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Natchitoches council member faces ouster for ethics violations - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Natchitoches council member faces ouster for ethics violations

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Natchitoches Council Member Sylvia Morrow Natchitoches Council Member Sylvia Morrow
NATCHITOCHES, La. -

The Natchitoches City Council on Monday may begin the process of removing one of its members.

Sylvia Morrow, a member of the five-person council since 2000, was recently fined $1,000 by the state Board of Ethics for soliciting money from both a city employee and officers of companies who do business with the city of Natchitoches. Though some of the money was solicited for non-profit community endeavors, some money she received covered expenses such as auto insurance and utility payments.

The activity violated three sections of the Code of Governmental Ethics that prohibits public servants from soliciting or receiving anything of economic value.  Mayor Lee Posey also said such activity runs counter to the Natchitoches City Charter that carries language similar to state law:

"No privilege, rebate, reduced rate or any other thing of value may be directly or indirectly solicited or received by an officer, official or employee of the City from any person, firm or corporation doing business with the City."

Monday's 5:30 p.m. agenda contains a resolution instructing City Attorney  Ronald Corkern Jr. to prepare paperwork requesting "that Councilwoman Sylvia Morrow show by what authority she claims or holds office as a member of the City Council."

Posey said the issue has not affected city business, but there have been questions in the community about her status.

"Something that goes against our charter…we have no choice but to address it,'' Posey told KTBS. He said he has no idea how the meeting will turn or Morrow's position. "We just decided we need to put some finality to it.''

A call to Morrow's home was not returned.

If the resolution is adopted, the burden is placed on Morrow to justify why she should remain in office. Specifics about the process of declaring her council seat vacant Posey referred to the city attorney who did not return phone calls to his office.

Asked if he supported Morrow's removal, District 1 Councilman David Stamey told KTBS that he "absolutely supported the City Charter.''

The Ethics Board issued a consent opinion in June rather than following through on ethics charges after Morrow agreed to state that she had violated three sections of the Code of Governmental Ethics. The laws deal with public servants using the authority of their office to improperly solicit and accept money.

Among the solicitations listed in the original 2011 ethics charge, was that Morrow solicited $300 from Public Works Director Michael Braxton to pay her monthly car insurance and electric bill, to cover travel expenses to conferences and to pay for her lunches.  Another $25 was solicited from him to "support National Night Out,'' an annual observance to help combat crime.

She also solicited money from an officer of Cothren, Graff and Smoak Engineers Inc., a firm that had done business with the city since 1995. Randal Smoak gave Morrow $200 in 2005 for the Natchitoches Black Heritage Committee and another $200 in 2008, also for National Night Out. The Ethics Complaint said she cashed both checks.

Since those ethics violations, Morrow has been involved in other controversies. In 2011 she was arrested for interfering with an officer and resisting arrest. She had driven upon a drug task force investigation and had refused to move her car from the middle of the road.  

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