Louisiana senator criticized by Ethics Board over role in suit against LSU

By Alejandro de los Rios | Aug 10, 2010


The Louisiana Board of Ethics announced Friday that State Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, violated ethics codes in regards to his legal representation of Bernhard Mechanical Contractors.

According to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Baton Rouge Advocate, Marionneaux allegedly violated the law when he failed to report that he was serving as Bernhard's counsel in a suit against Louisiana State University (LSU) and tried to secure a $5 million settlement through legislative appropriation.

The Advocate reported that public records show that LSU's chief attorney believed Marionneaux was trying to use his position on the Louisiana legislature to influence a settlement between Bernhard and LSU during settlement negotiations in May 2009.

Marionneaux did not return requests for comment from The Record.

On Monday, Marionneaux told The Advocate, "I didn't do anything wrong."

A call to the Louisiana Board of Ethics for comment was not returned.

Melissa Landry of the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) said the conduct Marrionneaux allegedly engaged in is "outrageous."

"For a sitting legislator to financially profit from directing millions in taxpayers' dollars toward a settlement would not only be unethical, but unconscionable," she said. "If we truly want to have one of the most ethical and transparent legislatures in the country, this case must be fully investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Reports indicate that Marionneaux was hired on a contingency-fee basis in 2008 to represent Bernhard over a contract dispute involving a co-generation plant the company installed on LSU's campus.

The Ethics Board charged that Marionneaux allegedly failed to disclose his hiring within 10 days as required by law.

The Advocate reported that Marionneaux was offered to settle his ethics violation case if he paid a $3,000 fine but declined.

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