Created By: Latisha Thomas on 07/21/2011 at 02:10 PM
Category: Ethics Rulings
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS
DATE: OPINION NO: 2010-331
RE: In the matter of BDepew Enterprises LLC, D/B/A Rural Broadcasting Services
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 indicating that BDepew Enterprises LLC, D/B/A Rural Broadcasting Services (RBS) may have violated Section 1117 of the Code of Governmental Ethics (LSA-R.S. 42:1117 (the “Code”) in connection with RBS paying West Feliciana Parish President Kenneth Dawson compensation when Mr. Dawson was prohibited from receipt of the compensation by the Code of Governmental Ethics.
On the basis of information obtained by the Board during the course of the investigation, and with the concurrence of RBS, the Board now makes the following essential:
I. Kenneth Dawson has been President of West Feliciana Parish since January of 2008.
FINDINGS OF FACT
2. BDepew Enterprises LLC, D/B/A Rural Broadcasting Services (RBS) is a rural broadband based television network that provides national and regional news and events programming to the parishes of West Feliciana, East Feliciana and Pointe Coupee. In January of 2009, RBS began billing West Feliciana Parish (Parish) for half the cost of services provided to the West Feliciana Parish Community Development Foundation (Foundation) by RBS. The Foundation is a non-profit corporation created by the Parish to advise and assist companies and organizations to start, expand or relocate business activities to the Parish.
From January of 2009 until January of 2010, West Feliciana Parish paid RBS $1,700 monthly for the provision of television broadcasting services to the Foundation.
4. In November of 2009, Mr. Dawson verbally contracted with RBS to provide consulting services in television broadband infrastructure deployment. From November of 2009 through January of 2010, Mr. Dawson earned approximately $12,000 for services provided to RBS.
5. If called to testify representatives of RBS would state that it believed that it was in compliance with Section 1117 of the Code and that it relied on a verbal interpretation of the Code which reliance led to the Board's finding of a violation.
II. At issue in this case is Sections 1111C(2)(d) and 1117of the Code of Governmental Ethics. Section 1111C(2)(d)of the Code prohibits a public servant from receiving compensation from a person who has a contractual or any other business or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency. Section 1117 of the Code prohibits a person from paying a public servant any thing of economic value when the public servant would be prohibited by the Code of governmental Ethics from receipt of the thing of economic value.
Sections 1111C(2)(d) provides in pertinent part:
§ 1111C(2)(d). Payments for Nonpublic Service
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 anything of economic value for or in consideration of services rendered, or to be rendered, to or for any person during his public service unless the services are:
(d) neither performed for nor compensated by any person from whom such public person would be prohibited by R.S. 42:1115A(1).
§ 1115. Gifts
A. No public servant shall solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, anything 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 relationship with the public servant’s agency.
§ 1117. Illegal Payments
No Public servant or other person shall give, pay, loan, transfer, or deliver or offer to give, pay, loan, transfer, or deliver, directly or indirectly, to any public servant or other person any thing of economic value which such public servant or other person would be prohibited from receiving by any provision of this Part.
III. It is the opinion of the Board that RBS violated Section 1117 of the Code of Ethics. Section 1117 of the Code prohibits a person from paying a public servant anything of economic value when the Code otherwise prohibits the payment. Section 1102 (16) of the Code defines a person as an individual or legal entity other than a governmental entity or an agency thereof.
As President of West Feliciana Parish, Kenneth Dawson is a public servant. RBS had a business relationship with West Feliciana Parish whereby West Feliciana Parish paid RBS for the provision of broadcasting services to the Foundation. Pursuant to Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code, Mr. Dawson, as President of the Parish, was prohibited from receiving anything of economic value from RBS while RBS had a business relationship with West Feliciana. As such, Section 1117 of the Code prohibited RBS from paying Mr. Dawson any compensation when Mr Dawson was prohibited from receipt of the payment by Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code. In violation of Section 1117 of the Code, RBS paid Mr. Dawson $12,000 for the time period of November 2009 until January of 2010, a time period in which RBS had a business relationship with West Feliciana Parish.
For a violation of the Code of Governmental Ethics, the Louisiana Board of Ethics is authorized by statute to recover an amount equal to the economic advantage with an additional penalty not to exceed one half of the amount of the economic advantage. 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 RBS, violated Section 1117 of the Code of Governmental Ethics by paying Kenneth Dawson, West Feliciana Parish President, compensation when Mr. Dawson was prohibited from receipt of the compensation by the Code of Governmental Ethics.
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.
The undersigned (a) stipulates to the facts found by the Board; (b) waives the procedural requirements contained in Section 1141 of the Code; admits that its conduct, as described above, violated Section 1.11.7 of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics; (d) consents to the publication of this opinion; (e) agrees to comply with the conditions and orders set forth in this opinion; and, (1) agrees not to seek judicial review of the findings and actions taken in this opinion.
s/William Depew, BDepew
William Depew, owner BDepew Enterprises LLC, D/B/A Rural Broadcasting Services
20 May 2011