School Board seat may be at risk

OPELOUSAS (AP) — A recent Louisiana Supreme Court ruling could open the door for the removal of St. Landry Parish School Board member Quincy Richard Sr. because of a 2004 felony conviction.

Richard, who is facing an unrelated federal bribery charge, was forced to step down from office after a 2004 plea to filing false records in an investigation of grade- and degree-buying at Southern University.

He regained the seat in a 2006 election and was re-elected in 2010.

The state constitution prohibits a convicted felon from running for office unless he has been granted a governor’s pardon or unless 15 years have passed since the completion of the sentence.

The state election code also sets a tight legal deadline to protest a candidate’s fitness for office: seven days after close of qualifying, the period in which candidates sign up to run for office.

No challenge was made to Richard in 2006 or 2010, but the state Supreme Court ruled in a similar case in January that the election code’s seven-day time limit does not always apply because it might limit the state’s ability to uphold the constitutional ban on felons holding office.

Richard, St. Landry Parish School Board President Harry Fruge and parish District Attorney Earl Taylor are all aware of the possible implications.

Taylor said he would investigate, but only if someone filed a formal complaint with his office.

“I don’t want to be out there leading the parade,” Taylor said.

Richard said the 2004 charge was expunged from his record and believed that cleared the way for him to run for office.

Richard’s 2004 plea to filing false public records came in a wide-ranging investigation into grade- and degree-buying at Southern University.

Richard’s wife, at his urging, paid a Southern University official $1,500 for a fake transcript indicating she had obtained a master’s degree needed for teacher’s certification.

The husband and wife were sentenced in state District Court in Baton Rouge to two years’ probation, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and ordered to resign their positions as School Board member and teacher.

The court record contains no information about the case because it has been expunged, meaning the public can no longer access details about it.

Richard is facing new charges.

A federal grand jury last October indicted Richard and fellow board member John Miller on bribery counts for allegedly asking superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere for $5,000 each last year in return for their votes to name him to the job.

Cassimere, who cooperated with federal agents, met Miller and Richard at the Quarters Restaurant and Casino in Opelousas on Sept. 24 in an exchange of cash that was videotaped and audiotaped by FBI agents, according to the court filings.

Miller and Richard have both pleaded not-guilty and remain on the board.

The pending federal charge cannot be considered as a factor for their removal because only a conviction can bar someone from holding elected office.

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