The state Ethics Board voted Friday to oppose legislation that would create an exception in state ethics law to allow one of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s top deputies to become executive director of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board.
Last month, a divided Ethics Board advised Cedric Grant that he would violate a state law by accepting the job. Grant has been serving in Landrieu’s place on the board. State law prohibits anyone from stepping down from a public board and then accepting a job with that board within a two-year period.
Now, a legislative effort is underway to carve out a specific exception for Grant.
The full Senate is expected to debate the legislation Monday.
“It’s attempting to circumvent our decision,” said board member Jean Ingrassia of Gonzales.
Board member Peppi Bruneau of New Orleans said legislators “gutted” a bill the board supported dealing with personal financial disclosure requirements and turned it into the problem-solver for Grant. “It’s an exception for one person in the state,” said Bruneau, a former legislator.
The change came as the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee last week amended Senate Bill 303 to permit “the employment of a person by a board that is created by law when the person has served as a member of the board as a designee ... of a mayor of a municipality with a population of 300,000 or more.” The population description fits New Orleans.
“It’s trying to fix something for one somebody,” said board Vice Chairman Julie Blewer, of Shreveport.
Board Chairman Blake Monrose, of Lafayette, said he did not like “carving out exceptions, but if they (legislators) want to make that law I’ll live with it.”
Ingrassia said the board is obligated to let legislators know when it disagrees with proposed ethics law changes.
No one objected to letting legislators know they oppose the bill.
The legislation is sponsored by state Sen. Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, became a cosponsor when the bill’s purpose changed.
Grant, the deputy mayor in charge of facilities and infrastructure for City Hall, applied for the job with the mayor’s backing last year, and the board decided to offer him the position in December. Then came the adverse Ethics Board decision.