The state Board of Ethics fined a former parks employee $26,000 Monday, after finding that he took "fees" from production companies filming in his park in violation of state law.
Arthur Schick was an employee of the Louisiana Office of State Parks (State Parks), an office within the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, the board's ruling states. Monday's action stems from an investigative audit conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
The board found he received a total of $13,000 in compensation from various film production companies between May 7, 2015, and November 11, 2017.
Schick was hired by the state in 2009 and had been working as a maintenance repairman at the Fort Pike Historic Site and the Fort Macomb Historic site. One of his job duties was to serve as a liason for media production companies that filmed at the sites. When a production company signs an agreement to use a park, they pay a damage fee to cover any costs incurred by their work, the finding states.
But, the board found, Schick was adding on a "site rep" fee, and he was depositing that in his own bank account.
He collected varying amounts, ranging from $400 to $4,350, from seven different production companies, the finding states.
State law "prohibits public servants from receiving anything of economic value, other than compensation and benefits from the governmental entity to which he is duly entitled, for the performance of the duties and responsibilities of his office or position," the board's finding states.
The board determined that being the "site rep" for a production was part of Schick's regular job. It mentions that he also collected fees from the companies for mowing the grass at the parks - which also was part of his regular job. And on one occasion the board addressed, he rented his own property "Crazy Al's Parking Lot" to a production company - but that also was a violation of state law, the board found.
State law prohibited Schick from "receiving something of economic value, i.e., the May 10, 2017, payment of $1,000 from YANDR Productions, when YANDR Productions had or was seeking to obtain a contractual or other business or financial relationship with Respondent’s agency, State Parks." That payment was to rent his parking lot, the board found.
The board decided to fine Schick twice what he collected improperly; for $13,000 in improperly collected fees he must pay a penalty of $26,000. The board notes that additional fines of half of the amount gained could also be levied, but they determined piling that on would be "excessive and unduly harsh." The $26,000 is "adequate to penalize Respondent for his prohibited conduct."
According to the original investigative audit, which you can read here, OSP Assistant Secretary Robert Barham asked the Legislative Auditor in June 2017 to investigate a complaint of possible employee misconduct during the filming of movies at two historical sites OSP manages. The auditor performed the investigation to determine if the complaint was valid.
The auditor said the payments were discovered when someone other than Schick helped a production company at Fort Pike, and the company asked for an invoice for her time because "Mr. Schick always turned in an invoice." Schick initially told auditors that the production companies didn't pay him, but after they showed him invoices with his name, social security number and address on them, he said that the companies paid him for mowing grass on the weekend and for renting his parking lot.
The audit found that Schick received $24,600 via 22 checks from production companies. The audit states he may have violated state law, and suggests that the OSP make sure that all production companies know they're not supposed to be paying OSP employees. The board's Monday finding was based on nine of those payments.
According to the board's finding, Schick did not appear for the ethics board hearing so it is not known if he has an attorney helping him. It does say he is no longer employed with the OSP; he was terminated in November 2017.