Walter Lee takes plea agreement, resigns from BESE

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MANSFIELD, La. (AP) — A member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education resigned Friday as part of a plea deal that ends a felony theft case against him.

Walter Lee, a former DeSoto Parish school superintendent, pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of a moveable. He was accused of personally benefiting from the return of a leased vehicle.

The Times reports ( ) that Lee was sentenced to a six-month suspended parish jail term, placed on unsupervised probation for six months and required to resign from his position on the 11-member board known as BESE.

The Secretary of State's Office received his one-sentence resignation letter Friday.

Judge Charles Adams also ordered Lee to pay the DeSoto Parish School Board $10,653.

On the board for 23 years, Lee is one of eight elected members of BESE, which sets state education policy for 69 public school districts and more than 700,000 students. Because Lee resigned with more than a year left on his term, the law requires Gov. Bobby Jindal to name a temporary replacement and set an election date for voters to choose someone to fill the seat.

The plea agreement ends a yearlong criminal investigation into questionable expense and reimbursement activities related to the last three years Lee spent as DeSoto Parish schools superintendent while dually serving on the education board.

Lee, who retired as DeSoto Parish schools superintendent in 2012, had been charged with felony theft, public contract fraud, malfeasance and misdemeanor theft before reaching the plea deal. He was accused of double-billing the school board and BESE for the same fuel and lodging costs and of personally benefiting from the return of a leased vehicle.

Those charges were dismissed with the plea agreement, which required him to resign.

The deal was a reversal of course from October, when Lee's lawyer Taylor Townsend said no plea talks were underway because Lee was innocent.

Despite Lee's admission of guilt, Townsend said Thursday that his client did not violate any criminal laws. The plea was in Lee's "best interest" and will allow him to "put this behind him and move on," he said.


Information from: The Times,


Information from: The Times,

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