SADOW: Bossier City Charter Fixes Should Include Ethics Reforms

Critics derisively call him “King” – or “Queen,” given his penchant for drama during Bossier City Council meetings – but disclosure data demonstrate that among Bossier Parish officials Republican Councilor David Montgomery truly is the monarch when it comes to grifting taxpayer dollars, something about which the city’s Charter Review Commission should take notice and repair, along with a couple of other potential conflicts.

Financial disclosure forms for Louisiana elected and appointed officials, except judges who don’t have to file, were due May 15, detailing 2023 activities. Of the 52 such Bossier officials from government bodies or executive offices that have taxing authority and whose jurisdictions are almost exclusively within the parish and are sufficiently large – the Police Jury, School Board, Bossier City, the Levee Board, the Cypress Black Bayou Commissioners, sheriff, assessor, clerk of court, and coroner – of the 50 required to file (because two appointees only assumed their posts earlier this year), 40 did so by the end of last week.

In all but two cases, in their reporting about compensation, they or their spouses received from other governments they listed items such as salary (including if a spouse worked for a government); money received for serving on a board connected to their positions; or pension payments, with two exceptions. One was recently-elected Republican Coroner Mike Williams, who received in 2023 over $37,000 as he serves, and has for 23 years, as medical director for city fire, police, and emergency medical services.

The other was Montgomery. He reported from his position with the family insurance firm (a half-owner) or in one instance on his own raking in $202,313 for insurance sales to seven different local governments with a Bossier presence. This means that since 2008 — the first year state law had changed to require this disclosure — Montgomery has gotten $3,172,612 from Bossier-based governments (although none from the city, as it is illegal for an entity’s elected officials to do business with it).

That figure is likely a few hundred thousand dollars greater for Montgomery’s time in office, since he was elected first in 2001. He reported about $60,000 in the first year of required disclosure, so an estimate of his total earnings from local taxpayers during his entire time in office could be over $3.5 million. Possibly, he has one of the highest totals of any elected official in Louisiana since the institution of disclosure.

Some of his buyers he has authority over with his position as councilor, along with other councilors. For example, the Council selects a member of the Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District Commission, and it occasionally doles out funds to Visit Shreveport-Bossier, formerly called the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, most recently this spring.

This raises serious ethical issues about whether Montgomery ever has used his position to entice business from these taxpayer-funded entities, although it is not illegal for him to have a business relationship with any government entity except for Bossier City. Nor is there any evidence that he has pressured, by whatever means through his position, any local government into doing business with him.

But even the appearance of possible impropriety should not be encouraged by him and these entities in their dealings. Unknown is how these agencies go about awarding insurance contracts and whether they use an open and competitive bidding process; some have been Montgomery clients for 15 years. It is possible that Montgomery is an incredible insurance agent who underbids everybody and provides great service, but public records requests of this various agency clients likely would reveal he annually racks up a series of no-bid contracts. On top of that is a likely unspoken and unwritten motive of the buyers being a desire to keep on his good side lest he and his political allies make trouble for them — something that doesn’t require an explicit or even indirectly acknowledged quid quo pro relationship or any communications between he and they, other than those strictly business in nature. Nor does it require that he have any motive to leverage his elected position into drumming up business as the perception that he could, is what matters.

This possibility of unethical behavior by a city elected official in his business dealings, or the perception of other governments over which one can exert some kind of authority that they have to shape their business dealings to please such an official whether that official makes such demands, should be addressed by the city’s ongoing Charter Review Commission. A revised charter could have inserted a passage dictating that any of its elected officials cannot do business with any governmental entity with any jurisdiction in Bossier Parish or with any other entity established by ordinance or state law that receives appropriations from the city the year after that appropriation, and that no such business can be conducted until four years have passed after leaving city office.


While the example of Montgomery points to a major deficiency in city ethics regulation, a couple of other lesser cases also deserve attention in any charter revisions.

Republican Santi Parks was elected city judge in 2020, yet as in the case of all past city judges, is not prohibited by statute to run a law practice on the side. Judges don’t have to file disclosure statements, but because his wife GOP Police Juror Julianna Parks must indeed file, information is present on his activities. In 2023, besides his salary (over $110,000, paid in part by the city court and the rest by the city) he earned over $55,000 from what she described as “Judicial Branch of Louisiana,” but, more relevantly, earned over $100,000 from his private law practice in its entirety.

Problematically, potential lenient treatment of individuals in court could be leveraged to drive business a judge’s way, even as there is no evidence Parks ever has engaged in this, solicited this, or been motivated to act this way. The state’s Civil Code of Procedure provides for recusal by a judge, which in this instance likely lands the case in a district court or requires appointment of an ad hoc judge, but it’s not automatic and it’s best to avoid all the involved procedures in the first place. Here again, a charter change could prohibit the city judge from earning any outside income, who takes home a nice chunk of change from his salary in any event, as a means of avoiding these situations.

Finally, the city recently appointed Jerry Wilhite to serve on the Cypress Black Bayou Commission. Wilhite disclosed his more than 10 percent ownership in Wilhite Electric, which occasionally lands city contracts (the latest such being last year). The charter revision could prohibit a firm of which any of its appointees to other local governments that own at least a tenth stake in it from competing for any city contracts.

As long as a charter review is underway, best practices demand any end product include tightening existing ethics loopholes that decrease citizen confidence that city elected officials and their appointees don’t use their positions or relationships to feather their own nests.



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