Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ethics Issues Raised Regarding Chas Roemer and Kira Orange-Jones

A recent blog post from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers highlights some of the issues that have recently been raised around candidates for the upcoming Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) election. Below are excerpts from the blog:
Two candidates strongly supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal, big business and even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are facing ethics issues in the waning days of the 2011 election season.

Kira Orange-Jones, candidate for the District 2 seat on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is the subject of a cease-and-desist order signed by a New Orleans judge.

According to the online publication New Orleans Agenda, "Orange Jones had claimed in her campaign advertising that she had voted for President Obama in November, 2008, but the plaintiffs provided the court with a sworn statement signed by Orange Jones on August 17, 2011, that she had never before been registered to vote in Louisiana or any other place."

The order says that Orange-Jones must "cease and desist from misrepresenting her voting record or her registration in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 18:1463." It is illegal for candidates to make statements that they know to be false or misleading, according to the article.

Chas Roemer, in a runoff for re-election to his District 6 BESE seat, has run afoul of the Louisiana ethics code and must return some $10,000 worth of contributions, according to this article by Mikhail Zinshteyn in The American Independent.

It seems that when the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry pumped $20,000 into Roemer's campaign, the cash infusion lifted him way over the legal limit for PAC contributions.

Gov. Jindal recently sent a fund-raising letter on Roemer's behalf, and his campaign fund for the District 6 seat - which pays no salary - now holds over $220,000. His opponent, former Ascension Parish Superintendent of School Donald Songy, has raised less than $14,000.

Songy's campaign chest is about par for BESE elections. The really curious question is why all the big money is pouring into Roemer's campaign. It is an unprecedented expenditure for the state school board.

But that's not the only ethics question dogging Roemer. His sister, Caroline Roemer Shirley, is executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. Because of her relationship with Chas, she is prohibited from speaking at BESE meetings, and does not do so.

As this article by Louisiana Voice reporter Tom Aswell points out, ethics laws also prohibit elected officials from voting "on any matter in which a member or his immediate family has a substantial economic interest."

The ethics board has never made a specific ruling in his case, but it would seem that Chas Roemer should abstain from any vote involving one of his sister's schools.

Instead, Aswell writes, "In December of 2010 alone, he made motions to approve charter school contracts of $50,000 and under, made motions to approve Crescent City School, the NET Charter High School, the Collegiate Academy Charter School, the Sarah T. Reed Charter Middle School, the ReNEW K-8 Charter School, The ReNEW Alternative High School, and in one case, made the motion to deny an application to commence operation of Joseph A. Craig Charter School in New Orleans."

No comments: