Subway councilor Rowdy Gaudet will be fined $50,000 for breaking ethics laws because he worked for a consulting firm that received city-parish government contracts.
The company, Emergent Method, will separately pay a $2,500 civil penalty under a consent notice with the Louisiana Ethics Board that was approved Friday.
Gaudet served as chief executive of Emergent Method, a frequent entrepreneur in the parish town, from May 2020 until he left the company in May 2022, according to his LinkedIn profile. He did not own a stake in the company.
In January 2021, Gaudet was sworn in to his District 3 seat on the Metro Council, which approves city-parish contracts. Gaudet would recuse himself from votes on contracts with Emergent Method.
Emergent Method and Gaudet settled with the ethics committee under a single agenda item which was accepted on Friday. The article is a “consent notice”, meaning they agreed to settle without a public hearing rather than face charges or civil action.
Louisiana’s Code of Ethics states that officials cannot receive compensation from an agency “if such official knows or reasonably should know that such person has or seeks to obtain a contractual or other business or financial relationship with the official’s agency”. Gaudet was employed by Emergent Method while the consulting firm had contracts with the city-parish which “were supervised and subject to the authority of the Metro Council”, according to the opinion.
In a statement Friday, Gaudet wrote that he had worked with attorneys and the ethics committee to ensure he was in compliance with the code of ethics. He said the practice of part-time civil servants working with government entities had been permitted for decades.
“While I vehemently disagree with their decision, I accept this outcome as a way to bring comfort to my family,” Gaudet wrote. “It was clear that there was no way to overturn the Commission’s decision, and I am not inclined to pursue this through a long and costly legal process. As a community leader, I Will Always Own My Shares and Agreeing to a Settlement Puts That Behind These actions do not break my commitment to public service, and I remain focused on continuing to serve the residents of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Gaudet wrote that he had hoped the council would provide further guidance to officials on how not to breach the code of ethics. Gaudet warned that other public officials should heed the advice because “this is clearly new policy and an interpretation of long-standing rules,” he wrote.
The board said the emerging method violated the code of ethics by paying Gaudet. The company said in a statement on Friday that it had consulted with lawyers to ensure compliance with the code of ethics and that the council’s advice took them by surprise.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough based on the ethics committee’s revised position on these issues,” the statement from Emergent Method reads. “It is unfortunate that this process has gotten us to where we are today, but as outlined in the consent opinion agreement with the Ethics Board, we are prepared to put this matter behind us and move forward. our work to support the customers and communities we serve.”
Ethics committee administrator Kathleen Allen disputed claims by Gaudet and Emergent Method that the opinion was a new interpretation of the rules. She said there had been exceptions before, but these had been resolved through formal advisory opinions with the board – something Gaudet had not done before he started working at Emerging Method.
These exceptions require the public official to regularly disclose their income and other information, she said.
“If there’s an exception, whether it’s in the statute or an exception that the board wants to make, you have to seek your own advisory opinion to lay it out,” Allen said.
In its written opinion, the board said emerging method president Nicklos Speyrer allegedly testified that Gaudet told the company he had consulted the ethics committee and that no advisory opinion was needed. – but he later learned that Gaudet’s representations to the company were not accurate, the opinion said.
Gaudet and Emergent Method could have faced higher fines if the cases had gone to a public hearing before the board and found to be in violation. The board has the ability to impose a fine of $10,000 for each violation of the code. Gaudet was earning a salary of $145,000 when he left the company and could also have been required to pay one and a half times the amount of the economic benefit obtained, according to the opinion.
Emergent Method is a consulting firm that guided the parish-town’s search for a new director of BREC in 2018 and a new director of the Downtown Development District this year. The company has secured a total of $1.3 million in professional services contracts with the city-parish over the past six years, according to information posted on Open Data BR.
During Gaudet’s employment with Emergent Method, the company entered into professional services contracts with the Parish-City Information Services Department, Environmental Services Department, Public Office of Business Operations, and Metropolitan Airport. of Baton Rouge, according to the opinion. The parish town paid $143,323.76 to Emergent Method during Gaudet’s employment, according to the opinion.