Zurik: Are a lawmaker’s actions helping his employer or constituents?

Unexcused Absences: Are a lawmaker’s actions helping his employer or constituents?

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New questions surface over a New Orleans-area lawmaker who already had to cut the state a $20,000 check for working in two places at the same time.

In a previous FOX 8 Investigation, we found State Senator Wesley Bishop was paid for work at his employer, Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO), while he was getting standard pay for being a lawmaker in Baton Rouge. But it is legislation concerning his employer, drafted by Bishop himself, that is raising new questions.

On April 29, SUNO payroll records obtained by FOX 8 show Associate Vice Chancellor Wesley Bishop worked four hours at the university. Bishop then drove to his part-time job, as a state senator in Baton Rouge. That afternoon, he introduced a resolution that would benefit his employer, SUNO.

“There may be nothing wrong with the legislation. And it’s not unlawful for him to do this, It’s not even a violation of the ethics code in the legislature but it smells. It’s double dealing,” said Tulane Law Professor Joel Friedman.

In our previous investigation into Bishop’s use of sick leave during his time at the legislature, Friedman said there was one reason SUNO kept him employed and did not reprimand him.

“Why did they continue to allow him to be in the university is only one explanation -- it’s not because he’s the world’s greatest teacher, or administrator -- it’s because he’s a member of the state legislature," Friedman said in our previous story.

In that resolution filed by Bishop on April 29, he requested the State Board of Nursing, Southern School of Nursing and SUNO to collaborate on establishing a nursing program at SUNO.

“He’s using his legislative office to do promote legislation that will help his employer,” Friedman said. “That’s why he’s got his position at Southern as far as I’m concerned or that’s why they’re not doing anything about it after he clearly violated all of their laws and committed a criminal act of fraud."

Bishop’s resolution unanimously passed in the Senate.

“At least he should have had the sophistication if he wanted to draft legislation like this to have somebody else sponsor it who doesn’t work for Southern,” Friedman said. “But he didn’t even bother -- he’s brazen about it.”

Southern University released a statement saying:

“The proposal of a nursing education program at Southern University at New Orleans precedes SCR77 presented by Senator Bishop. Discussions and building planning occurred as the campus was rebuilding not long after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2006. The building came on line this year, hence Senator Bishop’s presentation of this resolution during this year’s regular legislative session. SCR77, not unlike other resolutions presented at the session, was not meant to advance legislation. Rather, its aim was to bring a formal awareness to the conversation. Senator Bishop’s offering of this resolution was in keeping with his role as a legislator representing the interests of a constituent within his district.”

According to the Louisiana Ethics Code, what Bishop did is not illegal.

According to SUNO’s faculty handbook, Bishop is responsible for the evaluation and improvement of course planning and curriculum. Friedman said the SUNO nursing resolution is clearly an intersection of his full and part time jobs.

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