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Dumas v. State

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 15, 2019

WALTER C. DUMAS AND WALTER C. DUMAS & ASSOCIATES, INC.
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, BOARD OF ETHICS, BOB McANELLY CHAIRMAN, DR. LOUIS LEGGIO, VICE-CHAIRMAN, DIANNE MOUTON-ALLEN, L. LAWRENCE BRANDON, JR., CHARLES EMILE "PEPPI" BRUNEAU, JR., EDWARD B. DITTMER, DR. JOHN M. MEINERT, RE
v.
JOSE I. LAVASTIDA, LA KOSHIA R. ROBERTS, AND LIDDELL SMITH

          Appealed from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Case No. C669226 The Honorable Timothy E. Kelley, Judge Presiding.

          Travis J. Turner Gonzales, Louisiana and Ta- Tanisha T. Youngblood Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants Walter C. Dumas and Walter C. Dumas & Associates, Inc.

          Tracy M. Barker David M. Bordelon Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Louisiana Board of Ethics.

          BEFORE: McDONALD, THERIOT, AND CHUTZ, JJ.

          THERIOT, J.

         Walter C. Dumas and Walter C. Dumas & Associates, Inc. appeal the Nineteenth Judicial District Court's judgment sustaining the peremptory exception of no cause of action filed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics and dismissing the petition for absolute nullity of judgment filed by Walter C. Dumas and Walter C. Dumas & Associates, Inc. with prejudice. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY [1]

         Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical College ("Southern University") is a public university managed by its Board of Supervisors. See La. Const, art. 8, § 7. The Southern University System Foundation ("Foundation") is a non-profit corporation established to support and promote Southern University and is a party to multiple contracts with the university. In an effort to generate revenue for Southern University's athletic department, the Foundation and Southern University entered into a contract authorizing the Foundation to sublease suites at A.W. Mumford Stadium for Southern University's home football games and other athletic events. The Foundation then subleased the suites through a bidding process.

         Pursuant to the stadium contract, from 2001 through 2009 the Foundation subleased 50-yard-line stadium suites to Walter Dumas and Associates, Inc., a law firm owned solely by Dumas and in which he was its senior attorney. In April 2006, Dumas became a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, and in January 2009, he was appointed to the Board of Supervisors.

         Rental payments were made through 2005, then Dumas and the law firm made no payments during the 2006, 2007, and 2008 football seasons. The terms of the sublease covered those seasons beginning July 1, 2007, and ending June 30, 2009, and required a yearly rental payment of $13, 800.00, plus a $96, 600.00 donation to the Foundation, payable over three years. Dumas alleged that in 2006, for the millions of dollars in donations to the university for which Dumas was responsible, Dr. Ralph Slaughter, then president of Southern University, advised Dumas that he did not have to make the remaining payments under the sublease.

         In March 2009, as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Dumas voted to terminate Dr. Slaughter. In April 2009, Dr. Slaughter notified the Foundation that the amounts owed under Dumas' sublease were due and not paid. In June 2009, an invoice was sent to Dumas and the law firm demanding payment of $138, 000.00 for the suite. The dispute was resolved in August 2009, when the Foundation voted to forgive any debt for suite rentals owed by Dumas or his law firm for 2006, 2007, and 2008.

         These events were disclosed to the Louisiana Board of Ethics by a confidential source. In December 2010, charges were filed alleging violations of the Ethics Code: (1) against Dumas, for accepting forgiveness of a debt owed by the law firm to the Foundation, while Dumas was a member of the Board of Supervisors; and (2) against Dumas and the law firm, because by subleasing a stadium suite, the law firm had an interest in the stadium contract between Southern University and the Foundation, while Dumas, the law firm's sole owner, was a member of the Board of Supervisors. After a public hearing, the Ethics Adjudicatory Board ("the Adjudicatory Board") affirmed the charges and ordered Dumas and the law firm to pay $138, 000.00 to the Louisiana Board of Ethics as recovery of an improper economic advantage gained by using the stadium suite for three years without payment.

         Dumas and the law firm appealed the Adjudicatory Board's decision. On November 16, 2017, this court affirmed the decision of the Adjudicatory Board. See Louisiana Bd. of Ethics, 236 So.3d at 603.

         On May 10, 2018, Dumas and the law firm filed a petition for absolute nullity of judgment, alleging that the Adjudicatory Board did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The petition named as defendants the Louisiana Board of Ethics; Bob McAnelly, Chairman; Dr. Louis Leggio, Vice Chairman; Dianne Mouton-Allen; L. Lawrence Brandon, Jr.; Charles Emile "Peppi" Bruneau, Jr.; Edward B. Dittmer; Dr. John M. ...


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