In an escalating feud, state Attorney General Jeff Landry asked Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration to justify why a felon should serve as legal counsel for the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.
Landry, who was recently involved in controversy over hiring a felon in his own office, said in a letter to the board's executive director that an explanation is needed for retaining Larry Bankston, a former Democrat state senator from Baton Rouge who served 41 months in prison for a 1997 conviction on a video-poker related bribery scheme.
"Mr. Bankston is a convicted felon who has been previously disbarred," Landry said in a letter to Michael McDuff, executive director of the 15-member panel.
"An attorney who represents the board acts in a fiduciary capacity to the board and is a legal representative of the state of Louisiana," he wrote.
"In light of Mr. Bankston's previous actions, I am concerned about his appointment to this position of trust," Landry said.
Both Bankston and the governor's office disputed the criticism.
Both also noted that Landry's office earlier this year approved contracts for Bankston to do work for two state boards, including the same licensing board for contractors in dispute Thursday.
"If they are having some concerns they must be a recent concern," Bankston said.
Matthew Block, executive counsel for Edwards, said Landry has only a ministerial role in attorneys hired by boards and commissions, including whether they have adequate experience.
Block said the attorney general's letter "makes us obviously concerned that the attorney general is trying to play politics" with the issue.
The state Supreme Court voted in 2004 to allow Bankston to practice law again.
The court disbarred him in 2002 but made it retroactive to 1997, when the justices had suspended him on an interim basis after his conviction in June 1997.
The board, which is named by the governor, is supposed to protect consumers from contractor fraud.
The panel is in the limelight after floods overran south Louisiana starting Aug. 12, sparking a wave of contractors into the state to get in on the rebuilding.
The devastating floods that affected an estimated 42 percent of the homes in metro Baton Rou…
Landry noted that his office has oversight over the appointment of counsel for the contractor panel and other boards and commission.
The proposed contract for Bankston is for Aug. 1, 2016 to July 31, 2017.
Bankston said he is to be paid $175 per hour.
Asked if Landry wanted to comment, a spokeswoman said he stood by the letter.
Bankston said the attorney general's letter is confusing because Landry's office approved two short-term contracts earlier this year, including one where his firm aided the contractors board in the Legislature when its rules were revamped.
He has also been the attorney for the Amite River Basin Commission for the past six years or so.
Block said it is inappropriate for Landry to come up with "arbitrary standards" for board-hired attorneys never required before.
In an email, McDuff said his board voted unanimously to hire Bankston.
"We are confident with the integrity and character of Larry Bankston," he said.
Landry and Edwards have had a tense relationship since both took office in January, including disputes over budgets, gay rights and car allowances.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry asked for state approval for both a car allowance of …
Landry is as Republican who is considered a 2019 gubernatorial possibility.
Edwards is a Democrat who hopes 2016 is the first of eight years in office.
Both politicians are attorneys.
Landry's letter, which was sent on Wednesday, raised questions just three weeks after the attorney general was embroiled in a separate controversy.
In November, nine days after a hotly contested primary for Louisiana attorney general, chall…
A story in The Advocate disclosed that Landry, after being endorsed by Democrat rival Geri Broussard Baloney, hired Baloney's daughter Quendi for a job in his office's fraud section at a salary of $53,000 per year.
Quendi Baloney in 1999 was charged with 11 felony counts of credit card fraud and theft, pleading guilty to three of them, according to records in Virginia.
She got a six-year prison sentence, all of which was suspended.
A spokeswoman for Landry said at the time Quendi Baloney was forthright about her criminal record when she sought the job.
Geri Broussard Baloney denied that she and Landry ever discussed her daughter's employment.