Lee Zurik Investigation: Former Fire Pension Board head admits breaking state law

Both Bud Carrouche (left) and CEO Richie Hampton (right) have left the Fire Pension Board since our investigation began in 2012.
Both Bud Carrouche (left) and CEO Richie Hampton (right) have left the Fire Pension Board since our investigation began in 2012.

Bud Carrouche wouldn't answer our questions about the tens of thousands of dollars he put into his pocket every year. Now the former president of New Orleans Fire Fighter's Pension & Relief Fund admits he broke state law, following a series of FOX 8 investigations called "Playing With Fire".

While serving as president of the Fire Pension Board, Carrouche also served on the board of First NBC Bank. The ties between both boards raised questions with us last May.

In 2012, bank records showed Carrouche received $52,000 in compensation from the bank for serving on its board. When we asked Loyola CPA Patrick Lynch whether this was a common financial arrangement for someone who's on a bank board, he told us, "Oh yeah, definitely."

Carrouche received almost $39,000 in cash. The rest came in the form of vested stock options in the bank.

Here's where the intersection of the two boards comes into play.

New Orleans City Business editor Greg LaRose told us last year that Carrouche had a seat on the bank board because of his role as president of the Fire Pension Board. The firefighters invest money with First NBC Bank - they're one of the bank's largest investors - so LaRose says First offered Carrouche a spot on the board.

So, because of Carrouche's volunteer role on the Fire Pension Board, he was lined up for thousands of dollars of compensation from the bank board.

LaRose says, "He's a volunteer in representing public employees and he benefits from taking part in a private business."

But Carrouche kept that arrangement with the bank hidden from Louisiana's Board of Ethics. Every year, he was required to file a financial disclosure form with the Ethics Board and let it know about any other compensation or work, such as being on the bank board.

We aired a story in November 2012, first mentioning his role for the bank. Two days after that story aired, Carrouche filed an amendment to his state financial disclosure filing, disclosing his seat on the board.

For three years, Carrouche misfiled his disclosure statement to the Ethics Board, failing to tell the state about his role with First NBC. Carrouche should have also told the Ethics Board every time he recused himself from a Fire Pension Board vote involving First. But he didn't start doing that until after we broadcast our November story.

Last month, the Ethics Board released a consent order, which said the board "voted to file charges against ...Carrouche" last September. The board says Carrouche "violated" the law by essentially "being employed with First Bank at a time when First Bank had a business relationship with the Pension Board and where Carrouche failed to file the required disclosure reports with the Board of Ethics."

The order said Carrouche agreed to the charges, and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine. It also forced Carrouche to resign from the Fire Pension Board. Carrouche did not seek re-election last year.

Copyright WVUE. All rights reserved.