Created By: Latisha Thomas on 07/20/2011 at 02:22 PM
Category: Ethics Rulings
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS
DATE: OPINION NO: 2010-399
RE: In the matter of Rica Trigs
The Louisiana Board of Ethics (the “Board”) pursuant to the authority contained in LSA-R.S. 42:1141, conducted a private investigation concerning information received which indicated that Rica Trigs, Chief Operating Officer for the New Orleans Public Library (Library), may have violated Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code of Governmental Ethics (LSA-R.S. 42:111C(2)(d)) (the “Code”) in connection with Ms. Trigs’ acceptance of compensation from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation (Foundation) at a time when the Foundation had a business relationship with the Library. On the basis of information obtained by the Board during the course of the investigation, and with the concurrence of Rica Trigs, the Board now makes the following essential:
I. The Library was created by ordinance as a stand -alone entity that is part of city government, but has its own governing board.
FINDINGS OF FACT
2. The Foundation is a private, non - profit corporation organized for the purpose of receiving donations, property or monies generated through private fundraising efforts for the benefit of the Library. The Foundation also acts as a conduit for grants whose proceeds are issued to the Foundation to support the Library system. The Foundation’s operations and activities are not regulated by the Library.
3. The Foundation is governed by a board of trustees composed of the members of the Library Board of Directors, several community leaders, and the Library Director ex officio. Rica Trigs has never been a board member for the Foundation or the Library.
4. Rica Trigs has been employed with the Library since January, 1998.
5. At its March, 2008 meeting, the Library Board approved Rica Trigs as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Library. Immediately after approval, the Library Board contacted the Chief Administrative Officer's (CAO) office for approval of the title change and pay raise. The CAO was concerned that some of the COO's duties were traditionally duties assigned to the Library Director per the City Charter so the pay increase was not approved immediately.
6. The Library Board voted to request that the Foundation supplement Ms. Trigs' salary while her pay increase was pending with the City.
7. At the Library Board’s June 2008 meeting, Rica Trigs signed a document titled “Clearly Defined Areas of Responsibility”. By signing the document Ms. Rigs acknowledged her duties and responsibilities as the COO of the Library. The responsibilities listed in the document did not include duties with the Foundation.
8. Ms. Trigs performed services for the Foundation that were separate and distinct from her duties as COO of the Library. These duties included communicating with the Foundation's attorneys on legal matters, special event planning, managing marketing materials and merchandise, general office work when Foundation employees were not available and providing general direction to the Foundation.
9. In September 2009, Ms Trigs’ salary was approved by the CAO. Ms. Trigs discontinued her work with the Foundation, and the Foundation hired an executive director. Ms. Trigs served as COO of the Library from March, 2008 until February 4, 2011.
10. Ms. Trigs received $60,219.60 for work performed for the Foundation between June 2008 and September 2009. As COO for the Library, Ms. Trigs received $131,138.00 for the period of June 2008 until September 2009.
APPLICABLE LAW At issue in this case is Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code of Governmental Ethics. Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code prohibits a public servant from accepting anything of economic value from a person who has a business, contractual, or financial relationship with the agency of the public servant.
Sections 1111C(2)(d) provides in pertinent part:
§ 1111. Payment from nonpublic sources
C.(2) No public servant and no legal entity in which the public servant exercises control or owns an interest in excess of twenty-five percent, shall receive any thing of economic value for or in consideration of services rendered, or to be rendered, to or for any person during his public service unless such services are
§ 1115. Gifts
(d) Neither performed for nor compensated by any person from whom such public servant would be prohibited by R.S. 1115(A)(1) or (B) from receiving a gift.
A. No public servant shall solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any thing of economic value as a gift or gratuity from any person or from any officer, director, agent, or employee of such person, if such public servant knows or reasonably should know that such person:
B. No public servant shall solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any thing of economic value as a gift or gratuity from any person or from any officer, director, agent, or employee of such person, if such public servant knows or reasonably should know that such person:
(1) Has or is seeking to obtain a contractual or other business or financial relationships with the public servant’s agency,
(1) Conducts operations or activities which are regulated by the public servant’s agency.
§ 1102. Definitions
(16) “Person” means an individual or legal entity other than a governmental entity or an agency thereof.
III. It is the opinion of the Board that Rica Trigs violated Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code of Ethics. Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code prohibits a public servant from accepting any thing of economic value from a person who has a contractual, or financial relationship with the agency of the public servant. Section 1102 defines a person an individual or legal entity other than a governmental entity or an agency thereof.
Rica Trigs as the COO of the Library is a public servant. The Foundation as a private non-profit organization is a person. The Library and the Foundation have a business relationship whereby the Foundation receives donations, property and monies generated through private fund-raising efforts for the benefit of the Library. As such, Ms. Trigs is prohibited from accepting anything of economic value from the Foundation while the business relationship exist between the Library and the Foundation. While serving as COO of the Library and in violation of Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code, Ms. Trigs received more than $60,000 from the Foundation for services rendered to the Foundation.
For a violation of the Code of Governmental Ethics, the Louisiana Board of Ethics is authorized by statute to remove, suspend, order a reduction in pay, or demotion of the public employee, or impose a fine of not more than $10,000 or both. In this particular situation, given the facts outlined above, it is the conclusion of the Board that the interest of the public would be served without the imposition of a fine.
IV. For the foregoing reasons:
DECREE AND ORDER
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED the Board finds as a matter of fact and as a conclusion of law that Rica Trigs, as COO for the New Orleans Public Library, violated Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code of Governmental Ethics by accepting compensation from the Foundation at a time when the Foundation had a business relationship with the Library.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that a fine of $2000.00, payable to the Treasurer of the State of Louisiana be and is hereby imposed upon Rica Trigs for violating the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics.
By Order of the Board this 15th day of July 2011.
s/Frank P. Simoneaux s/Blake Monrose
Frank P. Simoneaux, Chairman Blake Monrose, Vice Chairman
s/Terry Backhus s/Julie E. Blewer
Terry D. Backhus Julie E. Blewer
s/Reverend Gail E. Bowman s/Gary G. Hymel
Reverend Gail Bowman Gary G. Hymel
s/Jean M. Ingrassia s/Dr. Cedric W. Lowrey
Jean M. Ingrassia Dr. Cedric W. Lowrey
s/Dr. Louis Leggio Absent and did not participate.
Dr. Louis W. Leggio Scott D. Schneider
s/David Grove Stafford, Jr.
David Grove Stafford, Jr.
Rica Triggs, Former COO Of New Orleans Public Library