Last Modified: Monday, July 02, 2012 8:58 PM
Is it ethical for a law firm to donate money to a school where a sitting judge is a board member?
Yes, as long as the donation isn’t made at the behest of the judge.
“A judge shall not solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose,” reads one canon in the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.
“But the judge may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee of such an organization.”
The code prohibits judges from speaking at fundraisers and bars them from being guests of honor at such events, but it says they can attend, as long as their “title or status is not used to support the fund-raising effort.”
The rules permit an exception to the solicitation ban: Judges may ask for donations for their churches from church members.
The Informer last week answered a question about the cost of a trip made recently by members of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard. Five members of the group traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in a National Police Week competition. They placed second.
In its reply The Informer quoted Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kim Myers as saying that the drill team members “receive no compensation for their performances, and many times they do this on their own time.”
In response to the column, a reader emailed The Informer to say that the volunteer policy violated federal labor laws.
“According to the Department of Labor there is no such thing as volunteer time, unless training is required by POST and it is a requirement to remained POST certified, such as firearms qualifications,” the reader wrote.
“Even if this is not their primary duty, the time that they train and perform, and some travel is considered work time and must be put on their time sheet.”
But a check of the Department of Labor’s website revealed that since the 1980s, federal regulations — Part 553 of federal code Title 29 — have made allowances for public agency workers to volunteer their time.
“The 1985 Amendments provide that employees may volunteer hours of service to their public employer or agency provided ‘such services are not the same type of services which the individual is employed to perform for such public agency,’ ” reads Section 553.103.
“Employees may volunteer their services in one capacity or another without contemplation of pay for services rendered. The phrase ‘same type of services’ means similar or identical services.”
Myers told The Informer on Thursday that she stands by her initial response.
The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email firstname.lastname@example.org