Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell says he has evidence that should clear him of a conflict-of-interest charge stemming from his 23 years as a state representative. In 2007, the state Ethics Board ruled that Morrell, who is an attorney, violated conflict-of-interest rules by proposing a House concurrent resolution which sought to modify rules used by the state Department of Health and Hospitals when dealing with suspended mental health providers. The board found Morrell was providing "compensated legal services" to six of the 14 mental health providers who were then suspended. Morrell was fined $5,000. The ruling came the year after Morrell was elected clerk of Criminal Court and did not involve his duties as the chief elections officer for Orleans Parish and custodian of Criminal Court records.
Morrell says he appealed the ruling without success, then filed a public records request for information the board used against him — after most Ethics Board members resigned en masse to protest a reorganization of the state agency. He said the files he obtained included an interoffice document from 2001 informing the commission that Morrell's legal work while a state legislator was above board. "They hid that letter from me," Morrell said last week. "If I had done something wrong, I would have paid the fine. And I'm not going to pay it until after the commission rules on my request for a new trial." The Ethics Board is scheduled to hear Morrell's request for a rehearing at 9 a.m. Friday (Nov. 20) in the LaBelle Room of the LaSalle Building in Baton Rouge. — Allen Johnson Jr.