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La. BESE Member Kira Orange-Jones: Financial Disclosures Missing; Fines Years in Arrears

May 28, 2021

As a Louisiana public school teacher, I am required to annually complete a ethics training course, which I did this week.

When completing this requirement, my mind inevitably settles on Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) board member and Teach for America (TFA) senior vice president, Kira Orange-Jones, for the wreckage she makes of filing personal financial disclosures. No other BESE member comes close to Orange-Jones’ lousy record in honoring public transparency via timely and complete disclosures.

Kira Orange-Jones

According to the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program, in the name of fostering transparency and public trust, BESE members are supposed to file annual disclosure reports (Tier 2, in this case), and they are to do so by May 15 of the following year.

The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of $100 per day ($2500 maximum).

Orange-Jones is notorious for failing to file her personal financial disclosures and is years in arrears on associated fines.

On August 11, 2019, I wrote a post about Orange-Jones, who at that point had not filed her personal disclosures for 2018 or 2017– and whose residential address was in question because her husband filed his personal disclosure using a NM address. I also included info on BESE meetings Orange-Jones missed.

The next day– August 12, 2019– Orange-Jones filed those missing 2017 and 2018 disclosures, but her filings were incomplete, and she has yet to pay the associated fines ($4300; see page 14 of this “failure to pay late fees” list).

Orange-Jones’ last ethics filing was on November 04, 2019, to amend info on her 2017 disclosure.

Since then, no new filings from Orange-Jones.

No 2020 filing. Not even a 2019 filing.

One big question continues to be Orange-Jones’ residential address. As of 2020, is she living in Louisiana or elsewhere? The public cannot answer this question in a timely manner based on Orange-Jones’ ethics disclosures because her latest filing is for 2018.

In fact, beginning with her first disclosure filing in 2011, Orange-Jones has never filed a single personal financial disclosure by the May 15th deadline:

  • 2011 disclosure filed over a year late, on July 03, 2013
  • 2012 disclosure filed on June 18, 2013
  • 2013 disclosure filed on July 24, 2014
  • 2014 disclosure filed on June 03, 2015
  • 2015 disclosure filed over a year late, on July 14, 2017
  • 2016 disclosure filed same day as 2015 disclosure (July 14, 2017)
  • 2017 disclosure filed over a year late, on August 12, 2019
  • 2018 disclosure filed same day as 2017 disclosure (August 12, 2019)
  • 2019 disclosure not yet filed (over a year late as of this writing)
  • 2020 disclosure not yet filed; no request for extension filed (over a week late as of this writing)

On May 25, 2021, I submitted the following public records request with the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program:

Dear Public Records Custodian:

Please provide a comprehensive history of payments of fines related to delinquent personal financial disclosure filings for BESE board member, Kira Orange Jones.

Thank you.

–Mercedes Schneider

In response, on May 26, 2021, I received the following comprehensive history of Orange-Jones’ fines for her failure to file timely financial disclosures:

According to the above file, as of May 26, 2021, Orange-Jones has paid a total of $7500 (maximum fine of $2500 for 2013, 2014, and 2015), and she appears to have been on some sort of payment plan for the 2013 and 2014 fines.

I wanted to know what was transpiring behind the scenes between the Louisiana Ethics Administration and Orange-Jones, so I filed another public records request for “all documents not made public” related to Orange-Jones’ noncompliance/delinquency related to her Tier 2 annual personal financial disclosures.

What I received was 89 pages long, including duplication for subsequent warnings via certified mail/having state troopers hand-deliver as well as reporting Orange-Jones’ noncompliance to the attorney general’s office.

I had to pay 25 cents per page for these docs:

I learned a lot about the process that the Louisiana Ethics Administration follows in regard to delinquent annual disclosure filings. The “hard” deadline is May 15, but the fine clock does not begin to run until the Administration contacts the non-filer by mail via a seven-day-warning letter, which could be months later. After the seven days, then the $100-per-day fines begin to accrue and max out at $2500. Once the fines reach $2500, another letter is sent, and then another, some via state trooper, then at some point (after repeated warnings that $2500 has accrued), a letter stating that the Administration may (operative word; not will certainly) oppose the candidate’s running in any election so long as fines are not completely paid, and then (again, at some points, after lots of warnings that the max fine has accrued, literally years later), the matter is referred to the attorney general’s office.

Orange-Jones is a notorious repeat offender at not filing, and piling up fines, and then incorrectly filing, that it seems the Administration really needs to develop a more stringent course of action for repeat offenders, including referring the offender to the attorney general’s office much sooner that several years later and certainly objecting to future candidacy for Louisiana office.

When Orange-Jones was cornered into filing her 2017 and 2018 disclosures in August 2019 (prior to the November 2019 election), she submitted incomplete documentation for both 2017 and 2018 and was called upon to correct these. Orange-Jones’ last filing as of this writing (in November 2019) was to correct the delinquent, incomplete, 2017 disclosure. Orange-Jones’ 2018 disclosure has yet to be corrected.

She has yet to pay the associated fines for 2017 and 2018. These have been referred to the attorney general’s office, but not until June 19, 2020, and there appears to have been no suit filed in which the Louisiana Ethics Administration objected to Orange-Jones’ BESE candidacy at any point since her first delinquent filing in 2011.

One would think that individuals holding public office would not have to be induced by serious, definite, punitive consequences to serve the public trust in so simple a matter as an annual ethics disclosure, but here we are with the damning example of Kira Orange-Jones and an ethics administration seemingly unwilling to enforce its own rules in the face of Orange-Jones’ solid history of blatant disregard.

Orange-Jones’ sloppy filing history makes a mockery of public service, and yet it continues. BESE, are you not embarrassed by this? Teach for America (TFA), are you proud of your senior vice president?

As for the remaining BESE board members, in general, they seem to manage much better with their timely, disclosure-filing task than does Orange-Jones, but keep in mind that Orange-Jones’ record sets a very low bar. Below are details of the personal financial disclosure filing histories of the remaining 10 BESE members:

Perhaps Doris Voitier should offer fellow members a master class on timely filing, but not to Orange-Jones. For assistance so benign, Orange-Jones has used up all of her coupons. Instead, BESE should formally censure Orange-Jones for her lack of compliance, and BESE needs to find out what percentage of her time Orange-Jones is spending actually residing in her own BESE district. Enough is enough.

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