After East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar helped an elderly client craft a will that allowed lavish payments to Clark-Amar for handling the woman’s estate, family members balked. Faced with a mounting public controversy, Clark-Amar withdrew her involvement in the estate, as did Dorothy Jackson, a Southern university professor who helped write the will as part of a program to provide elderly clients with legal services. Jackson also withdrew from her role as the estate’s attorney amid complaints about a glaring conflict of interest. By helping craft the will as director of Southern’s Elder Law Clinic, then serving as the estate’s attorney after client Helen Plummer died, Jackson used her public role to get private business, something her bosses at Southern rightly found troubling. The university recently fired Jackson for her behavior, although Clark-Amar, inexplicably, remains in place running an agency that’s supposed to serve seniors, not profit from them.
Now, Clark-Amar is adding insult to injury by suing Plummer’s family members for defamation. That’s yielded the sorry spectacle of a public servant attempting to use the courts to bully people who dared to criticize her behavior while working in a taxpayer-funded job. Clark-Amar used her agency email to help arrange the will, so it’s hard for her to argue that her role in the scandal didn’t stem from her position as a COA employee.
We hope the courts keep this in mind. The prospect of being sued for criticizing a public official is a chilling one.
Clark-Amar has only one person to blame for her tattered reputation — herself.