The close relationship between Attorney General Jeff Landry and his main political ally Shane Guidry recently added a new layer: Landry took a seat on the board of directors of Guidry’s oil services company, Harvey Gulf.
Landry said he earned between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000 in 2020 as an “independent board member” for Harvey Gulf, LLC, in his aannual personal financial disclosure, filed this month with the Louisiana Ethics Board. The company does not appear in Landry’s disclosures for previous years.
The recently revealed business relationship is one of many close ties between the Attorney General and Guidry, who is a major political donor to Landry and a close friend. It’s also unusual: While other state officials sit on nonprofit boards and have private business interests, none have reported serving on a company’s board. private during his tenure, according to recent personal financial disclosures.
Harvey Gulf was founded by the Guidry family and Guidry negotiated a sale of the business to a private equity firm ten years ago, which allowed Guidry to retain its stake.
Landry, a Republican who is in his second term as attorney general, joined the board in 2019, Guidry said in an interview as he flew in his plane from New York to New Orleans. Landry’s job is a few hours a month, Guidry said, and is primarily aimed at helping the company avoid violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal anti-corruption law.
“I had a vacancy to sit in this seat and I couldn’t think of a better person than my good friend Jeff Landry who is very knowledgeable about these laws,” said Guidry, Chairman of the Board and CEO since 1997 .
Landry has remained on Harvey Gulf’s board of directors after he went down from seven to five members this month amid a recapitalization. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018.
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It’s no secret that Guidry, one of the state’s most generous donors, has given pro-Landry groups hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations over the years. Guidry’s companies were also the state’s top donors to the inauguration of former President Donald Trump in 2017.
Guidry’s role with the attorney general’s office is listed in state records as a “special agent / investigator,” and he said he still works as an advisor for Landry’s office. State records show that his salary is $ 12,000 per year as a part-time employee for the past four years.
A spokesperson for Landry’s office said Guidry has been on “unpaid leave” as a special agent since 2017, but declined to answer questions about the adviser role or other job titles. Guidry also used the title of “special assistant” for Landry.
“It’s a bizarre relationship,” said Rafael Goyeneche, chairman of the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission, a nonprofit criminal justice watchdog group. “This is not an appointment based on merit. It is a political counterpart: you support me and I will help you.
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“I would ask the rhetorical question about Shane Guidry working in the GA office: Would Jeff Landry have hired Shane Guidry for the job he held if Shane hadn’t been so generous in his support for the various campaigns of Jeff Landry? ” he added.
While Landry and Guidry’s warm relationship raises questions, it does not appear to violate the state’s ethical laws.
Guidry said Landry called an ethics lawyer before assuming the board position in 2019, but couldn’t remember who it was. A spokesperson for Landry did not respond to a question Thursday on whether Landry had sought an official advisory opinion from the Louisiana Ethics Council, but said “Attorney General Landry complied all reporting and disclosure requirements. ”
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State ethics committee files posted online show no advisory opinion issued on the matter to Landry or Guidry since Landry began his board role. Landry’s biography on Harvey Gulf website says he sits on the board “purely in a personal capacity” and that “in accordance with the highest ethical and moral standards, Landry’s board service is separate and separated from its official functions”.
Public Affairs Research Council chairman Robert Travis Scott, however, said the public “should take special notice if an elected official takes on a major paid new role in a company after taking office.”
He explained that whenever an elected official has a “substantial economic interest” in the affairs of a company – and Landry’s stake in Harvey Gulf would qualify – the incumbent must take into account conflicts of interest between his agency and the company.
“If the company were to encounter a transactional or contractual relationship involving the (Louisiana) Department of Justice, it could create ethical issues for them,” Scott said. “This financial interest creates the risk of a potential conflict of interest, which can be difficult to predict or prevent, regardless of one’s best intentions.”
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Landry’s income from Harvey Gulf, an oil services company founded by Guidry’s family, is just one part of a large portfolio of activities he reported for 2020.
He also reported strong increases in revenue from UST Environmental Services and Evergreen Contractors, two recruiting companies he claims full ownership of.
Landry claimed less than $ 5,000 in revenue from each of these businesses in 2018 and 2019, and then claimed at least $ 200,000 from each last year.
Ben Landry, the brother of the attorney general who oversees these companies, did not return messages asking for comment this week on the big increase in the attorney general’s income.
Landry formed Evergreen in 2011 during his first year in Congress. She was one of three Landry-related companies that simultaneously applied in 2017 to import Mexican welders and pipefitters to the United States under the H2-B Temporary Worker Visa Program.
Businesses teamed up with a convicted visa scammer for, Marco Pesquera, getting federal approval to bring in a few hundred Mexican workers to help build a massive liquefied natural gas plant in Cameron Parish. Those requests included several questionable allegations and documents, according to records provided to this newspaper by Pesquera, although Landry and his brother were not involved in the case.
Private business relationships are not entirely unusual; State Treasurer John Schroder brought in over $ 1 million in income from his private transactions as a developer and owner last year. As Scott pointed out, financial disclosures in Louisiana are meant to educate the public about these types of arrangements.
Governor John Bel Edwards’ 2020 disclosure was not available, but in 2019 he reported minimal business income. No other state elected official has said they have served on the board of directors of a private company in 2019 or 2020.
Guidry defended his business deal with Landry, describing the duo as “two friends with their best interests at heart.” He said there was no conflict of interest with the arrangement.
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“He represents the people of Louisiana. He gets up every day and does it first, ”Guidry said. “It’s my job to stand up and represent my shareholders and partners first. Ultimately, however, we can help each other become better leaders… I welcome any help. “
Guidry said his job for Landry’s office is primarily to act as a consultant when the attorney general “needs help with a project.” For example, after a recent incident in Jefferson Parish where a Sheriff’s Deputy shot someone while Landry’s office was serving a warrant for a child pornography case, Landry called Guidry, who has a long history with officials. from the government of Jefferson Parish. Guidry worked part-time for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for more than two decades. He said the sheriff’s office is investigating this incident, but Landry wanted to hear Guidry’s thoughts on it.
“Knowing how the Jefferson Parish government and the Sheriff’s Office works, he called me to ask for my opinion on what I was thinking,” Guidry said. “After talking to some of the people involved, I think what the results will show is a justifiable shooting.”
Editor John Simerman contributed to this report.