Neither the state nor former Tangipahoa Parish School Board member Eric Dangerfield could say what effect a revocation of his probation would have if he wins election Tuesday to the seat he vacated in July.
Dangerfield received a four-year suspended prison sentence and six months’ probation after pleading guilty in May to six counts of theft and two counts of tax evasion, all misdemeanors, in a Medicaid fraud case tied to his and his wife’s personal care business in Hammond.
The state Attorney General’s Office filed a motion July 17 to have the couple’s probations revoked because the Dangerfields had paid only about $200 toward the court-ordered $3.5 million in restitution, fines and costs, and had failed to forfeit the home, shopping center and four luxury cars required under their plea deal.
Other provisions of the deal required Eric Dangerfield to resign from his seat on the School Board — which he did July 15 — and to agree to be barred for life from owning or working for any entity that receives Medicaid or Medicare funding, “such as school systems.”
But the plea agreement did not specifically state that Dangerfield could not later seek election to the very School Board seat he was being forced to vacate.
The Dangerfields’ probation revocation hearing had been set for Oct. 24 but was continued to Dec. 5 at the state’s request.
Asked this week whether Dangerfield’s possible election to the School Board on Tuesday would cause him to violate his agreement with the state, AG spokesman Steven Hartmann said, “It’s just not something we can speculate about at this point because the election has yet to take place.”
Dangerfield is being opposed for School Board’s District G seat by Tara Hudgins, a Republican from Hammond.
Hartmann referred other questions about the effects of Dangerfield’s possible election and his possible probation revocation to the Secretary of State’s Office, which deals with qualifications for holding public office.
The Secretary of State’s Office, in turn, provided a 2012 state attorney general’s opinion that says an elected official serving time for misdemeanors is not automatically removed from office, as would happen with a felony conviction.
If the official takes office before going to jail and does not resign or retire, removal can be accomplished only through a successful recall petition, according to state law.
The attorney general’s opinion was issued in response to the 2011 sentencing of Winnfield Police Chief Johnny Ray Carpenter, who served six months for obstruction. The opinion, which was issued at the mayor’s request, noted that no member of the public had petitioned for Carpenter’s recall. Instead, when the chief was released from jail in early 2012, the town held a parade in honor of his homecoming, according to news reports.
Eric Dangerfield said Thursday he hadn’t even thought about what his plans are if he is elected and if his probation is later revoked.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said, declining further comment on his case.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter @HeidiRKinchen.