GONZALES — The Ascension Parish Planning Commission chairman’s mother avoided a potential ethics conflict after she and her brothers pulled a proposed land division request from the panel’s agenda.
The state Board of Ethics issued an advisory opinion July 15 saying Commission Chairman Michael Marchand’s mother is barred from bringing the land division measure before the commission as long as her son serves on the commission.
To do so would risk an ethics violation and a possible fine for Commissioner Marchand’s mother, said Aneatra Boykin, Ethics Board staff attorney.
The law prohibits a public servant or his “immediate family” from entering into or being in any way interested in a transaction that is under the supervision of the public servant’s agency.
Audrey Marchand and her two brothers had been seeking commission backing to break up a 96-acre tract off La. 937 that they inherited from their parents, commission documents say.
The land was to be subdivided through a family partition, a special kind of land division for Ascension landowners wanting to distribute land among relatives. Family partitions require commission approval.
Clint Cointment, a surveyor representing the landowners, told commissioners Wednesday the request was being withdrawn due to concerns over ethical issues, but he did not elaborate.
“We decided it’s just a good idea to pull it because of those concerns,” he said.
Cointment declined further comment in an interview Thursday, citing client confidentiality.
The ethics prohibition does not apply to Marchand’s uncles because they are not considered immediate family members under the state ethics code, Boykin said.
Marchand, an appointed commissioner, could have recused himself and avoided an ethics conflict for himself, the advisory opinion says. But his recusal would not have resolved the ethics conflict facing his mother, Boykin explained.
Marchand said Thursday he understands the need for ethics laws, but thinks some of them may be going too far.
“It just seems to me there’s some remedy other than ultimately having to resign from the board you sit on,” he said.
Marchand said his mother and uncles are exploring their options with legal counsel.
Commission attorney Lindsey Manda sought the ethics opinion in early June at Chairman Marchand’s request, her letter says.