On Aug. 30 Lafayette developer Greg Gachassin and his Cartesian Company notified the Ethics Adjudicatory Board of their intent to appeal the board’s Aug. 3 decision that Gachassin and his company violated the state’s Code of Ethics, slapping them with $1.6 million in penalties and fines.
The appeal was expected, as this is the largest self-dealing ethics punishment ever handed down in the state. Records show that the most substantial fine/penalty levied before the Gachassin case was for $650,000 in 2001 against attorneys involved in tobacco litigation.
The EAB's decision came four years after the Louisiana Board of Ethics voted to charge him with multiple violations of the state’s Code of Ethics. The board’s 2012 charges against Gachassin and his Cartesian Company stemmed from its investigation of lucrative work the development consultant steered to himself from the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority while he was serving as a volunteer member of its board of trustees from November 2003 to November 2009 and again after resigning his position as chairman of the board on Nov. 17, 2009. The Louisiana Code of Ethics prohibits an appointed board member from doing business with an entity under its jurisdiction or from participating in transactions involving that entity for personal economic gain. The prohibition extends such dealings for two years after the board member leaves the public board.
The charges involved Villa Gardens, a single-family development on Patterson Street, and Cypress Trails, an apartment complex on Sophie Street in north Lafayette that serves the elderly population. In both cases, on Nov. 1, 2009, 16 days before he resigned as chairman, Gachassin and his Cartesian Company signed $500,000 consulting contracts with partnerships associated with those projects, which were backed financially and/or initiated by the LPTFA. Low-income housing tax credits awarded by the Louisiana Housing Corporation provided the bulk of the projects’ funding.
The EAB, a panel of three administrative law judges, agreed with Board of Ethics attorneys that Gachassin should be fined and penalized the maximum amount under the law for his multiple code violations.
In the motion, which has not yet been received by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Clerk of Court Rodd Naquin, Gachassin and Cartesian claim the following:
1. The EAB erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that The Cartesian Company, Inc. violated La. R.S. 42:1113(B).
2. The EAB erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that Greg Gachassin violated La. R.S. 42:1112(A), 1112(B), 1112(D), 1113(B), and 1121A(1).
3. The EAB erred in assessing a $10,000 fine on The Cartesian Company, Inc.
4. The EAB erred in assessing a $50,000 fine on Greg Gachassin.
5. The EAB erred in assessing penalties of $1.5 million on Respondents, in solido.
6. The EAB erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that Respondents violated the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics to their economic advantage.
7. The EAB erred by not applying the “rule of lenity” in favor of Respondents.
8. The EAB erred by not granting the Respondents’ Motion for Summary Judgment Regarding the Charges Involving Cypress Trails Limited Partnership.
9. The EAB erred by not granting the Respondents’ Motion for Summary Judgment Regarding the Charges Involving Villa Gardens Limited Partnership.
10. The EAB erred by not granting the Respondents’ Motion to Dismiss the Charges Because the Louisiana Board of Ethics Lacks Jurisdiction Over the Respondents.
Gachassin is represented by Baton Rouge attorney Gray Sexton, who served 40 years as the Board of Ethics’ chief administrator before going into private practice. Read more about the case here.