Created By: Tobie Ronkartz on 06/29/1998 at 09:00 AM
| CN 1994-277|
Category: Ethics Rulings
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS
DATE: June 18, 1998 OPINION NO.: CN 94-277
RE: In the matter of A. Delmar Walker
The Louisiana Board of Ethics (the “Board”), pursuant to the provisions of Section 1141 of the Code of Governmental Ethics (the “Code”), conducted an investigation into information received indicating that a violation of Section 1115B of the Code may have occurred by virtue of A. Delmar Walker, an employee of the Department of Health and Hospitals (“DHH”), soliciting and/or accepting payments and/or loans from persons who were regulated by Walker’s unit of DHH and who had substantial economic interests which Mr. Walker could affect by the way he performed his duties as a non-emergency medical transportation vehicle inspector. On the basis of the information obtained during the course of the investigation and with the consent of A. Delmar Walker, the Board now makes the following essential:
I. From 1989 until late 1994, A. Delmar Walker was employed by the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Program within the Bureau of Health Services Financing at DHH as a Health and Human Services Planner 2, whose job duties included inspecting non-emergency transportation vehicles and the offices of non-emergency transportation service providers. A. Delmar Walker resided in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
FINDINGS OF FACT
2. In the spring of 1994, DHH proposed an emergency rule which would have the effect of substantially reducing the allowable reimbursement of non-emergency medical transportation (“NEMT”) providers. This rule went into effect on July 1, 1994.
3. Several NEMT providers met and discussed the possibility of seeking relief against the proposed emergency rule by legal action, since they felt that it would be impossible for them to work under the restrictions and reduced rates proposed in the emergency rule.
4. The NEMT providers agreed that contributions to fund the cost of the legal action would be sent to Charles E. Roemer, II, who would attempt to engage Robert L. “Buck” Kleinpeter, an attorney in Baton Rouge, to represent the NEMT providers in a legal action. Mr. Roemer owned Southern Medical Transportation, II, Inc., a NEMT provider, and he had an office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
5. A. Delmar Walker received several checks from some NEMT providers made payable to Buck Kleinpeter as advances to be applied on the costs and attorneys’ fees to be incurred in filing and prosecuting the anticipated suit. Mr. Walker was asked to deliver the checks to Mr. Roemer which he did. Most of the checks were received by Mr. Roemer from sources other than Mr. Walker. Mr. Walker functioned solely as a courier for the checks. Some of the providers who made contributions to the legal fund had vehicles which were inspected by Mr. Walker.
6. According to an affidavit executed by Charles E. Roemer, II, to the best of Mr. Roemer’s knowledge, Mr. Walker did not solicit NEMT providers to join in the proposed suit or solicit contributions from NEMT providers for the legal fund.
7. Mr. Kleinpeter declined to represent the NEMT providers in connection -with their proposed suit and, as a result, none of the checks made payable to Mr. Kleinpeter were ever cashed or even delivered to Mr. Kleinpeter. According to an Affidavit executed by Mr. Kleinpeter, he never had any discussions with Mr. Walker with respect to the engagement of his (Mr. Kleinpeter’s) services by any NEMT providers.
8. Several of the NEMT providers did in fact file a suit on or about June 30, 1994, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, Docket No. 94-832-B-M2, to enjoin the enforcement of the emergency rule. Mr. Walker was not a party to that suit and did not make any contribution toward the costs and expenses of that suit. See Affidavit of Steven E. Adams dated August 25, 1997.
9. The Board has no evidence suggesting that A. Delmar Walker received any consideration or anything of value for delivering the legal fund checks to Mr. Roemer, other than an accommodation to the interested NEMT providers. Mr. Walker did not personally contribute to the legal fund and was not to be a plaintiff in any suit filed by Mr. Kleinpeter.
10. The Board has no evidence suggesting that any of the NEMT providers felt obliged to contribute to the legal fund or that any of the NEMT providers who did contribute to the legal fund expected to receive any benefit in the way of reduced standards of inspections.
11. A. Delmar Walker inspected the NEMT vehicles used by Life Care Transportation and Life Care Emergency (“Life Care”), which are owned by Mr. and Mrs. John E. Holston.
