Agenda Item
Docket No. 17-907
Advisory Opinion request by John White, State Superintendent of Education, regarding the employment of his wife, Katherine Westerhold, by Relay Graduate School in New Orleans.
Relay Graduate School of Education (RGS) is an accredited institution of higher learning that provides teacher preparation programs for individuals seeking to become certified teachers and for teachers seeking advanced certification and post-graduate degrees. RGS currently offers training on campuses in 15 locations across the country, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

On July 1, 2017, State Superintendent of Education John White married Katherine Westerhold, who is a Director of Policy and Government Affairs for RGS, having worked primarily in California, Connecticut, and Washington D.C. She has no ownership interest in RGS and does not sit on the Board of Trustees for RGS.

Since 2013, RGS has been approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) as a teacher preparation program provider and operates teacher preparation programs in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. As part of that approval process, RGS was reviewed by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE), which made a recommendation to BESE to approve RGS to operate as a teacher preparation program provider in Louisiana.

Additionally, RGS, in partnership with local education agencies, has applied to LDE for funding under Louisiana's Believe and Prepare Educator Grant Program. The grant program began in 2014 and is intended to assist teacher preparation providers statewide, including universities, in their efforts to launch and expand teacher preparation programs. Grants awarded under the program are approved by BESE, based on a review of grant applications and recommendations made by LDE. In June 2017, RGS partnered with Collegiate Academies, a charter school operator, to apply for funding under the grant program. RGS was one of 13 teacher preparation programs to receive funding under the grant and was approved by BESE for $90,000 in federal grant funds to be disbursed by LDE over the course of 2017 and 2018. Ms. Westerhold's compensation is unaffected by BESE's approval of RGS as a provider or the awarding of grants to RGS.

AO 2012-149: Kira Orange-Jones is a member of BESE. Her employment by Teach for America was not prohibited under the exception in 82-02D. She was employed as a director for the local Teach for America branch, but was not a director at the national level.

AO 2008-957: Board extended 82-02D exception to spouse of public servant for potential 1111C(2)(d) violation.

La. R.S. 42:1111C(2)(d) provides that no public servant and no legal entity in which the public servant exercises control or owns an interest in excess of twenty-five percent, shall receive any thing of economic value for or in consideration of services rendered, or to be rendered, to or for any person during his public service unless such services are: (d) Neither performed for nor compensated by any person or from any officer, director, agent, or employee of such person, if such public servant knows or reasonably should know that such person has or is seeking to obtain contractual or other business or financial relationships with the public servant's agency; conducts operations or activities which are regulated by the public employee's agency; or has substantial economic interests which may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the public employee's official duty.

Ethics Board Docket No. 82-02D provides an exception to Section 1111C(2)(d) of the Code when certain factors are met: (1) the employee must be a salaried or wage-earning employee; (2) the employee's salary must remain substantially unaffected by the contractual relationship; (3) the public servant must own less than a "controlling interest" in the company; and (4) the public servant must be neither an officer, director, trustee, nor partner in the company.

La. R.S. 42:1112B(1) states that no public servant shall participate in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which, to his actual knowledge, any member of his immediate family has a substantial economic interest.

La. R.S. 42:1113A(1)(a) states no public servant, excluding any legislator and any appointed member of any board of commission and any member of a governing authority of a parish with a population of ten thousand or less, or member of such a public servant's immediate family, or legal entity in which he has a controlling interest shall bid on or enter into any contract, subcontract, or other transaction that is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such public servant.

La. R.S. 42:1114 provides that each public servant and each member of his immediate family who derives anything of economic value, directly, through any transaction involving the agency of such public servant or who derives any thing of economic value of which he may be reasonably expected to know through a person which (1) is regulated by the agency of such public servant, or (2) has bid on or entered into or is in any way financially interested in any contract, subcontract, or any transaction under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such public servant shall disclose certain information as set forth in Section 1114.

Adopt proposed advisory opinion.
Assigned Attorney: David Bordelon
2017-907 - Advisory Opinion Draft (3.0)
2017-907 AOR
2017-907- Relay Leadership | Relay Graduate School of Education
2017-907- AO 2008-957
2017-907- AO 2012-149