St. John The Baptist Parish Council Urged To Look Into Insurance-Contract Votes

A LaPlace insurance agent is asking the St. John the Baptist Parish Council to investigate his claim that Parish Councilman Steve Lee concealed a conflict of interest when voting to approve insurance contracts between 2003 and 2008.      John Millet argues in his complaint to acting Parish President Pat McTopy that Lee should have revealed that he was receiving commissions from Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services placing policies with the Port of South Louisiana and the St. Charles Parish Council while voting on the St. John council to give parish business to the firm.

Lee has an agreement to solicit business for Louisiana Insurance Services and other companies, according to Lee’s response to a 2008 ethics complaint about the practice.

He argued that he does not decide which risk management company gets the work.

Lee referred questions about the matter to his attorney, Gray Sexton, who said they stemmed from Millet’s inability to get the parish’s insurance business.

“The Parish Council requested a series of advisory opinions from the Ethics Board and that Mr. Lee and the council have carefully comported with the opinions that have been rendered by the Ethics Board,” Sexton said. “To the extent that many of these issues have been raised and addressed, they’ve been decided in favor of the Parish Council and in favor of Mr. Lee.”

The Ethics Board ruled in July 2009 that Lee’s actions do not violate the state law, because Lee does not determine which insurance company writes the business.

But Millet argues that that is a sham, particularly in the case of the St. John School Board health insurance contracts in 2004.

“He’s proposing Coventry (Health Care) to the School Board one week, then voting to give them the parish business the next week,” he said.

Millet, who has been raising the conflict-of-interest issue for years, said he doesn’t expect to gain business if his allegations are proved correct.

“At one point, I had hoped to get some of this business, but I know that’s not going to happen,” he said. “I just want them to do the right thing.”

District Attorney Tom Daley, whose office is the parish’s legal adviser, said he has not received Millet’s latest complaint but said he has forwarded past complaints by Millet on the subject to the state attorney general’s office to decide whether they warrant further action.