Created By: Latisha Thomas on 03/30/2011 at 03:11 PM
Category: Ethics Rulings
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS
RE: In the Matter of Ruby Letard OPINION NO.: 2010-192
The Louisiana Board of Ethics (“the Board”) pursuant to the authority contained in LSA-R.S. 42:1141, conducted a confidential investigation concerning information that revealed that Ruby Letard, the Clerk of the Village of Tickfaw may have violated Section 1112B of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics by participating in the purchase of a Dodge Durango from the Village of Tickfaw, by her son-in-law, Robert Colon.
On the basis of information obtained during the investigation, and with the concurrence of Ruby Letard, the Board now makes the following essential:
I. Ruby Letard was the Clerk for the Village of Tickfaw during the year 2008.
FINDINGS OF FACT
2. On May 12th of 2008, the Village of Tickfaw Council approved a request, to advertise for public bid a 2000 Dodge Durango. The starting bid was set for $2,500.00.
3. On May 17th, 18th and 20th, the Village of Tickfaw advertised that it would accept sealed bids for the Dodge Durango through June 9th, 2008.
4. On June 4th 2008, Robert Colon, the son-in-law of Ruby Letard, submitted a sealed bid of $2,500.00 for the purchase of the Dodge Durango to the Village of Tickfaw.
5. On June 9th, 2008, the council opened the only sealed bid received. The bid was submitted by Robert Colon, to purchase the Dodge Durango for $2,500.00.
6. Ms. Letard wrote the Village of Tickfaw a check for $2,500.00 for the purchase of the Dodge Durango.
7. If called to testify, Ms. Letard would indicate that she wrote the check for convenience purposes, as Mr. Colon did not live in the Parish.
8. Subsequent to Ms. Letard paying the bid price for the Dodge Durango, it was titled and registered to Christopher Letard on June 20th, 2008. Christopher Letard is the step-son of Robert Colon.
9. If called to testify, Ms. Letard would indicate that she was not aware that her issuance of a check to the Village would amount to a violation of the Ethics Code.
10. If called to testify, Ms. Letard would indicate that she did not intend to violate the Ethics Code at any time during her employment with the Village of Tickfaw.
11. If called to testify, Ms. Letard would indicate that she sought the advice of her superiors in the Village of Tickfaw who indicated to her that it was permissible to write the check to the Village of Tickfaw.
II. At issue in this matter are Section 1112B(1) of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics. The relevant provision reads in pertinent part as follows:
§ 1112. Participation in certain transactions involving the governmental entity
(1) Any member of his immediate family.
B. No public servant, except as provided in R.S. 42:1120, shall participate in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which, to his actual knowledge, any of the following persons has a substantial economic interest:
The following terms are defined in Section 1102 of the Code and are relevant when analyzing the above Section:
(2)(a) “Agency” means a department, office, division, agency, commission, board, committee, or other organizational unit of a governmental entity.
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(13) "Immediate family" as the term relates to a public servant means his children, the spouses of his children, his brothers and their spouses, his sisters and their spouses, his parents, his spouse, and the parents of his spouse.
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(15) “Participate” means to take part in or to have or share the responsibility for action of a governmental entity or a proceeding, personally, as a public servant of the governmental entity, through approval, disapproval, decision, recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation, or the failure to act or perform a duty.
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(21) “Substantial economic interest” means an economic interest which is of greater benefit to the public servant or other person than to a general class or group of persons, except:
(a) The interest that the public servant has in his position, office, rank, salary, per diem, or other matter arising solely from his public employment or office.
(b) The interest that a person has as a member of the general public.
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(23) "Transaction involving the governmental entity" means any proceeding, application, submission, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, case, or other such particular matter which the public servant or former public servant of the governmental entity in question knows or should know:
Section 1112B(1) of the Code prohibits a public servant from participating in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which his immediate family member has a substantial economic interest. Because Ms. Letard wrote the check for her son-in-law to purchase the Dodge Durango from the Village of Tickfaw, she participated in the transaction involving the sale of the Dodge Durango to her son-in-law Mr. Colon. Mr. Colon is classified as a member of Ms. Letard’s immediate family in accordance with the definition in Section 1102 of the Code. Mr. Colon had an economic interest in the sale of the Durango, from the Village of Tickfaw, to his person, for the price of $2,500.00. Upon Ms. Letard’s participation in the awarding of and purchasing of the Durango from the Village of Tickfaw to Mr. Colon, she violated Section 1112B(1) of the Ethics Code.
(a) Is, or will be, the subject of action by the governmental entity.
(b) Is one to which the governmental entity is or will be a party.
(c) Is one in which the governmental entity has a direct interest. A transaction involving the agency of a governmental entity shall have the same meaning with respect to the agency.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics is authorized to impose a penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the Code. 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 by the imposition of a $500 civil penalty, upon Ms. Letard for violating Section 1112B(1) of the Ethics Code, of which the entire amount is to be suspended based upon her future compliance with the Ethics Code.
For the foregoing reasons:
DECREE AND ORDER
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Board finds as a matter of fact and as a conclusion of law that Ms. Ruby Letard violated Section 1112B(1) of the Code by virtue of her participation in her son-in-law’s purchase of a Dodge Durango, from the Village of Tickfaw, while she served as the Clerk for the Village of Tickfaw.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that a civil penalty of $500, be imposed upon Ms. Letard for violating Section1112B(1) of the Ethics Code, of which the entire amount is to be suspended based upon Ms. Letard’s future compliance with the Ethics Code.
By Order of the Board this 18th day of March 2011.
s/Frank P. Simoneaux s/James G. Boyer
Frank P. Simoneaux, Chairman James G. Boyer, Vice Chairman
s/Dr. Robert P. Bareikis Absent and did not participate
Dr. Robert P. Bareikis Rev. Gail E. Bowman
s/Dr. Louisi Leggio s/Gary G. Hymel
Dr. Louis Leggio Gary G. Hymel
s/Jean M. Ingrassia s/Dr. Cedric W. Lowrey
Jean M. Ingrassia Dr. Cedric W. Lowrey
s/M. Blake Monrose Absent and did not participate
M. Blake Monrose 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; (c) admits that her conduct, as described above, violated Section 1112B(1) of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics; (d) acknowledges the publication of this opinion; (e) agrees to comply with the conditions and orders set forth in this opinion; and, (f) agrees not to seek judicial review of the findings and actions taken in this opinion.