Ethics board: Wolfe eligible for housing job

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 2010



LAPLACE – An attorney for the state ethics board said Tuesday he sees nothing wrong with the hiring of St. John the Baptist Parish Councilman Richard “Dale” Wolfe as Housing Authority executive director, so long as Wolfe vacates his seat on the council.

Michael Dupree, the attorney who rendered the opinion, said “housing authorities are considered a separate political subdivision, and this appointment would not pose an ethics violation.”

Dupree added that although the council created the housing authority it is not a part of the parish government.

The state ethics board met after press time Friday afternoon to discuss and affirm Dupree’s opinion. Dupree said the board typically follows the recommendations of the attorneys, and he expected them to favor the position.

Housing authority attorney Randal Gaines had asked the housing board to pursue an ethics opinion because he wanted to make sure there would be no conflict of interest since the council appoints board members. Gaines said when Wolfe threw his name into consideration for the position, he wanted to make sure there was no appearance of any sort of conflict.

Gaines said the opinion only addresses ethical concerns surrounding the hiring of Wolfe and does not take into account state attorney general’s rules pertaining to “dual officeholding.” Gaines said Wolfe would have no choice other than to resign from the St. John Council should the board confirm his appointment as executive director at Monday’s board meeting.

At Gaines’s request, the Housing Authority had been holding off selection of executive director for nearly a month while they waited for the ethics decision. The board narrowed its choice down to Wolfe and former executive director Joseph Johnson. The board is expected to take the issue up Monday evening.

The new director would take over for former director Lawand Johnson, who resigned from her post in May before pleading guilty to theft charges from the parish District Attorney’s Office. Johnson admitted to making more than $2,000 in personal charges on a housing authority-issued credit card.

Johnson received a two-month suspended prison sentence, six-months of active probation, and was ordered to pay a $500 fine, according to court documents from the 40th Judicial District.