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Adley should help out, show genuine ethics reform desire

Gov. Bobby Jindal looks to introduce more ethics laws changes that he says will work out kinks that have cropped up from the changes he backed four years ago. It'll be interesting to see if one of his holier-than-thou critics signs on and serves as a workhorse in the effort. Given his actions in another ethics-related matter last year, he may just sit on the sidelines and continue merely to act as a showhorse for when it's politically convenient for him.

Last fall, as the election season cranked up, state Sen. Robert Adley remonstrated greatly about the legality of an arrangement between 26th District Attorney Schuyler Marvin and one of Marvin’s assistants. In 1999, Patrick Jackson was hired as an assistant district attorney by Marvin’s predecessor. Later, he became employed by the Bossier Parish Police Jury to represent it and his private practice, which continued, was employed by the Webster Parish Police Jury, both of which comprise the district. But state law mandates, subject to exceptions that neither parish pursued nor qualified for, that the appropriate district attorney provide representation to parishes without them separately having to hire it.

Last year, Adley asked the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to look into these deals, and it duly issued a report. The LLA argued that, if anything, Jackson appeared much more to be an employee of the parish than of the DA, considering the lack of documentation about his hiring and performance with the DA but which is present for the parish, that the vast bulk of his salary comes from the parish, and he was in the retirement system for parishes, not for DA employees.

At the time of Adley’s request, political circles in the district were abuzz that Jackson’s father, parish employee and previous candidate for the state House Richey Jackson, was preparing to challenge Adley in this fall’s election. Then, about a month before qualifying, the elder Jackson summarily announced he was abandoning the bid. Those same political circles then speculated that this happened to dissuade Adley from further taking action against the arrangement. In addition, during the legislative session of this year, Adley also had introduced legislation that specifically targeted the arrangement to make it illegal, although that never made it past the Senate.

Certainly, Adley is no angel when it comes to arrangements that skirt the letter of the law, if not outright violating its spirit. For years, he has enjoyed a no-bid contract to supply Louisiana municipalities with natural gas through an organization whose parent is the organization representing the state’s municipalities and whose members find him voting on matters directly affecting them. While this is not illegal, one wonders whether Adley’s company would enjoy such a privileged status if he did not have his Senate gig.

He also has a reputation for throwing around baseless charges for political reasons. Without any evidence, he said he would call for an investigation of a legislator and a member of his family, a candidate for another office, and of a political consultant during the 2007 elections for breaking campaign reporting law for work concerning a Shreveport mayoral campaign. After he and another consultant, rival to the one accused and who had an axe to grind against the legislator, worked the media far and wide to shout out their story, it understandably disappeared with no action coming from ethics enforcers, and no apologies from them to their victims.

But even a stopped clock has the right time twice a day, and, despite his lack of credibility in these matters, Adley may have hit on something here. Enriching the scenario further, Marvin’s initial response to the LLA came in the form of a middle finger salute that made it clear that, except for a bookkeeping move to shift Jackson from one retirement system to another, he would do nothing to change the current relationship involving Jackson and the governing authorities regardless of the misgivings of the LLA and apparent contradiction with the law. He then later backtracked on the pay issue, and claimed it actually had been changed Sep. 1 for it to all come out of his office.

This attitude doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in who is supposed to be the top legal official in the district, especially when compliance would be as simple as (their absence noted by the LLA) a record of Jackson’s activities being kept by Marvin and him evaluated by only Marvin, not the parish. In this regard, Adley can be of some assistance.

If the ruckus Adley raised legislatively over the matter can be taken for his genuine interest in sticking to the law rather than having been a transparent political ploy, he needs to follow up after the Marvin brush off. And that means more than just reintroducing last session’s legislation; many bills introduced by legislators end up in oblivion with a wink and nod by their authors, denoting that they could care less whether the bill actually passes but who in reality wish to gain symbolic credit for bringing up the matter. Adley needs to fight aggressively for that kind of legislation and lead the charge through other channels to force changes in practice with as much vigor as he has over manufactured past issues.

Seeing this in the form of legislation, as well as his co-sponsoring ethics legislaiton Jindal has promised, would confirm Adley is serious about ethics reform outside of when he is inconvenienced politically, but, at the time of this publishing, he has introduced no bills. Absent this vigor, we may understand Adley’s interest in the matter last year merely was political and tied to his own continuance in office, and he otherwise doesn't care about disregard of the law when attempts to protect its integrity serve him no other purpose.


Anonymous said...

How dismissive

Anonymous said...

Maybe after 3 consecutive years of trying to get ethics reform legislation passed that would have opened the governor's office to public records requirements similar to the requirements that the legislators are subject to, which the governor was so proud of I might add, Mr. Adley has finally decided that if the governor, who proudly proclaims to be making the state more ethical, can't abide by the same ethics requirements then why should he (Mr. Adley) continue to delve into the ethics legislation arena at all. If the big boss won't gladly accept leading the pack in ethics reform and set an example by playing by the same rules as everyone else, then maybe why even bother. Just something to think about.