It was a stunning moment at the Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting on Jan. 8: After council members discussed at length proposed rate increases in the parish for Acadian Ambulance, which has an exclusive contract with Lafayette Consolidated Government — a monopoly in many observers’ eyes — Councilman Kevin Naquin, a first-term newbie in politics better known as a Cajun accordionist but who has distinguished himself as a thoughtful councilman who does his homework, recused himself from the vote. Stunning because in February 2012 Naquin led the charge to block Acadian from getting similarly whopping rate increases.
|Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Kevin Naquin|
Acadian got exactly what it was asking for this year from the City-Parish Council, unlike 2012 when amendments sponsored by Naquin undid similar hikes.
So why the remarkable moment? Turns out, Councilman Naquin paid attention during his state-mandated ethics training after winning election in 2011 to represent District 1 in northwest Lafayette Parish. When he’s not squeezing out the chanky-chank or serving on the council, Naquin is a full-time sales representative for US Med-Equip, a Houston-based company that specializes in sales and rental of medical equipment, and last summer, months after he batted off Acadian’s push for rate increases similar to the ones approved on Jan. 8, the ambulance company signed a contract for services with US Med-Equip.
“When it was brought to my attention that we would be doing repair work and possibly renting equipment to Acadian Ambulance in Texas, which is our home office, and some in Louisiana, I contacted Michael Hebert the [city-parish] attorney and said, ‘Michael, this is what’s going on,’” Naquin recalls. Hebert told him that voting on council matters involving Acadian could constitute a conflict of interest, even though Naquin made sure he had no contact with Acadian representatives in his capacity as a representative of US Med-Equip. (At his request a company representative from New Orleans drove to Lafayette to meet with Acadian about the contract; that employee will earn commissions on the Acadian contract.)
Naquin also discussed the situation with fellow council members, some of whom told him they thought because he didn’t have a financial stake in the deal he could vote on Acadian matters and not run afoul of state ethics laws. But Naquin was circumspect. “I decided it’s just not worth it,” he says. “[Acadian] came to us, to the council members [before the Jan. 8 vote], and showed us the plan, but I told them, ‘You can show me all the plans you want but I’m telling you right now, I’m not voting on it.’”