Ethics Board to appeal decision

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal threw out ethics charges against former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s attorney Stephen Braud.

The Ethics Board disagrees and, without discussion, voted Friday to appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The board accused Braud of receiving money from a prohibited source and participating in a prohibited transaction. The court ruled that the charges were not timely filed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Braud helped write amendments to the Sheriff’s Office contract with convicted businessman Aaron Bennett to renovate the parish jail. At the same time as representing the sheriff, Braud’s law firm, Ballay, Braud and Colon, received $22,000 for services rendered to Bennett and his firm, Benetech, according to the charges filed by the Board of Ethics.

Benetech was linked to corruption in renovations of the Plaquemines Parish Jail and for technology and construction contracts with New Orleans.

In its ruling, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit said state law required an action against Braud for alleged violation of the ethics code must begin within four years of the date on which the alleged violations occurred.

“An action is commenced by the filing of a formal charge with the Ethics Adjudicatory Board. In this case, the alleged violations occurred, at the latest, in June of 2008 and thus, to be timely, the formal charges had to be filed on or before June of 2012,” the court said. “The evidence shows that the Board of Ethics filed formal charges with the Ethics Adjudicatory Board on Sept. 14, 2012. Any claims which the board of Ethics may have had against Mr. Braud are clearly prescribed.”

The court then dismissed the charges against Braud.

The 1st Circuit ruling came after Braud failed to get the Ethics Adjudicatory Board to dismiss the charges based on the timeliness argument.

The Ethics Adjudicatory Board argued that the state law allows the four-year clock to start from the date of discovery of a violation as well as the date the alleged violation occurred. The time periods are interrupted when the Board of Ethics commences an “action to enforce.”

The Board of Ethics began considering the alleged violation and voted to initiate the investigation before the four years ran out, according to Michael Dupree, a lawyer working on the case.