Agenda Item
Docket No. 23-1006
Advisory opinion request from a member of the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board regarding whether certain transactions create conflicts of interest under the Code of Governmental Ethics (the "Code").
The Louisiana Rice Promotion Board (the "Promotion Board") was created by La. R.S. 3:3533. Mark Pousso is a member of the Promotion Board.

The USA Rice Council is a nonprofit organization that has a contract with the Promotion Board to help promote rice in Louisiana and nationally.

In 2012, rice farmers initiated a lawsuit against the Promotion Board, the Louisiana Rice Research Board and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry for recovery of rice check off funds that were allegedly illegally taken. In 2017, the lawsuit was designated as a Class Action. Mr. Pousson stated that the class may include more than 10,000 individuals and legal entities, including the members of the Promotion Board. If the litigation is ultimately successful, the class members may be entitled to reimbursement from the Promotion Board and the Louisiana Rice Research Council as collectors of the assessments.

Mr. Pousson stated that the USA Rice Council has been paying for the legal fees incurred by the Promotion Board and the Louisiana Rice Research Board.

Further, members of the Promotion Board may also serve on various committees and board positions of the USA Rice Council. These positions are uncompensated.

La. R.S. 42:1111A prohibits a public employee from receiving anything of economic value, other than compensation and benefits from the governmental entity to which he is duly entitled, for the performance of the duties and responsibilities of his office or position.

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 from whom such public servant would be prohibited by R.S. 42:1115(A)(1) or (B) from receiving a gift.

La. R.S. 42:1112A prohibits a public servant from participating in a transaction in which he has a personal substantial economic interest of which he may be reasonably expected to know involving the governmental entity.

La. R.S. 42:1112B(3) states that no public servant shall participate in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which, to his actual knowledge, any person of which he is an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee has a substantial economic interest.

La. R.S. 42:1115A(1) prohibits a public servant from soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, any thing of economic value as a gift or gratuity from 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 have a contractual, business or financial relationship with the public servant's agency.

La. R.S. 42:1115.2A provides that the provisions of R.S. 42:1111 or 1115 shall not preclude the acceptance by a public servant of complimentary admission, lodging, and reasonable transportation, or reimbursement for such expenses, if the agency head of the public servant's agency certifies each of the following: (1) The public servant's acceptance of complimentary admission, lodging, and reasonable transportation, or reimbursement for such expenses, is either of direct benefit to the agency or will enhance the knowledge or skill of the public servant as it relates to the performance of his public service. (2) The agency head approved the public servant's acceptance of complimentary admission, lodging, and reasonable transportation, or reimbursement for such expenses, prior to acceptance.

La. R.S. 42:1115.2B requires any public servant who accepts complimentary admission, lodging, and reasonable transportation, or reimbursement for such expenses to file with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, within sixty (60) after such acceptance, a certification disclosing: (1) The date and location of complimentary admission, lodging, or transportation and a brief description of its purpose. (2) The name of the person who gave, provided, paid for, or reimbursed by the person for admission, lodging, and transportation. (3) The certification required herein shall include the certifications of the agency head.

La. R.S. 42:1102 (2)(a)(i) defines "agency" to mean a department, office, division, agency, commission, board, committee, or other organizational unit of a governmental entity. "Agency of the public servant" and "his agency" when used in reference to the agency of a public servant shall mean for public servants in the twenty principal departments of the executive branch of state government, the office in which such public servant carries out his primary responsibilities; ...except that in the case of public servants who are members or employees of a board or commission or who provide staff assistance to a board or commission, it shall mean the board or commission.

La. R.S. 42:1102(21) defines "substantial economic interest" as an economic interest which is of greater benefit to the public servant or other person than to a general class or group of persons, except: (a) the interest that the public servant has in his position, office, rank, salary, per diem, or other matter arising solely from his public employment or office; (b) the that an elected official who is elected to a house, body, or authority has in a position or office of such house, body, or authority which is required to be filled by a member of such house, body, or authority by law, legislative rule, or home rule charter, (c) the interest that a person has as a member of the general public.

La. R.S. 42:1102(18)(ii) defines "public employee" to include an individual who is appointed by any elected official 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.

La. R.S. 42:1102(19) defines "public servant" to include an elected official or public employee.

Adopt proposed advisory opinion.
Assigned Attorney: Tracy Barker
2023-1006 - Advisory Opinion Draft - Pousson -
2023-1006 - AO