The Louisiana Board of Ethics — despite years of effort, new databases, help from State Police, and previous news stories — still cannot find a financial backer of Mayor Ray Nagin and an NOPD homicide detective for separate legal proceedings in Baton Rouge. However, the two alleged violators of state campaign finance laws are often in the public eye locally. Rev. Benjamin L. Edwards Sr., a Nagin appointee to the city Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB), owes the state $8,500 in fines for failing to file campaign finance reports on time in connection with the mayor's 2006 re-election campaign, says Alesia Ardoin, staff attorney for the Baton Rouge-based ethics board. "State Police subpoenaed Mr. Edwards at the Sewerage & Water Board on June 16, but [S&WB personnel] returned his notice of a board hearing [by] certified mail without explanation," Ardoin said last week. Troopers, who issue subpoenas for the ethics board, also tried unsuccessfully to serve Edwards at two 9th Ward churches. However, S&WB spokesman Robert Jackson confirmed that both Nagin and Edwards attended the board's regular public meeting Sept. 16 at 625 St. Joseph St., which was advertised in advance as required by local ordinance.
In 2006, Edwards formed a political action committee that raised and spent $269,250 in 60 days for Nagin's re-election campaign. However, the Edwards PAC allegedly deprived voters of timely information on the contributions and expenditures for the mayor's race. ("Paging Ben Edwards," Oct. 16, 2007). Meanwhile, NOPD Det. Orlando J. Matthews Jr. still owes $2,000 in fines for tardy reports from his unsuccessful bid in 2002 to unseat then-Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti Jr. ("Cop Drama Like K-Ville," Dec. 11, 2007). The detective's debts were near the top of the agenda at the board's regular meeting last month. Ardoin said the board has not heard from Matthews since last June, shortly before the board temporarily suspended operations. NOPD's press office routinely announces investigations led by Matthews. "I have not sent notices to the New Orleans Police Department," Ardoin acknowledged. — Allen Johnson Jr.