12. On April 13, 1994, Mr. and Mrs. Holston wire transferred One Thousand Ten and No/100 Dollars ($1,010.00) to the account of Dianne R. Rowsey at the American South Bank in Mobile, Alabama. Ms. Rowsey lived in Mobile, Alabama. Mr. Walker was acquainted with Ms. Rowsey and had dated Ms. Rowsey. The Holstons were also acquainted with Ms. Rowsey.
13. On April 13, 1994, A. Delmar Walker signed a promissory note payable to John E. Holston in the amount of One Thousand Fifteen and No/100 Dollars ($1,015.00).
14. According to an affidavit by Mr. and Mrs. Holston in July of 1997, the loan was a personal loan made to Dianne R. Rowsey who has since re-paid the loan in full.
15. The Board has no evidence suggesting that Mr. and Mrs. Holston felt compelled to make the loan or expected to receive any benefits with respect to the inspection of the NEMT vehicles owned by their company or that A. Delmar Walker in fact compromised his inspection of the vehicles.
16. A. Delmar Walker inspected the non-emergency medical transportation vehicles used by Verdun Transportation, Inc. (“Verdun”), which is owned and operated by Ronald Picou.
17. According to an affidavit executed by Ronald Picou, A. Delmar Walker came to the office of Verdun Transportation, Inc., and asked Mr. Picou for personal loans to cover his rent and telephone bills. Mr. Walker and Mr. Picou, and their respective families, had been personal friends for many years before Mr. Walker was ever employed by DHH. Mr. Walker frequently gave the Picous gifts of fresh fruit and vegetables.
18. Between April 20, 1993, and August 13, 1993, Mr. Picou gave Mr. Walker three (3) checks totaling Two Thousand Two Hundred And No/100 Dollars ($2,200.00) for Mr. Walker’s telephone bill and rent.
19. According to an affidavit executed by Charles E. Roemer, II, on August 21, 1997, Mr. Roemer borrowed the sum of Twenty Thousand And No/100 Dollars ($20,000.00) from Mr. Ronald Picou on or about July 13, 1993. The proceeds of this loan were received by Mr. Roemer in the form of a cashier’s check dated July 13, 1993, issued by the Tuscaloosa Commerce Bank of Denham Springs, Louisiana, payable to Mr. Roemer’s order. The cashier’s check was deposited into an account of Health Management Concepts, Inc., at City National Bank in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on or about July 13, 1993. Mr. Roemer owned Health Management Concepts, Inc. Mr. Walker does not own, and never has owned, any interest in Health Management Concepts, Inc.
20. The Board has no evidence suggesting that Mr. Walker negotiated or otherwise participated in or influenced the loan transaction in any way. Mr. Picou stated in his affidavit that “he believes that the check representing the proceeds of the loan was sent to Mr. Roemer via Mr. Walker.” Mr. Roemer’s recollection was that Mr. Walker did not deliver the check. Mr. Walker had no recollection of having received the check.
21. The Board has no evidence suggesting that Mr. Walker in fact received any compensation or anything of value for delivering the check, if he did deliver the check, from Mr. Roemer, Mr. Picou or anyone else. If Mr. Walker did in fact deliver the check to Mr. Roemer, it was as an accommodation to Mr. Picou and/or Mr. Roemer.
II. Section 1115B of the Code prohibits a public employee from soliciting or accepting a thing of economic value from a person who is regulated by his agency or who has a substantial economic interest that may be affected by the performance of the public employee’s duties. This Section provides in pertinent part:
* * *B. No public employee 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 employee knows or reasonably should know that such person:
(1) Conducts operations or activities which are regulated by the public employee’s agency.
(2) Has substantial economic interests which may be substantially effected by the performance or nonperformance of the public employee’s official duty.
The following terms are defined in Section 1102 of the Code and are relevant when analyzing the above Section:
(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.
(22)(a) “Thing of economic value” means money or any other thing having economic value, except promotional items having no substantial resale value: food, drink, or refreshments consumed by a public servant, including reasonable transportation and entertainment incidental thereto, while the personal guest of some person ... and includes, but is not limited to:
(i) Any loan, except a bona fide loan made by a duly licensed lending institution at the normal rate of interest, any property interest, interest in a contact, merchandise, service, and any employment or other arrangement involving a right to compensation.
