A former Louisiana Housing Corp. employee facing indictment for an alleged double dipping scheme has been hit with state ethics fines totaling more than $45,000.
The Ethics Adjudicatory Board opinion on April 21 is, for now, the only penalty for Bryan Jackson's private dealings with the nonprofit Lafayette Neighborhoods’ Economic Development Corp. The group owns an 85-unit senior apartment building in downtown Lafayette that Jackson was responsible for inspecting while also serving as its privately contracted manager.
A four-year-old Lafayette Parish criminal case against Jackson is stalled in 15th Judicial District Court.
The Evangeline Elderly Apartments was redeveloped with LHC tax credits, and Jackson’s job duties included monitoring the building for regulatory compliance. He also owned a private property management firm, JR Property Management, that contracted with Lafayette Neighborhoods in 2015 to operate the building.
The Lafayette Neighborhoods former board secretary, Russell Castille, told the Ethics Board in an affidavit that Jackson “convinced” the board to hire him by offering assurances that the building would remain in compliance.
“I felt we needed to hire (Jackson’s firm) to pass,” Castille said in the affidavit.
While the Ethics Board determined Jackson violated state laws by receiving private payments for services related to his job and for participating in transactions related to the agency he worked for, it also found that Jackson did not pressure, threaten or force Lafayette Neighborhoods to enter the contract.
Asked on Thursday if he recalled feeling pressured or threatened, Castille said the affidavit speaks for itself.
“I don’t feel that strongly about it,” Castille said.
The current Lafayette Neighborhoods chairman, Regis Allison, who was treasurer at the time, said Jackson offered his services without pressure or threats.
“We thought by hiring him he could assist us in being a good manager,” Allison said. “After we got it to him, I realized we made a mistake.”
Castille’s comments to the Ethics Board echoed what he told the Louisiana Legislative Auditor in a 2016 report, which accused Jackson of tapping building accounts for unsupported reimbursements to himself and fabricating an invoice.
Jackson was then charged in a bill of information with public contract fraud, theft and two counts of forgery. Trial is currently scheduled for June 14, following repeated postponements.
Jackson’s lawyer, Emily Latiolais, did not return a call Thursday.
Lafayette Neighborhoods paid Jackson’s company more than $25,000 in 2015 and 2016, and payments under the contract continued even after Jackson was fired from his state job, according to the adjudicatory board opinion. The ethics penalty amount includes those payments plus fines totaling $20,000.
In separate calls, Castille and Allison said Lafayette Neighborhoods relied on Jackson’s opinion when considering whether his contract presented ethical complications.
“We questioned the conflict of interest possibility, and he explained that would not be a problem,” Castille said.