Development consultant Greg Gachassin’s potential ethics dilemma won’t end with The Independent Weekly
’s April 20 cover story, “How Gachassin Games the System
.” And it shouldn’t.
The low-income housing fiasco that has been dogging Lafayette since last summer and led to federal investigations of the Lafayette Housing Authority also involves some very well-connected local professionals. At least one of them, Gachassin, appears to have violated the state's Code of Governmental Ethics.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics is now compelled to take the matter up, because on May 2 state Rep. Rickey Hardy, who helped blow the whistle on the LHA's troubles, lodged a formal complaint. “It would seem as if Mr. Gachassin has violated the ethics laws of the State of Louisiana while serving as chairman and member of the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority... [and] appears to have been in ethics violation even after his resignation from the [LPTFA],” Hardy wrote to the state's top ethics administrator, Kathleen Allen.
The LPTFA is a trust organized under the laws of the state that holds millions for the benefit of Lafayette Consolidated Government. In his letter, Hardy is referencing this newspaper’s story about how Gachassin, while on LPTFA's board, orchestrated low-income housing deals in north Lafayette that involved both LPTFA funding and federal low-income housing tax credits. He then signed on as a consultant for two of them, Villa Gardens and Cypress Trails, while still on the board or within weeks of his Nov. 17, 2009, resignation from it. (Gachassin also is the development consultant for Joie de Vivre, a downtown apartment complex with partial funding from LPTFA that is paying him a $1 million consulting fee.)
The state’s ethics code appears clear on this “post-employment” restriction: After leaving a public board, you must wait two years before engaging in a transaction, for compensation, with the board. The definition of transaction is broad, covering just about anything the governmental entity is a party to or has an interest in.
Gachassin’s cut on the Villa Gardens and Cypress Trails developments? More than $1 million bucks (he gets about half of the developer fee).
Read more on Gachassin's potential ethics problem in this week's Last Word First column here