It’s October and finally Fall. This my favorite time of the year. I pray all is well with you.
We met in regular session on September 17, 2018. Most of the agenda items were appointments or re-appointments to various boards and general items of business.
There was an agenda item to authorize the Parish President to prepare and submit an application for a new five-year grant for the Parish Head Start Program from the United States Health and Human Services, Office of Head Start. Councilman Bedgood, Councilman Paige, and Councilwoman Hoover voting in favor. Councilman deGraffenried and Councilman Rachal voting in opposition.
There appears to be a potential conflict with the outcome of the vote that was cast on September 17, 2018. Louisiana Revised Statute 42:1112(B)1 states that “No public servant, except as provided in R.S. 42:1120, shall participate in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which, to his actual knowledge, any of the following persons has a substantial economic interest: (1) Any member of his immediate family”. Louisiana Revised Statute 42:1120 states that If any elected official, in the discharge of a duty or responsibility of his office or position, would be required to vote on a matter which would be in violation of R.S. 421112, he shall recuse himself from voting. An elected official who recuses himself from voting pursuant to this Section shall not be prohibited from participating in discussion and debate concerning the matter, provided that he makes the disclosure of his conflict or potential conflict a part of the record of his agency prior to his participation in the discussion or debate and prior to the vote that is the subject of discussion or debate.
Councilman Paige is an elected official, and his wife has been employed by the Natchitoches Parish Government since 1990. She receives her check from the Natchitoches Parish Government and the Head Start Program reimburses the Parish Government.
Upon the announcement of passage by the Parish Clerk, challenged the vote and stated that Councilman Paige could not vote pursuant the LA R.S. 42;1112 and R.S. 42:1120. The chair allowed the vote and adjourned the meeting.
Councilman Paige participated in the discussion and debate without disclosing his conflict of interest in this matter, and later subsequently voted to make application for the new five-year grant, and did not recuse himself as required by R.S. 42:1112 and R.S. 42:1120.
I filed a complaint with the Natchitoches Parish District Attorney’s Office and the Louisiana Board of Ethics on September 18, 2018.
The Natchitoches Parish Government is the grantee of the Head Start Program for Natchitoches Parish. If the Parish Council decides to not apply for the grant, the Head Start Program will not simply go away. Some other entity will apply for the grant.
This is not how responsible government is supposed to work.
Thank you and God Bless,
Natchitoches Parish Council