New Louisiana Ethics Laws Prompt 130 Resignations

July 2, 2008

At least 130 people gave up positions in various levels of Louisiana state government, just before new financial disclosure rules kicked in July 1.

The Secretary of State’s Office in Baton Rouge released the list on June 30 and said more names might be added. The new ethics rules, passed during a special session in February and refined during the regular legislative session that ended recently, require hundreds of people involved in state government to disclose details about their own and their spouses’ income.

The list includes Dawn Romero Watson, the state’s Culture Recreation and Tourism Secretary. She and her husband would have come under the toughest requirements, requiring disclosure of sources of income, amounts of income and details on property ownership and transactions. But there are numerous others, some of whom came under lighter disclosure rules, including members of dozens of boards and commissions.

Some of the panels were relatively obscure, including boards or commissions running various local water or drainage districts. Some were higher profile: The Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversees recovery from the 2005 hurricanes, lost member Donna Fraiche.

Fraiche was could not be reached at the LRA office after hours on June 30. But resignations were expected from the LRA, given that the Legislature voted to reduce the number of board members from 33 to 17, board spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.

Victor Bussie, former state AFL-CIO head, stepped down from the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors after five years. He did not specify his reason in a news release.

Also among the high-profile names are nine members of the Board of Ethics, most of whom resigned within the past few days and had expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the board’s changing role under laws pushed through the Legislature by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Beginning in August, the board’s power to decide whether ethics law violations have occurred will shift to administrative law judges.

Several boards saw mass departures: The Louisiana Millennium Port Authority lost six members; the Board of Commissioners of the New Orleans City Park Improvement Association, six members; the Capital Area Human Services District Board, five members; the Louisiana Emergency Response Network Board, seven members.

Several boards, including the ethics board, no longer have a quorum and cannot conduct regular business until members are replaced.

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