February 24, 1997
Mr. Raphael Fontenot
908 Center Street
Vinton, LA 70668
RE: Ethics Commission Docket No. 96-301
Dear Mr. Fontenot:
The Louisiana Board of Ethics, through its predecessor, the Commission on Ethics for Public Employees (the "Commission"), after conducting a confidential fact-finding, believes you violated Sections 1112 and 1113 of the Code of Governmental Ethics. The information obtained by the Board during the course of the fact-finding suggests the following:
You have served as a member of the Vinton Housing Authority for approximately ten years. You also own 52% of a grocery/hardware store in Vinton called Augustine's which has been doing business in Vinton for the last thirty years. The other 48% of Augustine's is shared between your wife and son.
Over the last four years, Augustine's has sold goods to the Vinton Housing Authority totaling $4,507.15. However, in February of 1996, amidst questioning of the purchases from a member of the community, you requested an advisory opinion in Commission Docket No. 96-076. The Commission issued an advisory opinion stating that purchases by the Housing Authority from a store owned by a board member are prohibited by Section 1113 of the Code. Since that opinion was rendered, no purchases have been made by the Housing Authority from Augustine's.
At its June 17, 1996 meeting, the Housing Authority Board authorized you to obtain telephone quotations on a number of items to be sold by the Board in order to determine their value. The same day you obtained quotes of $350 and $500 for a tractor and mower together, your son-in-law purchased the tractor and mower for $500. As per Housing Authority by-laws, since the amount of the purchase was less than $1,000, no public advertisement was required.
Section 1113B of the Code prohibits a member of an appointed commission, his immediate family members, and any legal entity in which either of them have a substantial economic interest from bidding on, entering into, or being in any way interested in any transaction under the supervision or jurisdiction of the commission.
Further, Section 1112 of the Code prohibits a member of a commission from participating in any transaction in which he, his immediate family members, or a company of which the member owns a portion has an economic interest. Section 1112 does not allow the commission member to use recusal from such participation. In fact, an appointed member of a commission participates, by law, in all transactions before the commission or its staff. The Board notes that you requested an advisory opinion and complied with the issued opinion as soon as the purchases were questioned. Nonetheless, Augustine's entered into prohibited transactions with the Housing Authority, and you participated in those transactions as a member of the Housing Authority Board.
The Board finds that all of the transactions discussed above were in violation of the Code of Governmental Ethics; however, the Board also concludes that the fundamental policies of the Code will be furthered by the publishing of this acknowledgment of violations. No monetary penalty is imposed.
By order of the Louisiana Board of Ethics, the successor body to the Commission, this 20th day of March , 1997.
s/ Robert L. Roland s/ Harry Blumenthal, Jr.
Robert L. Roland, Chairman Harry Blumenthal, Jr., Vice-Chairman
s/ Robert P. Bareikis s/ Virgil Orr
Dr. Robert P. Bareikis, Member Dr. Virgil Orr, Member
Absent and did not participate s/ T.O. Perry
Justice Revius O. Ortique, Jr., Member T.O. Perry, Member
s/ Ronald L. Sawyer s/ Edwin O. Ware, III
Ronald L. Sawyer, Member Edwin O. Ware, III, Member
s/ Carole Cotton Winn s/ E. L. Guidry, Jr.
Rev. Carole Cotton Winn Judge E.L. Guidry, Jr., Member
Absent and did not participate
Nathan J. Thornton, Jr., Member