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|Ethics Board, district attorney clear McDonald of wrongdoing|
The Louisiana Board of Ethics has cleared former state Rep. Charles McDonald of any wrongdoing following a six-month investigation.
During the 2007 race to succeed state Sen. Robert Barham in District 33, allegations surfaced that McDonald had inappropriately paid voters to cast ballots. The buying of votes complaint against McDonald was initially handled by the Secretary of State's office, which referred the matter to the 5th Judicial District Attorney's office.
Also, the state Ethics Board examined allegations that McDonald had improperly benefited from a real estate transaction involving the office building McDonald used as his legislative office.
In a letter to McDonald, state Ethics Board representative Michael Dupree informed McDonald of the board's findings.
"Based on the information obtained, the Board concluded, and instructed me to inform you, that no apparent violation of the Code of Governmental Ethics occurred," Dupree wrote. "Accordingly, the Board instructed the staff to close the file."
The board's move effectively exonerated McDonald of wrongdoing stemming from the sale of a piece of property in Bastrop.
McDonald said he was pleased the board had resolved the matter.
"I certainly knew I hadn't done anything unethical or wrong but it is always good to have the appropriate investigative body take a look," McDonald said. "They came to the conclusion that there was nothing improper at all."
During the 2007 election, The Ouachita Citizen uncovered a 2000 real estate transaction between McDonald and one of McDonald's political supporters, Travis Holley.
In that transaction, McDonald sold the building he had used to house his legislative office to Holley and executed a lease paid for by the state so McDonald could continue using the building for his legislative office.
The real estate deal became the subject of an ethics complaint filed shortly before the 2007 general election.
Also during the 2007 race, McDonald's opponent, then-state Rep. Mike Walsworth, bought campaign advertisements in a number of local publications claiming McDonald had paid voters in West Carroll Parish to vote a certain absentee ballot.
The advertisements included photocopies of checks drawn on McDonald's campaign account at Ouachita Independent Bank and signed by his legislative aide.
Secretary of State Jay Dardenne's office received complaints following the appearance of those ads and, in accordance with state elections laws, forwarded them to 5th Judicial District Attorney Billy Coenen. Coenen was indicted by a federal grand jury last week in an unrelated matter.
In an email to McDonald's campaign manager, Eric Mahaffey, Coenen declined to prosecute that case.
"…Our office will not bring criminal charges based on our review of the report we received," Coenen wrote in February.
McDonald said now that he has the matter behind him, he's moving forward and looking toward the future.
That future includes operating a small consulting business in Bastrop and spending more time with his grandchildren, McDonald said.
"Well just move forward every day and see what the future holds for us," McDonald said.