KATC Investigates

Feb 9, 2014 8:49 PM by KATC

"Bored" of Ethics: See if your elected official is getting ethics training

It's no secret Louisiana has seen it's share of politicians getting caught doing what they shouldn't. From former Governor Edwin Edwards sentenced to 10 years in prison, to former St. Landry School Board Member Quincy Richard heading to jail in the next month, to the current trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on federal bribery charges.

In 2008, Jindal pushed for reform with an ethics overhaul requiring every politician in the state to receive at least one hour of training each year.

"I think the training has made people more aware of the provisions of the code and I think that's what it was designed to do is that public servants throughout the state know that there's a provision of the code of ethics that applies to them," Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said.

What we found in our investigation was that not only are many elected officials simply not doing it, they aren't being penalized.

In Acadiana, in 2013 out of 545 elected officials, a little more than 76 percent received that one hour of training. It was a similar story in 2012. Of the nine Acadiana parishes, St. Landry has the lowest completion rate at 60%, and Jeff Davis Parish the highest with 92%. But, even with a quarter of all elected officials not following the law, none of them have been fined or penalized.

"There has not been any prosecution with respect to the violation of that provision that I'm aware of," Allen said.

State Senator Page Cortez of Lafayette was one of the authors of the bill, and we asked him why something wasn't put in the law to inform elected officials of the penalties if they failed to get this hour.

"That's a good question. I don't know. But I will tell you that in the broad ethics law, the ethics board does have some leeway with which to fine," Senator Cortez said.

The ethics administration can fine violators up to $10,000, but getting to that fine is a long process. It requires a complaint letter, a warning and then a hearing. So far, no complaints have been filed, so no investigations have been done.

"This was probably the simplest requirement. I would agree with that. What does it take, really, to do one hour of training? It's pretty simple," Cortez said.

Cortez says the 75% of Acadiana officials that are in compliance is a step in the right direction. For those who aren't, he says they'll have to answer for that on election day.

"If you truly want to serve the public for the public good, you're going to do what the law requires in your service and I think you should. You should find out what that requirement is. None of us are perfect but if you're trying, one hour is not a lot to ask," Cortez said.

The Board of Ethics is trying to streamline the ethics qualifying policy to make it easier to track who is and who isn't doing their training.

A KATC Investigation looked at elected officials and the ethics training hours they are supposed to receive by law. See if your elected official is getting training here. These are the latest numbers available from the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Parish Elected Officials 2012 Completion 2013 Completion
Acadia 66
77.27% 81.82%
Evangeline 55
83.64% 76.36%
Iberia 53
73.58% 67.92%
Jefferson Davis 59
91.53% 69.49%
Lafayette 49
85.71% 83.67%
St. Landry 97
59.79% 78.35%
St. Martin 49
87.76% 69.39%
St. Mary 58
82.76% 79.31%
Vermilion 59
62.71% 76.27%
All Acadiana 545
76.70% 76.15%

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