A Louisiana ethics panel is mulling over arguments it heard Thursday in the ethics charges levied against Lafayette developer Greg Gachassin, who faces $1.5 million in fines and accusations of profiting from a public entity because he was chairman of its board.
Gachassin is accused by the Louisiana Board of Ethics of obtaining two $500,000 consulting contracts for two low-income housing projects he shepherded through the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority in 2009 before resigning as its chairman. The LPTFA is a public agency that uses income from investments to finance public projects.
Ethics Board attorneys and Gachassin’s legal counsel Thursday argued their sides to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board — a panel of three administrative law judges — in a motions hearings over requests for summary judgment filed by both sides.
Gachassin and his attorney, Gray Sexton, want the judges to throw out parts of the Ethics Board’s case against Gachassin, who was not at Thursday’s hearing.
It’s now up to the judges to decide whether all or some parts of the case will be dismissed or proceed to a public hearing, which is an Ethics Board equivalent of a trial.
Gachassin was the board chairman of the LPTFA when on Nov. 1, 2009, he signed the contracts to consult in the developments of Cypress Trails and Villa Gardens, both Lafayette housing projects for the poor. Both projects were funded with loans from the LPTFA.
Gachassin, whose contracts were for up to $500,000 each, resigned from the LPTFA in the weeks following the Nov. 1, 2009, ratification of the contracts. The Ethics Board charged Gachassin in June 2012.
Sexton argued that the Legislature in 2008 enacted rules that placed a higher burden of proof on the Ethics Board in proving violations, a threshold that Sexton said has not been met.
Ethics Board attorneys Michael Dupree and Suzanne Mooney said they’ve met Sexton’s burden of proof — some 700 pages of exhibits.
“No one can run from the documents that had Greg Gachassin’s name all over them,” Dupree said.
Though Gachassin is accused of using his position to secure $1 million in consulting contracts, the Ethics Board is pursuing penalties of $1.5 million. Dupree has said Louisiana’s ethics code allows for recapture of the money gotten because of an ethical violation plus 50 percent of that amount.
Judge Adara Chukudebelu said the rulings would be issued in writing, but she did not indicate when.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Saturday, May 9, to note that the Ethics Board charged Gachassin in June 2012.