A former member of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staff is facing a possible federal prison sentence for allegedly trading a grant for a cash bribe.
The U.S. District Attorney’s Office filed a bill of information with the federal court for the Middle District of Louisiana last week charging Jonetta Faye Bennett with theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.
Bennett, who resigned from the Governor’s Office last year after characterizing herself as “an embarrassment,” faces up to 10 years in prison.
Bennett could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The federal bill of information charging Bennett stems from her work as a program manager for the Governor’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities, which receives grants from the U.S. Department of Education.
The document alleges Bennett “corruptly solicited and demanded for her own benefit, and accepted and agreed to accept $8,000 in cash” for the payment of $13,129.68 pursuant to a grant between July and Aug. 8, 2010.
The bill of information only identifies the grant applicant as “K.C.”
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said federal officials participated in the investigation that resulted in the charge against Bennett. “I don’t think we’re anticipating additional charges,” he said.
Bennett resigned last year from the Governor’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities. “I have to resign from my duties in the office as of today. I will be an embarrassment to you and the whole office, my family and friends,” she wrote in an August 2010 resignation letter released Wednesday by the Jindal administration.
As of Wednesday morning, she still was listed on the governor’s website as a member of his staff. Her name was removed later in the day.
The Governor’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities is supported by the No Child Left Behind Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2002 to improve public schools. The office’s goal is to foster a safe and drug-free learning environment for students.
The office is not located in the State Capitol. Bennett made $45,000 in 2010, according to Division of Administration records.
Jindal’s spokesman, Kyle Plotkin, said there also is an ongoing investigation by the state Inspector General’s Office. “The state Inspector General’s Office notified us of their investigation and asked us to refrain from firing her so its investigation could continue. Shortly thereafter, the employee provided a resignation letter,” Plotkin said by e-mail.