Some contracted professionals would be exempt from conflict laws

State conflict of interest laws would not apply to engineers, architects, and certified public accountants who do contract work for governmental entities under a bill on its way to the Louisiana House.

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the legislation Wednesday with its sponsor state Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, agreeing to work on changes to make it more palatable.

“I think it’s a little loose,” said committee chairman state Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville.

Foil sponsored similar legislation last year, but it died in the state Senate as more and more professions were added to the exception.

House Bill 264 comes in response to an Ethics Board advisory opinion in a case involving an architect whose contractor brother’s firm got a mulit-million dollar construction contract on a project the architect designed and would oversee for the state. The board said there would be a conflict of interest because the architect would take on the role of a “public employee” by performing a governmental function.

“I don’t believe it was the legislative intent,” said Dewayne Cowart, representing engineering companies. He said the Ethics Board ruling has cause problems for those performing the professional services.

State ethics administrator Kathleen Allen said the Ethics Board favors a case-by-case approach instead of a blanket exemption from ethics code provisions.