Finance official also consultant
LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana Board of Ethics filed ethics charges earlier this month against Greg Gachassin and his development firm, The Cartesian Company, related to his consulting services for housing developments supported by a public board while he was still its chairman.
The charges, filed June 14, will be considered by the Ethics Adjudicatory Board, a panel of three administrative law judges who will make a ruling at a later date, said Alainna Giacone, communications director for the Ethics Board.
Gachassin served on the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority from 2003 to 2009 and as its chairman until Nov. 17, 2009.
The authority finances affordable housing and other public projects in Lafayette Parish.
The charges allege violations of state laws that prohibit public servants from participating in decisions in which “he has a personal substantial economic interest” and that require a two-year wait before a public servant may work for, receive compensation or be involved in transactions with his former public agency.
The alleged ethics violations stem from Gachassin’s involvement in matters related to Villa Gardens, a low-income housing development sponsored by the Lafayette Housing Authority, and Cypress Trails, the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority low-income housing apartment complex, according to the charges.
In the weeks before Gachassin resigned from the public board on Nov. 17, 2009, he signed, as president of The Cartesian Company, a $500,000 project consultant agreement with the Cypress Trails Limited Partnership, the nonprofit entity created by the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority for the development, according to the charges
He also signed another $500,000 consultant agreement with the Villa Gardens Limited Partnership, according to the charges.
Gachassin incorporated his company and became its president/director on Nov. 6, 2009, and on Nov. 10, 2009, his company received payments for consulting services provided to the Villa Gardens Limited Partnership. In December 2009, Gachassin returned to the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority to give an update as the consultant for the Cypress Trails project.
He is the developer for two more Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority housing developments near downtown: Joie de Vivre and Studios at LWG.
A call to Gachassin’s office Tuesday afternoon was not returned.
Gachassin’s attorney, Gray Sexton, said the Ethics Board “did not satisfactorily conduct its investigation” and he said he believes the Ethics Board’s staff confused private and public entities involved in the housing developments during its investigation.
The entities involved in the housing developments have similar names, Sexton said, but would not offer further explanation.
“Once the facts, as they exist, are brought to light we’re confident that the (judges) will dismiss the charges,” Sexton said.
The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority did ask Gachassin for assurances “no ethical violation would result from his proposed services as a development consultant to the Cypress Trails Project,” according to a written response the authority’s general counsel Richard Becker provided last year.
“In a subsequent conversation with Mr. Gachassin, he advised me as counsel to the LPTFA that he had indeed performed the required due diligence and that after consideration and review concluded that his proposed role as a development consultant” with the Cypress Trails Limited Partnership would not pose an ethics violation, Becker wrote.
Efforts to reach Becker in his office by phone and by email Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority obtained a copy of the charges from the Ethics Board on Tuesday, according to John Arceneaux, chairman of authority, in an email Tuesday.
“Given the confidential and preliminary nature of the proceedings and charges, the Board of Ethics informed us that the only information available at this point was the charges which we obtained a copy of today,” Arceneaux said.
“We have and will continue to cooperate with the Board of Ethics throughout the process and will await the findings of the Ethics Adjudicatory Board after they are able to hold a hearing on the charges made against the Cartesian Company Inc.,” Arceneaux said.