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Story Archives: Hiring flap snarls Ellington
|Hiring flap snarls Ellington|
State Rep. Noble Ellington's wife, Brenda Anderson Armstrong, can keep her job working for her husband as his legislative assistant, at least until Jan. 28.
That's the date the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge is scheduled to hear Armstrong's argument that she be allowed to keep her job in spite of a state Ethics Board ruling, which said she had to give it up, according to Ellington.
"As far as I know, nothing else has happened," Ellington said. "Every-thing is just sitting and waiting."
In a 3-2 vote Thursday, the Ethics Board ruled against Ellington's request that Armstrong be allowed to keep her job as his legislative assistant. Ellington sought the ruling since he was moving from the Senate to the House of Representatives. Ellington was elected to the House in November.
In ruling against Ellington, the Ethics Board cited state ethics laws, which prohibit legislators from directly employing members of their family.
Armstrong has worked as Ellington's legislative assistant since 1988, when Ellington first took office as a member of the state House of Represen-tatives.
The couple married in 2006, after more than 15 years of working together. At that time, Armstrong was "grandfathered" into the position, which meant she was allowed to keep her $54,540-per-year job as Ellington's legislative aid since she worked for him prior to their marriage. Ellington served in the Senate at the time.
In spite of the Ethic Board ruling, Ellington notified the House of Representatives Friday that he would hire Armstrong to serve as his legislative assistant anyway. Butch Speer, clerk for the House of Repre-sentatives, blocked Arm-strong's hiring, referring to the Ethics Board ruling.
When Speer rejected Ellington's move, Arm-strong petitioned the 19th
Judicial District Court for a restraining order to prevent her termination.
19th Judicial District Court Judge Don Johnson granted Armstrong's re-quest for a temporary restraining order, which effectively prevented the House from terminating her employment until the case could be heard in court.
Ellington said he believes the court will rule Armstrong should keep her job because the state constitution is clear.
"The constitution reads that it is the Legislature - it is not the House and the Senate," Ellington said. "She has been working for the Legislature for almost 20 years."
Ellington was referring to Armstrong being allowed to keep her job as his legislative assistant after they were married.
To reinforce his position, Ellington pointed to the close vote of the Ethics Board.
"It was a 3-2 vote," Ellington said. "That indicated to me that there was some validity in what we were trying to do."
Ellington also said he has received a generally favorable response from his colleagues in the Legislature.
"I talked to some different people around to find out for sure if I was thinking wrong," Ellington said. "And a lot of the advice I've gotten is I am thinking right."
Ellington noted the Ethics Board's ruling in the matter is not final, but rather, the beginning.
"There is a process after them," Ellington said. "They are not the final say."