Leslie Turk

Ethics Board still reeling from resignations

by Leslie Turk

Thanks to new "ethics reform" legislation, the panel of judges that will take over public hearings into alleged violations of ethics, campaign finance and other laws under the Louisiana Board of Ethics' jurisdiction, won't even be in place by the Aug. 15 deadline.

Changes in state law mandate that the administrative law judges be appointed at a meeting of the ethics board, but there is only one of 11 board members still serving, due to the resignations of 10 board members. For that reason, the appointments can't happen, and neither can enforcement of ethics laws.

“It will happen whenever there is a board, whenever there’s a board meeting,” Administrative Law Judge Chief Ann Wise told The Advocate.

State law gives the presidents of private colleges 60 days to nominate candidates. The governor or legislators have another 60 days to appoint from the list provided by the college presidents. It is likely those seats will be vacant until October.

The three-person administrative law judge panels (state employees used by state agencies to settle certain types of disputes) are taking over the functions previously performed by the ethics board due to legislation passed in February's special session on ethics. Beginning Aug. 15, the board will be relegated to an investigatory and charging body with no judicial authority, one of various changes most ethics board members objected to, resulting in the en masse resignations.