METAIRIE – Candace P. Howay, an attorney who practices in Lake Charles, may be suspended for one year based on suggestions from the Office of Disciplinary Council (ODC).
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board released an Aug. 16 official hearing report suggesting that Howay should be suspended for one year, pay restitution of $1,800 to her former employer and pay for hearing proceedings due to allegedly violating rules of professional conduct, criminal conduct and dishonest conduct.
“The conduct here is both knowing and intentional,” the hearing report said. “There was a conscious purpose and awareness of a particular result and the circumstances of the conduct.”
The official hearing document explained that after Howay willingly resigned from Lundy, Lundy, Soileau and South LLP to partner with another firm, it discovered that one company, Matheson Tri-Gas, was missing $9,000 that was allegedly written to Howay’s cousin and deposited into her mother’s bank account. It also found another $1,800 missing from the firm’s operating account, the check allegedly also written to Howay’s mother to pay for interest on a business loan.
The document further explained that Matheson Tri-Gas was informed of the missing funds, but it explained that Howay had full access and it did not want to press any charges. However, Lundy, Lundy, Soileau and South LLP decided to report its missing funds.
“ODC investigated the expenditure of the funds from the trust account of Matheson to (Howay's cousin), Matheson was only somewhat moderately cooperative with the investigation, and suggested to ODC that respondent was granted complete authority to use Matheson funds at her own discretion,” the document said.
Furthermore, Howay explained her use of the $9,000 from Matheson, but the hearing document explained that she did not address the matter of the $1,800 reportedly paid for her mother's business loan interest from the firm’s operating account, which was unauthorized.
“(Howay) has never offered proof of the legitimacy of the $1,800 transaction,” the document said. “The evidence is that (she) knowingly, intentionally converted $1,800 of (her former law firm’s) operating account funds."
Because the amount at issue was much less than previously reported, the committee deviated from the ODC’s initial suggestion of disbarment.
“The committee finds mitigating factors warrants a downward deviation from the baseline sanctions (of disbarment),” the document said. “Here there was no harm to a client.”
The committee also took into consideration the fact that Matheson Tri-Gas said Howay had full authority to use its funds as she saw necessary. Since the amount no longer included the $9,000 taken from its account, and no charges were sought, it helped inform the committee on whether it should reduce the sentence from disbarment to suspension.
Despite the reduced sentence, Howay is still required to pay back the law firm and pay for all hearing costs.