The state Board of Ethics has filed charges against outgoing Jefferson Parish 2nd District Constable Antoine “Tony” Thomassie for allegedly using public money for food, entertainment and other personal expenses, and for hiring his wife in violation of state laws against nepotism.
Thomassie, who lives in Marrero, lost his bid for re-election earlier this month. He has been a constable on the West Bank since 1987.
In March, Thomassie’s house was raided by state auditors and Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies after the Metropolitan Crime Commission filed a complaint with the state Legislative Auditor’s Office.
That investigation was looking into Thomassie’s travel expenses, which amounted to $94,343 over a three-year period, and allegations that he gave out as many as 70 badges for deputy constables who paid him $20 a week to carry them.
Thomassie also was the subject of investigative news reports on WVUE-TV that alleged he was spending time in a West Bank bar during hours he claimed to be working.
Thomassie hired a lawyer soon afterward and has refused to discuss the allegations.
He sued the 2nd Parish Court in May, saying it has been going around him by using Sheriff’s Office deputies to execute citations, summonses, seizures and writs in civil cases.
Jefferson Parish constables are paid a fixed salary; they also keep half of the fees and deposits they collect for justices of the peace to cover operational expenses.
But according to the E thics Board charges from Dec. 18, Thomassie did not have a separate bank account or credit card for his office, depositing the money into his personal account instead. The board said Thomassie paid his expenses from the account and kept the rest as his salary.
Thomassie also got a 6 percent commission for administering garnishment accounts, which began after the court stopped using an in-house clerk in mid-2012.
The Ethics Board said Thomassie hired his wife, Patricia, to handle the administration of the garnishment payments, which it said violated laws against nepotism.
The board will hold a hearing in the coming weeks at which Thomassie will be asked to answer the charges of illegally hiring his wife and spending public funds “for personal expenses not related to his duties as constable … and which he was not duly entitled to receive.”
The allegations being considered by the Legislative Auditor’s Office are not mentioned in the Ethics Board’s charges, and it is not clear when that entity will weigh in on the issues raised by the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Rafael Goyeneche, the commission’s president, said the charges spelled out by the Ethics Board are in line with the problems that appear to have developed during Thomassie’s time as constable, which officially expires at the end of the year.
“This is the first official body to issue any type of declaration acknowledging some of the problems that existed during his tenure,” Goyeneche said, “but it won’t be the last.”
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.