Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Three local State House candidates fail to file income disclosures by deadline

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 11:14 AM

Two Orleans Parish candidates running in the October 22 election for the Louisiana State House of Representatives are nearly a month late in filing tier 2 personal financial disclosure forms for the 2010 tax year, as required of all candidates for the State Legislature, according to Kathleen Allen, administrator for the Louisiana Ethics Administration.

Democrat Carlos Williams, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Jeff Arnold for District 102 in Algiers; and Republican John Fenner "Fenn" French, who is challenging incumbent Neil Abramson for District 98 Uptown, have not, as of this writing, turned in the disclosures, which were due by the middle of September.


Update (October 12, 5:30 p.m.): The French disclosure is in and available for download here.

State law requires that legislative candidates turn in the forms — which disclose information on each candidate's (and his or her spouse's) employment, income, and property and investment holdings — within 10 days of turning in their qualifying forms. Friedman and Williams qualified on September 8, meaning their disclosures were due by September 18.

The Ethics Administration is responsible for oversight and regulation of campaign finance and personal financial disclosures for state and local political candidates and officeholders. All disclosures are posted and publicly viewable on its online database.

A third New Orleans area candidate — former Plaquemines Parish Councilman John "Jay" Friedman, the lone Democrat in a four candidates running for an open seat in House District 105 — has also failed to file. District 105 was composed entirely of voting precincts in St. Charles, Jefferson and Plaquemines Parish, but pursuant to redistricting this year will also include a small part of Algiers in Orleans Parish. The district is currently represented by term-limited Ernest Wooton, Independent of Belle Chasse. (Wooton is running for Plaquemines Parish Sheriff.) Friedman, who filed on September 6, did not return Gambit's request for comment.

Update (October 12, 3:30 p.m.): Friedman called and said that he received the notice and sent his disclosure in this morning.

When asked about the delinquencies, Allen said that her office sent out notifications to all three candidates on September 29 and 30 and that the office has been informed that both Williams and Friedman have received them.

"The U.S. Postal Service website indicates that Mr. French has not received the Notice of Delinquency (that was mailed certified on 9/29/11)," wrote Robin Gremillion, state Ethics Disclosure Divison director, to Gambit in an email.

Gremillion also wrote that none of them has yet rectified the violation. Williams, however, said he sent the document to the Ethics Administration on Monday, October 10.

"It was a simple mistake," said Williams, a hotel banquet director, who last filed a disclosure during his failed 2010 run for New Orleans City Council. “We had a gentleman who was working in our campaign who was handling all the filing. And, as it turns out, he didn’t want to continue working.”

Williams said that given the nature of his campaign — which he characterized as small and grassroots and entirely dependent on volunteers working during their free time — such mistakes are not unlikely.

The same can't really be said of Fenn French.

French — the president of Jos. A. Bank Clothiers New Orleans, a member of the First NBC Bank Board of Directors, and a board member of several large real estate developers in the Southeast — is extremely well connected in local and state GOP circles.

He's donated tens of thousands to political candidates for federal and state positions, including former Congressional Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, Gov. Bobby Jindal, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission and the state Ethics Administration,

In 2010, French managed Cao's failed 2010 reelection campaign. Cao, along with Jindal, is listed as a member of the host committee for a French fundraiser in New Orleans last week. So is Murray Nelson, who worked as Cao's campaign treasurer in 2008, then his district director in 2009 and 2010.

Nelson, who identified himself as French's campaign manager, said on October 11 that he would "have to look into" the missing disclosure form, which he said he would do by this morning (October 12). He has not yet returned Gambit's second request for comment made this morning.

French has actually turned in one disclosure form this year, just not the correct one. In July 2008, Jindal appointed him to the state Pilotage Fee Commission. French has, in fact, turned in a lesser disclosure form — called tier 2.1 — required for state board appointees, every year for the past three years.

Tier 2.1, unlike tier 2, doesn't require disclosures on income range, investment holdings or property.

It does require appointees to disclose their positions or titles in business and the nonprofit sector, and whether they've received any income from the state. It also requires appointees to detail certain political contributions over $1,000, but only those made to state officials who appointed them and only within one year of the appointment. French's $5,000 and $1,000 contributions to Jindal in 2006 and 2009, respectively, miss those cutoff dates by several months.

To compare, here are Abramson's 2009 and 2010 tier 2 disclosures (PDF)

2009: EthicsDisclosureDownload-7.pdf

2010: EthicsDisclosureDownload-6.pdf

And French's much more abbreviated 2.1 forms from 2009 (before he was required to file a tier 2) and 2010 (PDF)

2009: EthicsDisclosureDownload-8.pdf

2010: EthicsDisclosureDownload-3.pdf

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