Radio show erupts into argument between Orleans Parish School Board members

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Tensions between Orleans Parish School Board members Nolan Marshall Jr. and Ira Thomas erupted into an all-out argument on a talk radio show Monday morning.

Ira Thomas again called for Marshall’s resignation, and Marshall again accused Thomas of trying to funnel school board contracts to his allies.

The mudslinging comes as the board’s search for a new superintendent has stalled. Tuesday night, the board failed to reach consensus on two finalists. There hasn’t been a permanent superintendent in two years.

Thomas and community activist Pat Bryant, a frequent ally, were guests on WBOK-AM’s “The Good Morning Show,” hosted by former City Councilman Oliver Thomas and Charmel Gaulden. They criticized Marshall’s leadership as board president and called for him to resign the post.

About 20 minutes into the program, Marshall called in. He immediately criticized the station for not conducting a joint interview.

“I thought you were going to invite us all on together so that they wouldn’t be able to lie without me being there to refute it,” he said.

Marshall appeared alone on the show Thursday, which is when he accused Thomas of trying to push business to favored companies. Host Oliver Thomas said that Ira Thomas and Bryant wanted to respond without Marshall.

The conversation quickly turned combative as the two board members and Bryant talked over one another and shouted. Marshall, who is usually soft-spoken, was particularly combative, repeatedly calling Thomas a liar.

Last week, Thomas criticized Marshall because a company owned by Marshall’s half-siblings had sought a school construction subcontract worth up to $7.5 million.

State ethics law prohibits an agency overseen by a public official from entering into a contract with an immediate relative of the official. The Ethics Board considers half-siblings to be immediate relatives.

Marshall has said that he had no idea that the company co-owned by his half-siblings, Nolmar Construction, was up for the work. Nolmar is a subcontractor in Woodward Design+Build’s $51 million bid to build a new Edna Karr High School. School district staff have since rescinded their decision to give the contract to Woodward Design+Build.

After learning of the family ties, Marshall said he asked U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office to investigate.

That hasn’t satisfied Thomas. “This happened on Nolan’s watch. He’s responsible for this,” Thomas said.

Bryant also said that Marshall isn’t working to advance the school board’s goal of having 35 percent of business go to women- and minority-owned businesses.

Bryant made the same charge against Marshall last year, when Marshall approved a contract extension for Jacobs/CSRS, the general contractor overseeing the city’s school facilities master plan.

Marshall said the dispute between him and  Thomas stems from his refusal, when Thomas was president of the board, to do “whatever he wanted me to do.” When Marshall didn’t go along with Thomas’ wishes, Thomas and Bryant started their public campaign against him.

The two, Marshall said, are using the Nolmar subcontract “as red meat” to get him removed.

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