Ex-La. Insurance Chief, Others Facing Ethics Charges

January 4, 2008

Former Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley faces state ethics charges for going on hunting and fishing trips as the guest of a private insurance consultant.

The consultant, Chris Faser III, of Baton Rouge, also was accused of violating the ethics code.

The ethics panel set a May 8 public hearing in the case. It could fine anyone it decides violated the ethics code.

Two of the complaints relate to trips for which Faser’s private company sought reimbursement from the state-run insurer of last resort and its administrators. The other three charges accuse Faser of potentially violating state conflict-of-interest laws by serving on insurance boards with which he later did contract work.

Wooley designated Faser to represent him on the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and on the board of the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana.

Citizens is the state-guaranteed insurer of last resort. PIAL is an association of insurance companies that was managed by Citizens.

The ethics charges released Jan. 2 came after a Legislative Auditor’s Office audit of Citizens was released in May.

The audit found that Citizens paid part of the costs for then-Insurance Commissioner Wooley, Deputy Insurance Commissioner Chad Brown and others to hunt at a Ville Platte club.

“We have cooperated totally with the board and staff in the context of the investigation and will continue to cooperate,” Wooley’s attorney, Rob Reiger, said after the charges were made public.

Brown, who also is charged in the case, said he is surprised that the ethics panel is moving forward with it.

Brown said he and Wooley had hunted with Faser when Faser was an insurance department employee.

“We went hunting together when we were co-workers. He still represented the commissioner when he was on the (Citizens) board. We still looked at him as a fellow public servant,” said Brown.

Brown said hunters provided their own transportation to the hunting club and paid for their ammunition as well as tips for guides. “You felt like you were paying the costs of the trip,” he said.

Allegations against Faser will be “vigorously defended,” said Faser’s attorney Charles Patin.

“We believe that the rules in question were never intended to apply to this type of situation,” said Patin.

Information from: The Advocate, www.2theadvocate.com

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