• Don't Forget Louisiana's Governmental Ethics Law When Hiring Governmental Employees
  • July 7, 2016 | Author: Richard G. Passler
  • Law Firm: Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. - Baton Rouge Office
  • Are you a private corporation? Are you thinking about hiring an individual currently employed by the State of Louisiana, one of its Parishes, or some other local governmental entity? If so, please remember to consult your lawyer responsible for advising you on Louisiana’s Code of Governmental Ethics.

    Louisiana’s ethics laws contain numerous restrictions (for which there are both civil and criminal penalties) concerning both (a) the options available for those individuals leaving the public sector and (b) those in the private sector seeking to employ them. This issue is especially significant because, ordinarily, when an individual is leaving public employment they are looking to be employed in the private sector in an area that uses the knowledge they gained in the public sector.

    Let’s start at the top. If you are a private business seeking to employ a former agency head or elected official, there is a specific applicable restriction. But first of all, what is an agency head? For the purpose of Louisiana’s ethics laws, an agency head is the chief executive or administrative officer of an agency or any member of a board or commission who exercises supervision over the agency. Also, included within the meaning of boards and commissions are police juries, parish or municipal councils, selectman, boards of alderman, school boards, and similar type bodies. Simply put, any collective group of people who act as one body and share responsibility for the actions of the group as a whole are generally classified as a board or commission. When it comes to employing any former agency head or elected official, for a period of two years following the termination of their public service, that individual may not assist another person, for compensation in a transaction or in an appearance in connection with a transaction involving his former agency. In other words, the former agency head or elected official can be hired in the private sector, but cannot be paid for their involvement in a transaction with their former agency for two years.

    Now let’s turn to the rank and file. What if you are a private business looking to hire an individual in public service who is not an agency head or elected official? Once again, Louisiana’s ethics laws have an applicable rule here too. In such circumstances, the private business can hire the employee as long as, for a period of two years following the termination of public employment, the former public employee does not assist the private business for compensation, in a transaction or an appearance in connection with a transaction in which the former public employee participated at any time during his public employment and which involves his former public employer. This prohibition is much narrower than that for a former agency heard or elected official. The term participation, however, is broadly defined to mean taking part in, having, or sharing responsibility for action of a governmental entity or a proceeding, personally, as a public servant of the governmental entity, through approval, disapproval, decision, recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation or the failure to act or perform a duty. In other words, direct involvement is not the only way to participate in a transaction; rather, even the slightest indirect involvement in connection with a transaction is enough to constitute participation. So, a former public employee who is not an agency head or elected official can be hired by a private business to interact with that former public employee’s prior agency -- involving the same type of work they did while employed by that public agency -- as long as it is not a transaction that the former public employee participated in during their public employment. In other words, any new transaction is fair game.

    And by the way, if a former public employee becomes an owner/partner in a private business, he cannot share in any compensation received by the private business for work that the former public employee (individually) is prohibited from performing by Louisiana’s ethics laws.