Former Lafayette school board member charged with ethics violation _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Former Lafayette Parish School Board District 7 Member Mark Cockerham.

Former Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Cockerham violated a state ethics law when he solicited and then accepted Saints game tickets from an insurance consultant working for the School Board at the time, according to a finding of the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

The Ethics Board filed charges against Cockerham on April 16, though the decision wasn’t released publicly until this week. The charge was referred to the ethics adjudicatory board for a hearing to determine if Cockerham violated the law and recommend a penalty if he’s found guilty of the violation.

Cockerham is accused of soliciting Saints game tickets and then later accepting two tickets for the Nov. 17, 2013, Saints game against the San Francisco 49ers from Rina Tikia, of Tikia Consulting.

Tikia was hired by the board in 2013 to vet and to recommend an insurance administrator for the school district’s self-funded employee insurance program. Ultimately, the board rejected her recommendations and fired her, prompting her to threaten to file a lawsuit although no suit was ever filed.

In January, the Ethics Board filed charges against Tikia for giving Cockerham the tickets. The School Board hired Tikia’s firm in 2013 to handle the selection process of an insurance administrator.

The board rejected Tikia’s recommendations for an administrator and never officially contracted with her firm.

The Ethics Board in its decision also cited an instance in which Cockerham solicited Saints tickets from Tikia.

In August 2013, Cockerham sent Tikia a text message that said, “Hey, this is mark, curious if u still have those saints tickets?”

Tikia replied, “So sorry! Gave them away last night since you weren’t sure ab going. Will let you know about future games! Have a great weekend.”

Cockerham replied, “No problem ;).”

State ethics law prohibits public servants from soliciting or accepting gifts of economic value from anyone who has or is seeking contractual or other business or financial relationships with the public servant’s agency.

During a board meeting in late 2013, Cockerham had publicly admitted to receiving the tickets and said he attempted to give them back.

Cockerham didn’t respond to requests for comment from The Acadiana Advocate.

Cockerham resigned from his term on the board in October 2014 after his residency status was challenged, and a month later, he lost his bid for re-election.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.