Agenda Item
Docket No. 23-581
Advisory Opinion request as to whether Thecla, LLC is prohibited from submitting a proposal to design, implement, manage, maintain, and supervise a single remittance system for the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board ("LULSTB").
Thecla, LLC, a Louisiana limited liability company owned by Ricardo Mekdessie, is an information technology and software consulting company. On July 1, 2022, Mr. Mekdessie, on behalf of Thecla, renewed its Professional Services Agreement with LULSTB, which expires on June 30, 2024. The contractual duties of Thecla include:

1. Providing advice and recommendations to LULSTB regarding the purchase, licensing, development, maintenance, and support of computer software and hardware relative to Louisiana local sales and use tax collection and administration;
2. Providing oversight and guidance regarding proper functioning of existing LULSTB programs;
3. Maintaining and supporting the LULSTB's website including content and associated features;
4. Attending LULSTB meetings as requested; and,
5. Performing such other tasks or assignments as may be requested by LULSTB or its Executive Director, Clarence Lymon.

During the 2023 Regular Legislative Session, Act. No. 375 was enacted, wherein the collection of local sales tax shifted from the Louisiana Department of Revenue's responsibility to LULSTB. The statute requires LULSTB to design and implement a new system that will allow taxpayers to remit state and local sales and use taxes for the various taxing jurisdictions in the State of Louisiana through a single location. Thecla would like to submit a proposal to design, implement, manage, maintain, and supervise a single remittance system.

According to Thecla, there will be no overlap between the two contracts. A copy of Thecla's current contract was provided and is attached. Ms. Ardoin states that the new contract will be under the supervision of the Louisiana Office of Technology & Support. The original contract will remain under the supervision of LULSTB.

After consulting with the current LULSTB Executive Director, Clarence Lymon, and the OTS representative assigned to the Department of Revenue, Mark Aubert, it was explained that the process has not begun to enter into a contract with a person for the development of the system and the specifications for the new system have not been created.

The current system used by the Department of Revenue for the collection of sales tax was created and developed by Mr. Mekdessie in 2008. In 2016, Mr. Mekdessie sold that program to Avenu Insights & Analytics, who currently contracts to maintain the system for the Department of Revenue.

With respect to the 2019 RFP that was created by LULSTB, Mr. Mekdessie stated that he did not work on the development or creation of the RFP and related documents.

Mr. Lymon stated that Mr. Mekdessie will not provide services under his current contract with LULSTB for the development/creation of the specifications of the new system or provide any services under his current contract to oversee the contract that is awarded for the new system.

Mr. Mekdessie submitted a request for an advisory opinion in BD 2019-1105. However, prior to the meeting, Mr. Mekdessie, on advice of Ms. Ardoin, submitted a request to withdraw the advisory opinion request because LULSTB lost its funding, and it was not going to issue an RFP for software development. I have attached the following from the file in 2019-1105: the request for the opinion, the RFP and Business Requirement Documents, and the email asking for the withdrawal.

La. R.S. 42:1112(A) prohibits a public servant from participating in a transaction in which he has a substantial economic interest.

La. R.S. 42:1113(A)(1)(a) prohibits a public servant, or legal entity in which he owns in excess of 25% from bidding on or entering into any contract, subcontract, or other transaction that is under the supervision or jurisdiction of his agency.

La. R.S. 42:1102(18) defines a "Public employee" as anyone, whether compensated or not, who is: (i) An administrative officer or official of a governmental entity who is not filling an elective office; (ii) Appointed by any elected official when acting in an official capacity, and the appointment is to a post or position wherein the appointee is to serve the governmental entity or an agency thereof, either as a member of an agency, or as an employee thereof; (iii) Engaged in the performance of a governmental function; or, (iv) Under the supervision or authority of an elected official or another employee of the governmental entity.

La. R.S. 42:1102(19) defines "Public servant" as a public employee or an elected official.

Adopt draft of advisory opinion.
Assigned Attorney: Kathleen Allen
2023-581 - AO
2023-581- Email A Ardoin - 092523 Attach - LULSTB Professional Services Contract-Thecla LLC - 07_01_2022 v2
2023-581- Email KMA - A Ardoin 092623 - Additional information requested
2023-581- Act 375 2023 Regular Session
2019-1105 Request for opinion
2019-1105- Email 120519 attach - REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL - Software Development
2019-1105- Email 120519 attach - LULSTB - Business Requirements Document v1
2019-1105- Advisory Opinion withdrawal Letter - Ricardo Mekdessie
2023-581 - Advisory Opinion Draft - Ardoin (2)