An insurance consultant who gave a Lafayette Parish School Board member two tickets to a New Orleans Saints football game in 2013 agreed to pay a $1,000 civil fine but said she wasn’t aware she was violating the law when she handed over the tickets.
Rina Tikia was hired by the School Board in 2013 to vet proposals and recommend an administrator for the school system’s health insurance program. Ultimately, the board rejected her recommendations and never finalized her contract.
Based on a consent order made public this week, Tikia admitted to violating a state law that prohibits illegal payments to public officials, who are prohibited from receiving gifts from anyone seeking a contractual or financial relationship from the official’s agency.
Tikia offered the tickets to then-board member Mark Cockerham, who faces ethics charges for soliciting and then accepting the tickets. He admitted publicly that he took the tickets but also said he tried to return them to Tikia.
The consent order states that Tikia wasn’t aware she was breaking the law by offering Cockerham the tickets because it’s an accepted practice with her private-sector clients and the tickets were her own season tickets.
“If called to testify, Ms. Tikia would state that she did not consider that she was doing anything improper and did not know that the delivery of the tickets was an ethical violation,” the consent order stated.
In December 2014, some board members admitted they had been interviewed by FBI investigators in the spring of that year about whether Tikia had offered them Saints tickets. The FBI at the time would not confirm or comment whether it was investigating. No action has been taken publicly since then that would indicate an active investigation.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.