East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux is allowing a group of real estate agents that includes his wife to use a conference room at the sheriff’s substation office in Zachary for a seminar and informational meeting Wednesday.
The lead sponsor listed on a flier for the event is Keller Williams Realty Red Stick Plus in Zachary, an independent agency owned by Gautreaux, his wife, Suzi, and two others.
Gautreaux said he made it known when the Sheriff’s Office Zachary substation opened this spring that the large conference room at the station would be “made available to civic associations, churches, schools and businesses” for meetings, at no cost.
He said September is National Realtor Safety Month and that part of the seminar Wednesday includes a presentation by a member of his staff on practices to help keep real estate agents safe when showing houses.
Gautreaux said a similar presentation on safety was made recently at the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors offices in Baton Rouge.
It is not clear whether allowing the real estate group to use the Zachary substation free of charge poses conflict-of-interest issues, given the involvement of the real estate firm owned by the sheriff and his wife.
State ethics administrator Kathleen Allen, speaking generally, said, “It could raise an ethics issue” if a public servant enters into a transaction with his own agency.
Allen said the larger issue of whether businesses or other groups can use a public facility at no charge is a legal question that would need to be examined by other authorities, not state ethics officials.
The theme of the real estate seminar, being held from 9 a.m. to noon, is “economic trends” affecting commercial and residential real-estate development in the Baton Rouge metro area, particularly the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, according to a flier distributed to area real estate agents.
Suzi Gautreaux said an invitation was sent to all members of the Greater Baton Rouge Board of Realtors, which includes agents from surrounding parishes.
“It’s just to get area Realtors together,” she said.
Baker Mayor Harold Rideau and Chamber of Commerce and economic development officials from the cities of Baker, Central, Zachary and St. Francisville will be speaking at the event, Suzi Gautreaux said.
She added several companies involved in the real estate industry, including a lender, title company, builders and developers, are co-sponsoring the event.
A panel discussion will address shifts in the market, team building at agencies, dealing with properties in foreclosure, short sales and other issues, the flyer for the event said.
The sheriff said the Zachary substation, at Brian Road and Old Scenic-Zachary Highway, was part of a building donated by the Exxon Corp.
He said the modular building houses the sheriff’s K-9 unit, street anti-crime team and officers who provide 24-hour patrols for the northern part of the parish.
The sheriff, who lives just outside of Zachary, said he usually works “a couple of days” each week at the Zachary office and two to three days each week downtown.
Gautreaux said the real estate group is the first business group to use the substation conference room.
He said he wouldn’t allow anyone to use the substation conference room for a “for-profit event, where you charge admission” but is open to making it available to business groups for “community service-type things.”