Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa has agreed to pay a $500 fine to resolve conflict-of-interest charges filed against him by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.
Ragusa and board members signed a consent order ending the case which stemmed from Ragusa’s involvement in a loan application to the Town of Independence Historic District Fund that financially benefitted his sons, Michael Brent Ragusa and Nelson Hunt Ragusa, and his daughter-in-law Sabrina Ragusa.
Under state law, no public servant shall participate in a transaction “involving the governmental entity in which, to his actual knowledge” any member of his immediate family has a substantial economic interest.
Ragusa could have been subject to censure or a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
According to the consent opinion, Ragusa agreed he violated state nepotism law when “he participated in the approval and execution of the Town of Independence Historical District Fund loan documents for Jimmy Gregory Investments, Inc., when he knew the loan funds would be used to purchase the BBQ Station Restaurant from BHS Enterprises, Inc., a company owned by his sons and daughter-in-law.”
Initially, Ragusa said he got legal advice prior to signing the documents as mayor.
BHS Enterprise, the Ragusa family members’ firm, borrowed $50,000 from the Historic District Fund in 2003 to purchase The BBQ Station Restaurant and make renovations. BHS Enterprises sold the restaurant on Jan. 27, 2009, to Jimmy Gregory Investments Inc., for $225,000.
The terms of the agreement included a $130,000 down payment and a promissory note between the parties for the remainder to be paid in installments. The violation relates to a $130,000 loan application made by Jimmy Gregory Investments on Nov. 19, 2008, to the Historic District Fund.
The loan was for the purchase of the restaurant.
The Board of Aldermen approved the loan Jan. 27, 2009, with loan papers signed by Mayor Ragusa and Gregory.
A $130,000 check was issued the same day to the title company handling the closing of The BBQ Station Restaurant deal between BHS Enterprises Inc. and Jimmy Gregory Investments. The title company, Cypress Title Service, then issued a check for $94,464.66 to BHS Enterprises and the remaining funds went to Independence to pay off BHS Enterprises’ initial loan from 2003.