Mr. George has not done anything that has not been a policy and custom followed for over a decade. There was no mechanism by which you would seek Board approval for individual settlements.”

School Board Member Gerald J. Keller said he would like to know more about the case, specifically why it entered the court system.

“As of (Thursday), the superintendent has not supplied me with any information on this case,” Keller told Board members. “I want to know why there was a settlement and why did we come up with $100,000.”

District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut, who said the settlement concern should have been on an agenda, raised similar concerns.

She said there is no policy that allows the superintendent or attorney to engage in settlement negotiation without Board approval because damages are taxpayer dollars, and “this Board is responsible fiscally and fiduciary to protect and limit the exposure of liability to the taxpayers.”

Dinvaut said Court minutes would reflect the lawsuit and agreement were against the School Board, not against George individually or in his position as superintendent.

“In fact, not to bring up another legal issue, but I also have some concerns about that representation because by Mr. George being sued individually, I don’t have any understanding or appreciation for why he did not have a separate attorney from the School Board,” Dinvaut said. “To receive legal representation pro bono on taxpayer dollars, I am also concerned about that.”

Klibert stressed to Board members that settlements are compromise agreements between parties.

“I just heard the District Attorney say the settlement was against the School Board, that doesn’t make legal sense,” according to Klibert. “The reason you have a compromise is both parties receive benefit. A settlement is a bilateral agreement. Both parties give; both parties take.”

Following Thursday’s School Board meeting, George said he was disappointed the District Attorney felt the issue was not handled correctly but contended he did nothing wrong.

“We did not lose a lawsuit,” George said. “It was settled before it got in front of a judge. The dollar figure that was thrown around at the Board meeting, that dollar amount was just the benefits that were due to the plaintiff based on his work contract — his sick time and his vacation days. The taxpayers did not lose anything because if he had not resigned, he would continue to work and that is the money he would have continued to receive. I do not have a problem with that settlement because the only thing I agreed to do was pay him the money he was due based on his sick time and vacation time.”


According to Klibert, Oubre was sent a letter approximately 180 days before his term expired explaining his contract may not be renewed. Oubre was returned to the position of a classroom teacher. Several months into the position, he filed a lawsuit alleging his notice of termination from January was improper.

“He was seeking to be returned to a director’s position for another two-year term,” Klibert said. “The exposure at that time was if the Board lost, you would have to pay back pay for those few months and you would have to return Mr. Oubre to a director’s position for two additional years.”

According to Dinvaut, the case was settled in favor of Oubre, who will receive a settlement in the amount of $100,000 from the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board.

“The first payment will be made immediately to Mr. Oubre, at which time he will retire from the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board,” Dinvaut said. “Upon Mr. Oubre’s retirement, he shall receive all benefits of the School Board retirement plan, and the second payment of $50,000 will be paid on Jan. 2, 2018.

“The one thing I can say is the School Board and the taxpayers are on the hook for $100,000 to Mr. Oubre as a result of violations that were committed. If we had not done anything that was exposing us to liability, why did we not take this to court and defend ourselves?”


Following discussion of Oubre’s lawsuit, School Board President Ali Burl made a motion to terminate the legal services contract the School Board has with the Becnel Law Firm.

The motion died when another Board member did not second it.

Burl followed with a successful motion instructing Klibert and the Becnel Law Firm to provide copies of all claims and litigation files to the District Attorney’s Office.

A subsequent Burl motion to seek requests for quotations from litigation attorneys or firms also failed.

Before leaving, School Board Member Russ Wise asked the Administration, Klibert and Dinvaut to formulate a procedure of alerting the School Board about pending litigation and settlement thresholds that warrant Board attention.


The agenda’s last item was a request from School Board Member Clarence Triche that School Board members consider and take action on removing Burl from his board president’s position.

Triche asked for the item to be tabled, which it was by a seven to four margin, meaning it can be brought off the table and considered again at future meetings.