Of the six lawmakers who have been charged by the Ethics Board or entered into consent opinions since the reforms championed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal, former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr.’s case has gone on the longest.
It’s been nine years since the Louisiana Ethics Board first took up what its former chairman called “the most egregious case” to ever come bef…
The Ethics Board charged Marionneaux, a Democrat from Maringouin, in 2010 for failing to disclose his role in a lawsuit between Bernhard Mechanical Contractors and Louisiana State University. Marionneaux’s case has yet to be resolved, and his attorney has said he did nothing wrong.
Among the other cases, two legislators were accused of failing to file proper paperwork, the most mundane of sins.
Former state Rep. Michael L. Jackson, D-Baton Rouge, signed consent opinions with the Ethics Board in 2009 and 2011 over his failure to file campaign finance reports and his business with a public entity. But then he sued the board — even though those who sign consent opinions forfeit their right to sue. A district court in 2012 upheld the Ethics Board’s arguments and ordered him to pay $5,000. In 2014, he was hit with another campaign finance charge for failing to file a campaign finance report, which he later filed.
Former state Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, also entered a consent opinion in 2010 and agreed to pay $5,000 for failing to file accurate campaign finance reports. She said at the time that any inaccuracies were unknown and unintentional.
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The other cases captured more attention.
Soon after the 2008 special session on ethics, the Ethics Board charged former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero, while the former senator was awaiting trial on federal charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Shepherd resigned his seat, pleaded guilty to one charge and served more than a year in federal prison. The Ethics Board cleared him of wrongdoing in 2009, and dismissed its charges against him.
Grambling State University President and former state Sen. Rick Gallot, a floor leader for Jindal during the ethics reforms, was charged in 2009 because his law firm represented a nonprofit in business dealings with Grambling and the University of Louisiana System board. Gallot’s mother sat on the board. But an Ethics Adjudicatory Board dismissed the charges later that year, saying the Ethics Board took too long to prosecute them — the shorter timeline was a change under the new ethics system that the Gallot had helped shepherd.
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The most recent ethics case against a legislator came in 2017, when state Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, an independent from Thibodaux, signed a consent opinion in which he acknowledged using $37,000 in campaign funds to feed a gambling addiction. Richard apologized, said his anti-Parkinson’s disease medication spurred a gambling addiction and agreed to pay back the money.