A state District Court judge has shielded from public view two lawsuits filed in recent days against the Louisiana Board of Ethics.
According to 19th Judicial District Court records, one of the lawsuits was filed by Gray Sexton, former longtime ethics administrator.
Court records show the other was filed by Democrat Caroline Fayard, who lost a bid for lieutenant governor last year. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs also list the state Democratic Party’s political action arm and some of its contributors, including Fayard’s mother and father.
Fayard, a political newcomer, lost a runoff to Republican Jay Dardenne. She has indicated she may run for secretary of state this fall.
Clerk of Court’s index reports show the filings seek injunctions against the Ethics Board. An injunction is a court order that generally directs a person or group to cease some activity.
No information about the activity they are aimed at stopping or why is available because a judge — on motions of those filing the lawsuits — sealed the documents.
The cases are in the 19th Judicial District Court of Judge William Morvant, who sits in Baton Rouge.
Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said she could not comment. “There’s nothing for me to say at this point because someone filed for the seal, and the judge agreed,” Allen said.
State Democratic Party executive director Renee Lapeyrolerie referred calls to the Democratic committee’s attorney, Mary Olive Pierson. Pierson also declined comment.
Fayard was out of state and unavailable for an interview, her spokeswoman Monica Pierre said.
The court record shows that Sexton is representing Fayard and others involved in that litigation and is the plaintiff in the other court filing.
“I can’t share anything right now,” Sexton said.
Efforts to reach his attorney, Charles R. Moore, were unsuccessful.
Leading up to the election, Dardenne claimed Fayard’s family was trying to get around campaign contribution limits by funneling money through the state Democratic Party.
The board, by law, acts as the Supervisory Committee on Campaign Finance.
A recent ruling by Morvant called into question the role of the ethics agency in policing campaign finance laws.
State law bans those filing complaints with the ethics agency from making those complaints public. The ethics agency also is forbidden by law to disclose what or who is being investigated.
The investigations become public on their completion if violations are found and charges are filed; or if the subject of the investigation wants the public to know he’s been cleared.
Sexton, who filed the first suit, served as the state’s chief ethics administrator for decades before he resigned in the wake of ethics law changes.
The changes stripped the Ethics Board of its authority to decide cases of ethical wrong-doing. Law changes also would have required Sexton, as ethics chief, to divulge his personal finances.
According to the clerk’s index of cases, Fayard, the Democratic Party and others filed a petition for an injunction, declaratory judgment and preliminary injunction against the Ethics Board, its current and past members as well as the Supervisory Campaign Finance Committee.
Other plaintiffs include the Committee to Elect Caroline Fayard, members of Fayard’s family, including her father, Calvin Fayard, his law firm and other businesses in which he has an interest.
All made maximum contributions to Fayard’s lieutenant governor’s campaign, and were donors to the Democratic Party’s 2010 election efforts, according to the state campaign finance reports.
State Democratic Party aid to Fayard’s campaign topped $750,000 as the Nov. 2 runoff election against Dardenne approached, according to reports Fayard filed.
At the time, Dardenne complained that Fayard’s family was illegally earmarking the money it donated to the Democratic Party to be spent on Fayard’s campaign.
Dardenne said Fayard’s parents and businesses tied to them donated $210,000 to the Democratic Party’s PAC, then, a day later, the PAC bought ad time for Fayard costing $209,936. Fayard listed the ad time purchase as an in-kind contribution from the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party failed to file reports of its in-kind contributions in the days leading up to the Nov. 2 runoff election.
State Party Chairman Buddy Leach said at the time that the party was not required to file the reports because it was not a political action committee.