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INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Livingston tax assessor may have broken the law paying wife for work

4 years 10 months 1 week ago Tuesday, September 03 2019 Sep 3, 2019 September 03, 2019 11:00 PM September 03, 2019 in News
Source: WBRZ

LIVINGSTON- Longtime Livingston Parish Tax Assessor Jeff Taylor may have violated state law after he paid his wife at least $124,686 using campaign funds from 2011-2018 for work she performed, the WBRZ Investigative Unit uncovered.

Taylor's wife, Delia Taylor, maintains the couple did nothing wrong and they were unaware of a state law forbidding the payments. 

In Louisiana, there is an exception where payments to a family member, including spouses, are allowed if the family member has a business. Delia Taylor owns Taylor Media Services located outside the city limits of Denham Springs, but Taylor Media Services is not registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State nor does it have a business license in Livingston Parish or Denham Springs.

Those are requirements of the law to meet the exception for a candidate to hire a spouse and pay them.

"Whatever they say we need to do we are going to do it," Delia Taylor said. "Because, we want to be totally transparent and above board."

Taylor claims the majority of the money she accepted from her husband were reimbursements.

She brought a file of invoices to WBRZ-TV after we began asking questions. Taylor would not let us independently vet the information she brought claiming the invoices were "strategic."

"This looks like a clear-cut case of self enrichment," LSU Law Professor Ken Levy said. "Basically, he's a tax assessor, a public official and a candidate, and all the money he pays to his wife stays with him."

"It's not self enrichment," Taylor said. "It's over a nine year in what you've looked at and majority of it... $120,000 of the $126,000 is reimbursements of purchases I made on behalf of the campaign."

According to R.S. 18:1505.2I, the payments may have been illegal. The law reads:

"No candidate....shall use a contribution, loan or transfer of funds received by such candidate or committee to make any payment or expenditure to any immediate family member of the candidate."

The exceptions to the law are if the family member has a business that either:

(aa) Has been registered and in good standing with the secretary of state for at least twelve months at that time and provides goods or services related to the payment or expenditure.

(bb) Holds and has held an occupational license for at least twelve months at that time for a business which provides goods or services related to the payment or expenditure and which license was duly issued by the appropriate local governmental subdivision.

Taylor Media Services does not meet either of those exceptions. 

"I'm not saying this is ignorance of the law," Taylor said. "What I'm saying is this was not something that was made available to us or brought to our attention."

Levy believes this case stinks. 

 "The public, especially those who donate to the campaign trust these public officials to abide by the law and not to self enrich themselves," Levy said. "In a sense these donors were defrauded and the public was defrauded in this case."

 Taylor said if she needs a business license she will get one. The penalties for violating the law could mean a stiff fine. The fine is based on the payments, and in this case it could exceed $250,000.

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