CN 1995-245
Created By: on 07/08/1997 at 05:02 PM
Category: Ethics Rulings
Caption:


LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS


DATE: May 15, 1997 OPINION NO.: CN 95-245

RE: In the matter of Wayne Westcott, member of the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission

The Board of Ethics (the "Board"), both directly and initially through its predecessor, the Commission on Ethics for Public Employees, conducted an investigation into allegations that Wayne Westcott ("Westcott"), former member of the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission, may have violated provisions of the Code of Governmental Ethics as well as an earlier order of the Commission on Ethics for Public Employees by submitting applications to the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission either directly or through representatives and by continuing to perform compensated services for persons submitting applications to the Water and Sewer Commission.

Rather than exploring this issue at a public hearing called for that purpose, the Board, with the consent of Westcott, makes the following essential:
I.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1.
On October 20, 1994, the Commission on Ethics for Public Employees conducted a public hearing in Docket No. 94-055 to explore charges against Wayne Westcott and Wayne Westcott Builders, Inc. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission ruled that both Westcott and Westcott Builders, Inc. violated the Code of Governmental Ethics. A copy of the Commission's written opinion, issued November 29, 1994, is attached as Exhibit A. The Commission ordered that Wayne Westcott either resign his position of the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission or discontinue submitting applications to the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission and discontinue providing compensated services to those who submit applications to the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission.
2.
By correspondence dated March 19, 1995, Wayne Westcott informed the Commission that it was his intent to resign from the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission effective June 28, 1995. The Commission responded to this correspondence by letter of April 4, 1995 and informed Westcott that the Commission had no objection to the postponement of Westcott's resignation as long as no violations occurred in the interim.
3.
Wayne Westcott forwarded a copy of his resignation letter to the Commission. The resignation letter was dated June 28, 1995; however, Westcott stated in his letter that he intended to continue to serve until his replacement was appointed.
4.
The Commission informed Westcott by a letter of August 31, 1995 that the Commission ordered his resignation to be effective as of June 28, 1995.
5.
At its meeting of September 19, 1995, the St. Bernard Water District No. 1 appointed a replacement for Westcott.
6.
Applications for new service were submitted for properties located at 9017 and 9019 Gladiator on February 22, 1995 and signed by Jennifer Brubaker, Westcott's stepdaughter. If called to testify, Westcott would state that he is the owner of these properties, although he did not and does not reside there.
7.
Applications for new service were submitted for properties located at 9021 and 9023 Gladiator on March 15, 1995 and signed by Cecelia Westcott, Westcott's mother. If called to testify, Westcott would state that he is the owner of these properties, although he did not and does not reside there.
8.
An application for new service was submitted for property located at 2716 Maureen Lane on March 20, 1995 and signed by Mary Corley, Westcott's mother-in-law. If called to testify, Westcott would state that he built this property for his mother-in-law to buy and that she was applying for the service for her own home. He would further state that due to financial difficulties, his mother-in-law never acquired or lived in the property.
9.
An application for new service was submitted for property located at 3000 Farmsite Road, Poydras, Louisiana on May 8, 1995 and was signed by Warren Cahill. If called to testify, Westcott would state that he built the home on this property pursuant to a contract which he had with the Federal Government, but that Warren Cahill was the homeowner.
10.
An application for new service was submitted for property located at 3008 Farmsite Road, Poydras, Louisiana on May 15, 1995 and was signed by Nyree Hollomon. If called to testify, Westcott would state that he built the home on this property pursuant to a contract which he had with the Federal Government, but that Nyree Hollomon was the homeowner.
11.
An application for new service was submitted for property located at 3625 Palmisano Boulevard on May 19, 1995 and was signed by Cathie Westcott, Westcott's wife. If called to testify, Westcott would state that the home located on this property is his personal residence.
12.
An application for new service was submitted for property located at 2720 Maureen Lane on September 12, 1995 and was signed by Jennifer Brubaker, Westcott's stepdaughter. If called to testify, Westcott would state that he had already received word from the Commission that his resignation was effective June 28, 1995 and that he considered himself off the board by September 12, 1995.
13.
An application for new service was submitted for property located at 3805 Karen Drive, Chalmette on September 12, 1995 and was signed by Stephen Hotard. If called to testify, Westcott would state that he had already received word from the Commission that his resignation was effective June 28, 1995 and that he considered himself off the board by September 12, 1995.
II.
PRINCIPLES OF LAW
The operational provisions of the Code of Governmental Ethics are Sections 1111C(2)(d), 1111E, 1112B(2) and (3) and 1113B. Section 1111C(2)(d) provides in pertinent part:

Section 1115(A)(1) and (B) must also be examined. Those sections provide:

Section 1111E provides as follows:

Sections 1112B(2) and (3) state:

Finally, Section 1113B states:
III.
OPINION
It is the opinion and conclusion of the Board that Westcott violated both the Code of Governmental Ethics and the order of the Commission on Ethics for Public Employees rendered in Opinion No. 94-055. The Commission made it clear to Westcott that he was not to submit applications to the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission while he remained a member of that Commission. Additionally, Westcott was instructed not to provide compensated services to any person who submitted an application to the Water and Sewer Commission while he remained a member of that Commission.

