- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Board of Ethics has accused a former Orleans Parish school official of pressuring a private contractor to create a position and hire a specific person for the job.

According to the charging document, Herman Taitt, the former Orleans Parish School Board executive director of operations allegedly wanted GCA Services Group to hire Andrenetta Thomas for a $13-an-hour “coordinator” job that was outside the scope of the private company’s contract with the school board.

The school board had a contract with GCA to provide custodial services.

State law forbids government employees from using their authority to compel or coerce a private company to give anything of economic value to the employee or anyone else.

If he is found to have abused his office, Taitt could be fined $10,000.

In addition to a fine, violators also can be removed from office, suspended, demoted or have their pay reduced. However, Taitt has left New Orleans for a university job in another state.

Taitt’s attorney, Willie Zanders Sr., of New Orleans, told The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1sLEPmC ) the charge was bogus and politically motivated.

“He hired someone to assist in providing more accountability over contracts, but someone seized on the manner in which the person was hired and used it against him to discredit him,” Zanders said. “Our records show he saved the district money by hiring her.”

Zanders said Taitt had criticized the way the Recovery School District divided Hurricane Katrina dollars for school rebuilding work. The Lusher Charter School, for instance, should not have gotten millions in federal money when other schools were still in trailers after Katrina, he said.

Taitt also was a “whistleblower” about a board member’s relative potentially benefiting from a project and about questionable contractor oversight of school projects, Zanders said.

The charge against Taitt followed a confidential investigation by the Ethics Board. The board voted to issue the charge in a closed-door session. It is unclear when the action occurred, but the results were released Monday, when a hearing was requested before the Ethics Adjudicatory Board.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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