Acadiana Business

Gachassin deposition in ethics case Wednesday

by Leslie Turk

The Louisiana Board of Ethics will finally get a chance to question developer Greg Gachassin about his alleged violations of the state's ethics laws while earning hundreds of thousands of dollars on low-income housing developments. Developer Greg Gachassin is scheduled to be deposed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics' deputy general counsel Michael Dupree Wednesday.

Greg Gachassin

On June 14 of last year the Louisiana Board of Ethics voted to charge Gachassin and his Cartesian Co. with violating the state's Code of Governmental Ethics while he was a member of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority's board of trustees and again after he resigned from its board. The Ethics Board's action is much like filing a civil lawsuit against Gachassin. The next step is for the Ethics Adjudicatory Board, a three-member panel of administrative law judges, to conduct a hearing on the charges, determine whether they should stick and assess a penalty based on the Ethics Board's recommendation.

In much the same fashion as The IND did in its April 2011 cover story "How Gachassin Games the System," the Ethics Board spelled out in the charges how the local developer laid the foundation for lucrative work with the LPTFA while he was serving as an appointed board member from November 2003 to November 2009. His alleged violations involved Villa Gardens, a single-family low-income development on Patterson Street, and Cypress Trails, a low-income apartment complex on Sophie Street in north Lafayette. In both cases, Gachassin's Cartesian Co. signed $500,000 consulting contracts with partnerships associated with those projects, which were backed financially and/or initiated by the LPTFA, a public trust that holds millions for the benefit of Lafayette. Through various funding mechanisms, it supports a range of community programs. Gachassin has a similar consulting contract with the Uptown Lofts development downtown, another LPTFA project.

The Ethics Board accuses The Cartesian Co. of violating two sections of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics, one that addresses prohibited contractual agreements between appointed board members and the agency they serve and the other dealing with a two-year restriction for doing business with that agency after the board service ends.

Gachassin has been battling the board for the past several months, trying to force it to turn over all of the evidence it collected in investigating his case. He asked for all recorded conversations of the board and the staff, copies of all physical documents and other evidence presented to the board, and all notes of the Ethics Board staff who investigated the complaints against him. He also wanted the name, address and telephone number of every person the board interviewed or any way discussed his case. He even wants the name, address and telephone number of anyone the board's staff believes has any relevant information regarding the matter.

In arguing against the release of the documents and records, Dupree says Gachassin's requests are "overly broad, unduly burdensome and would require the board to disclose confidential information."