August 11, 2011
The Honorable Michael A. Ragusa
P. O. Box 35
Independence, LA 70443
Re: Board Docket No. 2011-967
Dear Mayor Ragusa:
The Louisiana Board of Ethics, at its July 15, 2011 meeting, considered your request for an advisory opinion regarding whether the son of the Town of Independence Fire Chief may be employed in the fire department. You stated that Dennis Crocker was appointed to Fire Chief by the Town of Independence Board of Aldermen on July 1, 2008. Chief Crocker's main duties include scheduling, general administrative duties, ensuring a good fire rating, and most importantly, public protection. His duties do not include the hiring, firing, or giving promotions. Such personnel issues are by recommendation of the mayor and subject to final vote by the board of aldermen.
You further stated that Chief Crocker's son, Andrew Crocker, is currently attending LSU Fire School. You note the long that his family has a long history of fireman, and how valuable an asset you believe Andrew Crocker would be to the Town of Independence.
The Board concluded, and instructed me to inform you that the Code of Governmental Ethics would prohibit Chief Crocker's son from being employed in the Independence Fire Department. Section 1119A of the Code states that no member of the immediate family of an agency head shall be employed in his agency. Section 1102(2)(a) defines "agency" as the department, office, division, agency, commission, board or committee, or other organizational unit of a governmental entity. Section 1102(3) of the Code defines an “agency head” as the chief executive or administrative officer of an agency.
The agency in this matter is the Independence Fire Department. As chief of that department, Chief Crocker is an agency head. The Board has consistently held that fire chiefs are agency heads. The fact that hiring, firing, and promotions are within the purview of the mayor and the board of aldermen does not negate the fact that the fire chief is the chief administrative and/or executive officer of the fire department.
This advisory opinion is based solely on the facts as set forth herein. Changes to the facts presented
may result in a different application of the provisions of the Code of Ethics. The Board issues no opinion as to past conduct or laws other than Code of Governmental Ethics. If you have any questions, please contact me at (225) 219-5600 or (800) 842-6630.
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS
Deidra L. Godfrey
For the Board
11Copies of advisory opinions stating that fire chiefs are agency heads are enclosed for your review.