Former BESE member fined

Former Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Linda Johnson agreed to pay a $1,000 fine for violating state conflict of interest laws.

The violation involved the Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce paying for Johnson to travel to Turkey while she was a member of BESE.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics signed off on a consent agreement Friday, which ends the case.

Johnson signed the agreement Sept. 11, when she was still a member of BESE.

Johnson, of Plaquemine, did not seek re-election last fall to the District 8 seat on the board. The district covers all or parts of 14 parishes, including East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension and West Feliciana. BESE sets policies for an estimated 712,000 public school students statewide.

The agreement states Johnson was invited to and attended the trip because she was a member of BESE. The trip was May 23 to June 1, 2011.

“The purpose of the trip was to educate the participants about the educational system in Turkey, to visit historical and cultural sites, and to attend seminars,” according to the document.

Under state law, “no public servant shall receive anything of economic value, other than compensation and benefits from the governmental entity to which he is duly entitled, for the performance of the duties and responsibilities of his office or position.”

The board conducted a confidential investigation into the matter.

State law allows the board to remove, suspend or order a reduction in pay, or demotion of the public employee or impose a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.