Ethic board rules of HVFD financial practices

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 16, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE – As it stands now, the Hahnville Volunteer Fire Department needs to either discharge Fire Chief Reggie Gaubert from his paid administrative position or discharge his daughter, Dawn Gaubert, from her volunteer position as treasurer.

This came after the Hahnville fire chief sought a Louisiana Ethics Board review of their financial practices on Jan. 8.

The board of ethics came back with a flat refusal, asserting: “…that the Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits you from taking any position with the Fire Department for which you receive compensation.”

The written response added that participation other than on a voluntary basis is prohibited; also that having his daughter from serving as treasurer is prohibited, as long as he is in his position.

Gaubert, though, disagrees and plans to seek some sort of appeal on the decision.

The request from the department read as follows: “Consideration of a request for an advisory opinion regarding whether a member of the Board for the Hahnville Volunteer Fire Department may work as a salaried employee of the Fire Department and whether his daughter may serve as Treasurer of the Fire Department.”

Gaubert said the department’s bylaws calls for the fire chief to also serve on the board. Meanwhile, the chief is also serving as a salaried administrator for the department.

His daughter was recently elected treasurer of the fire department, so it was agreed by the board to seek an advisory opinion to ensure the legality of the situation.

Gaubert said that the Code prohibits a public servant or member of his immediate family from entering into contracts or other transactions. Gaubert said he does not qualify as a “public servant,” as he was neither a public employee or elected officials of a governmental entity. Likewise, he does not qualify as a “public employee,” since he is not an officer or official of a governmental agency, not appointed by an elected official, not running a governmental agency, and not under the supervision of an elected official.

He added that on matters of fiscal concern, the chief recuses himself and continued that when it comes to making purchases for the department, the procedure establishes makes certain the checks and balances are in place.

In making purchases, Gaubert said, first the matter goes to the finance committee, then it is reviewed and voted upon by the full membership, then it goes to the chief and then back to the finance committee.

Gaubert continued that the setup is similar to other departments, where the finance committee and the membership knows everything going on.