Earlier this year, a hearing committee recommended dismissal of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s charges against Haney, who is district attorney for the parishes of St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary.
Charles B. Plattsmier, the board’s disciplinary counsel, said that while hearing committees operates much like a trial court, hearing witnesses and reviewing evidence, its findings are automatically referred to a panel of the disciplinary board for an official ruling.
Haney is accused of profiting in his private practice from a civil case that involved a criminal matter that came to his public office.
The hearing committee, which heard the case in February and reported in June, cited “concerns” regarding Haney’s actions but found no violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and recommended dismissal of the charges.
Plattsmier said his office will argue against the findings of the hearing committee.
Regardless of the outcome, the case could go to the Louisiana Supreme Court, he said.
There are six cases on the disciplinary board’s docket Thursday, and Haney’s is the only one in which a hearing committee did not recommend either sanctions or suspension.
Haney is the only “respondent” (defendant) on the docket who is a sitting district attorney. According to Plattsmier, he is the first Louisiana district attorney brought up on charges while in office.
The case dates back to a 2007 boating accident involving Shane Roberts and Stephanie Provost. Provost, who was in an inner-tube being pulled by Roberts’ boat, was injured during the accident.
Roberts was charged with reckless operation of a watercraft by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Provost retained Haney, who subsequently recused his office from prosecuting Roberts, asking the state Attorney General’s Office to take over the criminal case.
Provost’s civil case was settled in December 2007 and Haney was paid $20,000.
The hearing committee found that the potential for conflict between Haney’s public and private roles was mitigated by the fact that Provost did not seek criminal action against Roberts and didn’t even mean to sue him. She came to Haney for help getting money from Roberts’ liability coverage.
Moreover, it was nearly two months before Wildlife and Fisheries filed the charges against Roberts, during which time Haney could not tell a criminal issue was pending by running a records check.
However, the committee did question the thoroughness of Haney’s research in that regard.
“Based upon respondent’s extensive legal background, knowledge and experience as an assistant district attorney and district attorney, he should have taken additional steps to assure himself that no potential conflict existed.
“The hearing committee similarly had concern regarding the possible appearance of impropriety when, in correspondence to Allstate Insurance Company on behalf of Mrs. Provost, he provided his contact information as the District Attorney’s Office in New Iberia and corresponding phone number,” the report reads.
“While this did leave a questionable impression on the committee, the record was void of any evidence that said comment resulted in a manipulation of any civil or criminal proceedings or that respondent obtained any advantage in the civil matter.”
The committee consisted of Stephanie L. Cochran, chair; Ian A. McDonald, lawyer member; and Richard A. Hinton, public member.