Monday, October 02, 2006


La. hurricane contracts lucrative


Some state legislators and their families made big bucks off Hurricane Katrina, and efforts to keep it from happening again died a quick death. One company with a legislative link collected nearly $120 million from no-bid federal trailer contracts, and it was only a motorcycle dealership before the storms.

No wonder Louisiana has a national reputation for corruption.

Mention ethics in the Louisiana Legislature and you know someone is going to charge up to the microphone and complain they are sick and tired of state lawmakers being accused of questionable behavior. State Rep. Charlie DeWitt, DAlexandria, can usually be counted on to lead the opposition to reforms.

You have to hand it to DeWitt. He’s an extremely persuasive speaker whose emotional outbursts get results. Just ask Rep. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

Walsworth introduced a bill in the spring session that would have prohibited elected and appointed officials and their family members from entering into contracts to provide government services following a declared emergency. The idea makes sense, but legislators weren’t ready to police their own ranks.

Some will argue that public officials and their families shouldn’t be denied an opportunity to compete in the free market place. However, is the market place really free if some companies or individuals have the inside track?

Perception is everything. That is why public officials should avoid any contracts that could be potential conflicts of interest. It may seem unfair, but doing the right and ethical thing is what public officials are supposed to be about.

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