An Alexandria judge heard testimony last week in a case challenging the recent election of a new Louisiana College president.
An Alexandria judge heard testimony last week in a
case challenging the recent election of a new Louisiana College
Ninth Judicial District Judge Dexter Ryland spent an
entire day receiving testimony from various witnesses regarding the
process followed in the recent election of Joe Aguillard as school
He then scheduled additional arguments in the case for an upcoming date.
Aguillard was elected on January 17 on a vote of
17-13 as president of the Louisiana Baptist school. However, a suit
quickly was filed contesting the process followed in that election.
The saga dates back to last March, when then-LC
President Rory Lee announced his retirement. A search committee was
formed according to the procedure established by school bylaws.
However, that search committee worked under constant
criticism from some, who were supporting Aguillard as president and who
felt he would not receive a fair hearing from the search committee.
The committee eventually nominated Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary educator Malcolm Yarnell as president –
and he was elected on a divided vote.
Yarnell attended several college events as the
school’s incoming president – but contract negotiations between him and
the board hit a snag. Just days after speaking at the annual Louisiana
Baptist Convention, Yarnell withdrew his name from consideration as
At their December meeting, then, college trustees
re-launched the search process – this time, with a blended search
committee that included the original members and new trustee leaders as
Board members also directed the search committee to consider Aguillard
first as a presidential nominee and bring his name to the board for
All but one of the original search committee members
protested the moves, saying they went outside established procedure.
They said school bylaws clearly state the search committee is to remain
in place until the presidential office has been “filled.”
Since Yarnell never signed a contract, the office
never was filled, the original search committee members argued.
However, other trustees said that since Yarnell received compensation
for attending school events, it was filled, meaning the original search
committee no longer was in place.
All but two of the original search committee members
then chose not to be involved with the blended committee. The remaining
members of that committee quickly interviewed and nominated Aguillard.
He then was elected during a called board meeting. Then-interim
President John Traylor also was nominated for the position during the
The subsequent suit challenges the process followed by trustees.
During the recent hearing, Ryland focused on several
key issues related to the case and to challenges against it.
In one, he must whether those bringing the suit have standing to do so.
Plaintiffs in the case include several alumni and friends of Louisiana
College, as well as one retired faculty member who served on the
original presidential search committee.
On a second issue, Ryland is being asked to
determine if the court has jurisdiction to consider the matter – or if
such consideration would improperly violate the separation of church
Finally, Ryland is being asked to rule as to whether
Aguillard was elected according to established procedure. Much of the
recent testimony focused on this question.
When that testimony extended past 5 p.m., Ryland
ended for the day, scheduled closing arguments from opposing attorneys
for March 17.