Legal problem haunts head of School Board's DBE program

Audience members audit a recent Orleans Parish School Board committee meeting. photo: The Lens/Danielle Bell

The executive director of the Orleans Parish School Board’s disadvantaged business program pleaded guilty in 2000 to a count of misdemeanor theft, a lesser charge than the five felony counts of insurance fraud he was charged with initially.

Armer Bright, 48, didn’t disclose his criminal record when he applied for the director position, school board officials said Thursday following a committee meeting.

Bright, who worked as a law clerk, was sentenced to six months in prison, later reduced to two years on probation and a fine of close to $7,000. He was also prohibited from seeking readmission to the bar for at least two years.

A 2003 opinion from the Louisiana Supreme Court spells out the charges. The court denied Bright’s request for readmission to the bar, citing his refusal to participate in a court-recommended “mentor program.”

Orleans Parish Schools Superintendent Stan Smith said Thursday that Bright did not disclose his legal problem to the committee that vetted him as a candidate to run the system’s disadvantaged business program.

“That information was not presented to the committee that did the evaluation and the interviews,” said Smith, who served on the committee. “There were a number of candidates, and that was not part of any information that was provided to us.”

State law forbids hiring school employees who have pleaded guilty to murders, rapes, assaults, or a host of sexual crimes. After fraud charges were dropped, Bright pleaded guilty of simple theft. That means the School Board was legally able to hire him. But Smith said criminal issues of any kind should be considered in the hiring process.

Now that the administration knows about Bright’s record, Smith said a decision will have to be made on whether it affects his employment.

“I have not made a determination on that. I need a little more investigation into the actual circumstances, and due process needs to be given,” he said.

The Lens spoke with Bright but he refused to be quoted for the article.

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