Campaign illegally pays Robottom’s daughter

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, November 11, 2015

LAPLACE — After finding out there was a financial problem with her campaign, St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom reached out to the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Natalie Robottom

Natalie Robottom

It was brought to Robottom’s attention Thursday afternoon that her daughter, Courtney Robottom Fos, has been illegally paid $5,312 from Robottom’s campaign chest.

According to Robottom, she had her financial treasurer contact the Louisiana Board of Ethics when they opened Friday morning.

Fos worked in Robottom’s campaign headquarters for her re-election campaign.

“When I’m at work, she runs things, organizes things, answered the phones and organizes meetings,” Robottom said. “I’m not using my office to campaign. I needed someone to run my campaign outside of my office. My daughter was paid for work performed.

“(Fos) schedules meetings and deals with payments, ads and confirms engagements. We realized that it was a possible violation, and we reimbursed my campaign. She has continued to work. She will not be paid out of the campaign.”

Robottom said the mishap was a mistake, adding she was not familiar with the ethics guidelines. Robottom said it was nothing she was trying to hide, saying in her financial report she reported what was paid and once it was brought to her attention it was addressed.

“After reading through the guidelines, we found that what would have made it ethical would be if she had a LLC registered with the Secretary of State,” Robottom said. “If she had been registered as a business, she could have received the payments.”

Kathleen Allen of the Louisiana office of ethics administration said the issue in question is handled under Campaign Finance Law.

“Any candidate who violates this provision shall be subject to penalties provided in subsection J (of the law),” she said.

Allen said she could not comment specifically on Robottom’s case, but penalties that could be applied include an assessed fine of $5,000 or the amount of the violation, whichever is greater.

There could also be an enhancement if it is determined there was a willful violation. Allen said when her office receives a complaint, the Board can refer the matter to investigation. However, she would not comment on the St. John case.

Someone could to pursue enforcement action through charges or a lawsuit after the investigation.

Robottom said her mistake is not like the issue with former 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed, who paid his son.

“There is no similarity,” Robottom said. “Reed was indicted for criminal activities and he paid his son for work that he did not perform.”

Robottom said her mistake is not a type of federal violation.

The incumbent Parish President said the Ethics Board normally reviews complaints and if there is an issue, they will ask for more information to remedy the issue. Robottom said sometimes there are fines and sometimes there aren’t

Fos will continue to work and be paid from Robottom’s personal account.

“She works 60 hours a week on my campaign and is getting paid for 40,” Robottom said.

— By Raquel Derganz Baker