Boudreaux puts ethics probe behind him

by Walter Pierce

The city-parish councilman held a press conference at City Hall Monday morning to announce that the Louisiana Board of Ethics had cleared him of any wrongdoing during his former employment with the district attorney’s office.

Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux got choked with emotion at least once during a Monday morning press conference during which he announced that the Louisiana Board of Ethics had cleared him of any impropriety when he was employed in Vermilion Parish as a youth counselor for the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office, nearly eight years of which overlapped his first two terms as an elected official.

“I have been cleared of all charges, and the case has been totally closed, and no formal charges ... are being brought against me,” Boudreaux proclaimed late in the press conference after reading a lengthy statement detailing the investigation and the toll it took on him personally.

Boudreaux betrayed in his comments a lingering rawness with the release of a Louisiana legislative auditor’s report in late March of this year that questioned the legality of his employment with the D.A’.s office, suggesting that releasing the audit unnecessarily impugned his integrity. Boudreaux was not retained after current D.A. Keith Stutes assumed office in January of last year. The report, based on a 2015 audit of the DA’s office, suggested that Boudreaux might have violated a state ethics law because some funding for the DA’s office flows through the Lafayette City-Parish Council, which Boudreaux won a seat on in 2007 and began serving on in 2008. Boudreaux would have been prohibited by state law from voting as a council member of the allocation of funding that directly benefited him.

Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux addresses media during a Monday press conference.
Photo by W. DeVane Pierce IV

Boudreaux reiterated at the Monday press conference that he sought multiple opinions from the state attorney general and the ethics board before being sworn into office in January 2008, and he took an eight-month leave of absence from the D.A.’s office at the start of his first term on the council as he awaited clear direction from those agencies. He was ultimately told by the AG’s office that if he was employed in Vermilion Parish — one of three parishes along with Lafayette and Acadia that comprise the 15th JDC — and was paid by Vermilion Parish, there would be no conflict with state ethics law. For 12 years Boudreaux had worked out of the D.A.’s Lafayette office but moved to Vermilion based on the opinion he received from the AG. It was discovered in the 2015 audit, however, that former District Attorney Mike Harson had been reimbursing the Vermilion Parish Police Jury for Boudreaux’s salary. Had those reimbursement funds been monies approved by the city-parish council on which Boudreaux served, there would have been a violation of state law, possibly even if he was unaware of the financial arrangement.

“However, the investigation found that the funds used to reimburse Vermilion Parish were from the District Attorney’s 'special Account' derived from fines and not from Lafayette Parish general funds ...” board attorney Suzanne Quinlan Moore writes to Boudreaux on behalf of the board in a letter dated May 24. The letter concludes: “After careful review, the investigation report did not reveal clear and convincing evidence that you accepted a salary from your agency to which you were not duly entitled, therefore the Board declined to take any enforcement action against you. Further the Board has instructed me to close the file.”