The Louisiana Board of Ethics took no action against East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel for spending $115 in campaign money on a 2014 hair appointment but warned her to follow state campaign spending rules in the future, according to a letter by the board.
Donald Hodge, who filed a complaint against Banks-Daniel in April, shared the letter to Banks-Daniel that he said the ethics board also sent him. Hodge said he filed a complaint against the council member after reading in The Advocate last year that she spent more than $350 of her campaign finance contributions at multiple nail salons, hair salons and clothing stores.
The Board of Ethics wrote to Banks-Daniel in a letter dated Jan. 20 that an investigation found the only expenditure not related to her campaign was a charge to Hair Connection for $115. The letter says Banks-Daniel last December reimbursed her campaign for the charge and, therefore, no further ethics enforcement is necessary.
“The board does, however, caution you to make every effort in the future to make sure that your expenditures are made pursuant to the (Campaign Finance Disclosure Act) and that your reports contain all the information required by the (Campaign Finance Disclosure Act),” the letter reads.
In response to The Advocate’s story last year, Banks-Daniel said she was frequently asked to make donations to her constituents and places in her community. She said those calls included donating to door prizes, clothing, grooming, food and more.
“Though I don’t regret being a generous public servant, this experience has taught me to be more specific in detailing the reason for purchases,” Banks-Daniel said on Monday in an email. “My personal and campaign account are with the same banking institution, and apparently I used the wrong card for a $115 purchase. I have eliminated the possibility of that happening again by keeping the bank cards separate.”
Kathleen Allen, a board of ethics administrator, said Monday she could not provide a copy of the letter the board sent to Banks-Daniel because it was part of a private investigation. Allen said whatever happens in the course of an ethics investigation remains private unless the board moves forward with action against a person being investigated.
Campaign finance laws say campaign money should go toward costs associated only with running for or holding public office. Purchases like banquet tickets, office supplies, sports tickets and more often are deemed appropriate uses of campaign money.
Hodge said the Ethics Board should have enforced harsher penalties on Banks-Daniel.
“They definitely should have made her pay back even more of the expenses, not just for the hair,” he said.
Banks-Daniel’s newest campaign finance reports from 2015 show no campaign spending on hair, nails or clothing in the past last year. The majority of her expenditures went toward a trip to Washington, D.C., along with office and event supplies, gas and signs.
She also donated to Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis’ legislative campaign and to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ campaign this past fall.