Ethics Board taking up Gachassin complaints today

by Leslie Turk

The Louisiana Board of Ethics is scheduled to hear at least two related complaints against former LPTFA board Chairman Greg Gachassin Thursday.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics is scheduled to hear at least two related complaints against former Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority board Chairman Greg Gachassin Thursday.

A Lafayette resident who filed an ethics complaint says he received a letter from the board notifying him that the matter will be heard today. Although a signed complaint compels the board to discuss the matter and decide whether an investigation is warranted, the complaint itself is confidential. The resident asked that his name not be used in this story.

State Rep. Rickey Hardy also lodged a formal complaint but says he did not receive a letter from the ethics board.

"It would seem as if Mr. Gachassin has violated the ethics laws of the State of Louisiana while serving as chairman and member of the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority... [and] appears to have been in ethics violation even after his resignation from the [LPTFA]," Hardy wrote to the state's top ethics administrator, Kathleen Allen.

The LPTFA is a trust organized under the laws of the state that holds millions for the benefit of Lafayette Consolidated Government. In his letter, Hardy is referencing this newspaper's story about how Gachassin, while on LPTFA's board, orchestrated low-income housing deals in north Lafayette that involved both LPTFA funding and federal low-income housing tax credits. He then signed on as a consultant for two of them, Villa Gardens and Cypress Trails, while still on the board.

Records recently made public on Cypress Trails, a project LPTFA is the lead sponsor of, confirm that he signed a $500,000 project consultant agreement on Nov. 1; he resigned from the board Nov. 17. The agreement is signed by Gachassin and LPTFA board member John T. Arceneaux as an authorized representative of Cypress Trails Corp., an LPTFA non-profit affiliate formed to execute the apartment project. Arceneaux succeeded Gachassin as LPTFA's chairman.

Gachassin also is the development consultant for Joie de Vivre, a downtown apartment complex with partial funding from LPTFA that is paying him a $1 million consulting fee. He stands to earn about $1 million on Cypress Trails and Villa Gardens.

The state's ethics code appears clear on this "post-employment" restriction: After leaving a public board, you must wait two years before engaging in a transaction, for compensation, with the board. The definition of transaction is broad, covering just about anything the governmental entity is a party to or has an interest in.

It's unclear whether the fines and penalties are harsher if an individual enters into such a contract while still on the board.

Because signed complaints are confidential, the Ethics Board does not confirm if or when such executive session matters will be heard and does not list them on its agenda. Today's meeting was scheduled to get under way at 1 p.m.

Read more about Gachassin's role in these low-income housing tax credit developments here.