* * *
It is the opinion of the Board that A. Delmar Walker violated Section 1115B of the Code by receiving from Ronald Picou a check made payable to Charles E. Roemer, II, at a time when Ronald Picou owned and operated Verdun and by receiving checks from some NEMT providers, made payable to Buck Kleinpeter to support a legal action to oppose an emergency rule proposed by DHH that would have substantial impact on the NEMT providers. Also, it is the opinion of the Board that A. Delmar Walker violated Section 1115B by allowing Mr. and Mrs. Holston, the owners of Life Care, to loan to his friend, Ms. Dianne Rowsey, the sum of One Thousand Ten And No/100 Dollars ($1,010.00) and by accepting and soliciting on his own behalf Two Thousand Two Hundred And No/100 Dollars ($2,200.00) for his telephone bill and rent from Ronald Picou, the owner of Verdun.
Verdun and Life Care used non-emergency medical transportation vehicles which were inspected by Mr. Walker while he was employed at DHH. Mr. Walker was also responsible for inspecting the vehicles of the NEMT providers from whom he received the checks made payable to Buck Kleinpeter. Also, Mr. Walker was in a position to substantially affect the economic interest of Verdun, Life Care and the other NEMT providers through his inspection of their NEMT vehicles.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics is authorized to impose a penalty up to Ten Thousand And No/100 Dollars ($10,000.00) for the above violations of the Code. In this particular situation, given the facts outlined, it is the conclusion of the Board that a fine of Five Thousand And No/100 Dollars ($5,000.00) be imposed upon A. Delmar Walker, of which Two Thousand Five Hundred And No/100 Dollars ($2,500.00) will be suspended, pending future compliance by Mr. Walker of the operational provisions of the Code and payment of the fine within thirty (30) days from the publication of this consent opinion.
IV. IT IS DECREED that A. Delmar Walker violated Section 1115B of the Code by receiving a cashier’s check which was payable to the order of Charles E. Roemer, II, for the sum of Twenty Thousand And No/100 Dollars ($20,000.00) and which represented the proceeds of a loan made by Ronald Picou to Charles E. Roemer, II, at a time when Mr. Walker inspected the NEMT vehicles used by Verdun.
DECREE AND ORDER
IT IS FURTHER DECREED that A. Delmar Walker violated Section 1115B of the Code by virtue of the loan in the amount of One Thousand Ten And No/100 Dollars ($1,010.00) made by Mr. and Mrs. John Holston to Ms. Dianne Rowsey, a friend of Mr. Walker’s, at a time when Mr. Walker inspected the NEMT vehicles used by Life Care.
IT IS FURTHER DECREED that A. Delmar Walker violated Section 1115B of the Code by receiving checks from some NEMT providers for delivery to Charles Roemer, II, which were made payable to Buck Kleinpeter, an attorney at law, to fund a proposed legal action by the NEMT providers to invalidate a DHH rule at a time when Mr. Walker inspected the vehicles used by the NEMT providers.
IT IS FURTHER DECREED that A. Delmar Walker violated Section 1115B of the Code by soliciting and accepting loans from Ronald Picou at a time when Mr. Walker inspected the NEMT vehicles used by Verdun.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a fine of Five Thousand And No/100 Dollars ($5,000.00) is hereby imposed upon A. Delmar Walker, of which Two Thousand Five Hundred And No/100 Dollars ($2,500.00) will be suspended, pending future compliance by Mr. Walker of the operational provisions of the Code and payment of the fine within thirty (30) days from the publication of this consent opinion.
BY ORDER OF THE BOARD, this 18th day of June , 1998.
s/ Robert L. Roland s/ Harry Blumenthal, Jr.
Robert L. Roland, Chairman Harry Blumenthal, Jr., Vice-Chairman
s/Robert P. Bareikis Absent and did not participate
Dr. Robert P. Bareikis Rev. Carole Cotton Winn
s/ E.L. Guidry, Jr. s/Virgil Orr
Judge E.L. Guidry, Jr. Dr. Virgil Orr
s/Revius O. Ortique, Jr. Absent and did not participate
Justice Revius Or. Ortique, Jr. T.O. Perry, Jr.
Absent and did not participate s/ Nathan J. Thornton, Jr.
Ronald L. Sawyer Nathan J. Thornton, Jr.
s/ Edwin O. Ware
Edwin O. Ware
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) consents to the publication of this opinion; (d) agrees to comply with the conditions and orders set forth in this opinion; and, (e) agrees not to seek judicial review of the findings and actions taken in this opinion.
s/ Delmar Walker
A. Delmar Walker