The Commission was generous in its offer to Westcott to choose between resigning and discontinuing the submission of applications either directly or indirectly. However, it appears that Westcott tried to remain on the Commission while at the same time submitted several applications to the Commission.

The Board acknowledges that five of the applications submitted involved property owned by Westcott himself. The Board also acknowledges that members of a board such as the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission are not prohibited from submitting the same application as others must to obtain services on their personal property. The Board also recognizes that members of the immediate family of appointed members of boards and commissions also have a right to submit applications for their personal property. Certainly, the Code was not designed to deny services such as water and sewerage to board members or their families when the services involved are the same necessary services offered to all others and at the same rate and manner as provided others.

The two applications submitted on September 12, 1997 were after Westcott received notice that his resignation was to be effective June 28, 1997.

However, there appears to be no allowance for the applications submitted by Warren Cahill and Nyree Hollomon on May 8 and May 15, 1997 respectively. Westcott was the builder on the homes and was clearly involved in the approval of the services by the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission. These two applications violate not only the Code of Governmental Ethics, but are also contrary to the order of the Commission on Ethics for Public Employees in Opinion No. 94-055.

The Board is authorized to impose substantial economic penalties on persons found in violation of the Code. The Board notes that Westcott is no longer a public servant and has not been a public servant since his resignation from the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission in September of 1995. There is also no evidence that either Westcott or the applicants received any additional benefit from his concurrent service on the Water and Sewer Commission. However, at least the two applications submitted above appear to have been in direct violation of specific instructions given to Westcott following his last public hearing.

Accordingly, the Board imposes a fine of $2,000 on Westcott for his violations of the Code. Additionally, the Board informs Westcott, that Section 1121A of the Code provides that for a period of two years following the termination of his service on the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission, he is prohibited from assisting any person, for compensation, in any transaction involving the Water and Sewer Commission. From his resignation to November of 1996, Mr. Westcott may have continued to submit applications to the Water and Sewer Commission in possible violation of this provision; however, the Board concludes that the resolution of this matter in general, and the payment of a $2,000 fine in particular, is sufficient under the circumstances to resolve not only those violations which occurred during his tenure as a public servant but those post-employment concerns as well. Further, as of November of 1996 the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission was abolished thereby eliminating any potential ongoing or future violations of this section by Mr. Westcott.
IV.
DECREE
For the foregoing reasons:
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Board of Ethics finds as a matter of fact and as a conclusion of law that Wayne Westcott violated Sections 1111C(2)(d), 1112B(2) and (3) and 1113B of the Code of Governmental Ethics by providing services to two individuals who applied for new services with the St. Bernard Water and Sewer Commission at a time when he served on that Commission.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that a fine of $2,000 is imposed on Wayne Westcott and accordingly, Wayne Westcott is ordered and commanded to pay to the Treasury of the State of Louisiana the full sum of $2,000.

s/ Robert L. Roland s/ T. O. Perry, Jr.
Robert L. Roland, Chairman T.O. Perry, Jr., Member

s/ Harry Blumenthal, Jr. s/ Ronald L. Sawyer
Harry Blumenthal, Jr., Vice-Chairman Ronald L. Sawyer, Member

s/ Robert P. Bareikis s/ Nathan J. Thornton, Jr.
Dr. Robert P. Bareikis, Member Nathan J. Thornton, Jr., Member

s/ E. L. Guidry, Jr. Absent and did not participate
Judge E.L. Guidry, Jr., Member Edwin O. Ware, Member

Absent and did not participate s/ Carole Cotton Winn
Justice Revius O. Ortique, Jr., Member Rev. Carole Cotton Winn, Member

s/ Virgil Orr
Dr. Virgil Orr, Member



CONSENT

The undersigned (a) stipulates to the facts found by the Board; (b) waives the procedural requirements contained in Section 1141 of the Code; (c) admits that the conduct, as described above, violated the Code of Governmental Ethics, (d) consents to the publication of this opinion; (e) agrees not to seek judicial review of the findings and actions taken in this opinion.

...........................