The East Baton Rouge Council on Aging board adopted a conflict-of-interest policy for employees Monday after the agency's executive director was widely accused of impropriety when she was named in a deceased client's will and stood to gain $120,000 over 20 years.
The board also reviewed multiple letters from the Louisiana Board of Ethics saying that although the Support Our Seniors political action committee had filed inaccurate campaign finance disclosures during the campaign last fall for a Council on Agency tax, the state agency has declined to take action against the Council.
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The Council on Aging had cut checks in its name in 2016 to Support Our Seniors, but said the money came from employees' payroll deductions not from taxpayer funds. A Board of Ethics letter dated Feb. 21, 2017 says the PAC changed its campaign finance reports to reflect individual donations from COA employees rather than as a donation from the agency as a whole.
"Therefore, the Board instructed me to close the file and caution you to make every effort in the future to comply with the provisions of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act in the future," reads the letter from Jennifer Land for the Board of Ethics.
During a Monday afternoon meeting, the oversight board for the Council on Aging took up multiple measures that appeared aimed at cleaning up the agency's muddied image. The board added four new members, adopted conflict-of-interest and new accounting policies and added a public communications clause to its bylaws.
The policy that employees will be required to sign says they are expected to act at all times in the best interest of the agency and they should avoid both perceived and real conflicts of interest. Examples include when an employee uses the Council on Aging for private gain, receives kickbacks and rebates from vendors, or accepts gifts from clients.
"An employee shall be considered to have a potential conflict of interest where he or she has a direct or indirect financial interest in a matter involving the EBRCOA and where the employee could influence or appear to be able to influence any direction on that matter by the EBR COA," the policy reads. "Examples include the acceptance of personal gifts from those serviced by the EBRCOA or from those who provide services for compensation to the EBRCOA."
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Violating the policy could lead to "the highest forms of discipline, including termination."
Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar was named the overseer of the estate for a client, 95-year-old Helen Plummer, after Plummer died in early March. The will specified that Amar was to pay herself $500 a month from a trust. After Plummer's family publicly accused Amar and attorney Dorothy Jackson — a Council on Aging board member who wrote the will — of wrongdoing, Amar asked to withdraw as overseer and a court granted her request.
Amar is still leading the agency despite calls from some Republican politicians for her to resign. No board members asked about the conflict-of-interest policy in relation to her on Monday.
East Baton Rouge Council on Aging board member and attorney Dorothy Jackson has been placed …
A second conflict-of-interest policy for board members is being revised, as the one presented to the board Monday did not include the consequences for board members violating it. Newly installed board member William Daniel, the head of environmental services and former chief administrative officer for the city-parish, asked what would happen if a board member broke a policy.
"The press comes after you and tells all kinds of lies about you," retorted board member Glenda Gentry, who later said the media would not be interested in clearing the record on the Council on Aging's campaign finance reports.
Along with Daniel, the other new board members for the Council are Louisiana Press Association Executive Director Pamela Mitchell, Baton Rouge Community College Faculty Senate President Derek Cole, and New Pilgrim and Elm Grove Baptist Church pastor Errol Domingue.
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In another change, the Council on Aging's updated bylaws say the chairman of its board or the chairman's designee should be the official spokesperson for the Council. The bylaw says no other individual board member should speak on behalf of the Council on Aging.