Port Arthur school district leader on hiatus while legal fees rise

Assistant superintendent Mark Porterie (center on dais) has had to fill in for m

Although Port Arthur Independent School District attorney Melody Chappell said Superintendent Johnny Brown is missed around the district, she refused to comment on why the $200,000-plus contract employee has been missing in action for over two weeks.

“I anticipate this matter will be resolved shortly,” Chappell said after a Nov. 13 meeting where the superintendent was conspicuously absent after more than two weeks of no-shows to the district administration office. “We are all missing Dr. Brown. He is available to the administration, and I think things are running smoothly.”

According to district assistant superintendent Mark Porterie, Brown has been out of the office since October and a return date has not been set.

“He’s taking care of something, but I’m not sure what it is,” Porterie said of his boss’s absence. Porterie has been taking over the duties of the superintendent while Brown is on hiatus.

Also in Brown’s absence, legal fees have mounted. Chappell’s firm and a California-based law firm have billed PAISD nearly $60,000 for litigation preparation over the past couple months. Included in the fees were thousands of dollars allotted to defending wrongful termination cases, canvassing the failed bond election, and research related to the superintendent’s job duties and responsibilities.

Brown did not answer calls made to his office and cell phone. Attorney Chappell offered no comment on the allegations made against the district superintendent claiming the threat of multiple sexual harassment cases is what’s keeping Brown from his school office.