A recent report from a local T.V. outlet focused on a local politician and his wife, as well as the way they conduct business.
Assessor Jeff Taylor and his spouse, Delia, bore the brunt of a report that accused them of several things, including:
- ‘Enrichment’ through political gains
- Delia Taylor’s business ‘Taylor Media Services’ not being in good standing with the Secretary of State
- Taylor also not having an occupational license in Livingston Parish
- Questions were raised as to whether payments made on behalf of the Livingston Parish School Board for Taylor’s media services were legal, considering the previous information
The enrichment accusations came up after the report revealed that Taylor was paid on behalf of her husband’s campaign roughly $124,686.63 since 2013.
According to an LSU law professor, the reports clearly show ‘enrichment’ through processing campaign expenditures through Taylor’s media business. However, most political expenses are processed by media companies and then reimbursed, as end-user advertisers - including newspapers, magazines, and television stations - charge political campaigns up front for advertising.
A practice to help with both campaign finance reporting and, in many cases, when campaigns wrap up it is difficult to contact personnel involved to receive final payment.
The News uses the ‘pay up front’ practice.
So if a media agency purchases on behalf of a campaign, usually they incur the expense and seek reimbursement.
Mrs. Taylor produced receipts for all of the expenditures, also showing that one $865 charge was issued three times in the report - bringing the total to $122,946.63 over the roughly six-year span.
Taylor also showed that she took 4.6% total commission on just four items from the list, nearly 10% less than an average media buy rate of 15%, which she was charged to place T.V. ads at one point, through a third party, for her husband Jeff.
Campaign finance reports were also produced, which showed that the state department had accepted final documentation submitted over the years. Taylor also produced communications with the campaign finance department that showed she, and her husband’s campaign, were in continual conversation with the staff to make sure they met qualifications and were compliant.
However, Kathleen Allen of campaign finance said that the discussion surrounding Taylor not being in the Secretary of State’s system would have to go before the campaign finance board for a final judgement.
According to state law, if a campaign is doing business with a family member or family member’s business, that business must have an occupational license or be in good standing with the Secretary of State.
Taylor’s business is a sole proprietorship, which is not managed through the Secretary of State and would not appear in their system.
Taylor produced an e-mail from Amanda Baker, manager of the commercial division of the Secretary of State, which backed her claim.
“Sole-proprietorship are not filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. We provide no forms for this filing,” the e-mail said. “If an option of “sole proprietorship” is chosen through our online geauxBIZ portal, it is forwarded directly to the Louisiana Department of Revenue and/or Louisiana Workforce Commission (as stated online at time of submission.)
“None of the information submitted is collected or retained by (the Secretary of State’s) office.”
Taylor then produced her Louisiana Department of Revenue number and appropriate paperwork, which showed she met the 12-month requirement by law. She hopes that the campaign finance board will see her due diligence, otherwise she will do what is necessary to become compliant, she said.
Taylors’ hearing before the board will come by November, at the earliest, according to campaign finance.
The law was changed in 2016 to reflect changes to family-members’ participation in campaign finance and expenditures, with ‘Part L’ reading:
A candidate’s immediate family member may not be paid for services provided to that candidates campaign unless (1) the business is a bona fide business reigstered with the Secretary of State that has been doing business regularly in the state for at least 12 months prior to the time of the payment, and (2) that provides services related to the payment; and, (3) the payment is made through an arm’s length transaction in which the value of the goods or services furnished is commensurate with the consideration provided.
The new law also includes an ‘or’ section which discuses that an ‘occupational license’ within the parish would suffice.
Taylor does not have an occupational license in Livingston Parish, because she “was unaware she needed one” as she operates out of her home and is not subject to sales taxes.
However, parish law requires that any business within the parish, outside a municipality, have an occupational license.
“Again, I’ll do what I have to get compliant,” Taylor said last week. It was confirmed by the sheriff’s office that she had acquired an occupational license, although punitive measures - if any - were unknown at the time of publication.
Taylor also said she had never been contacted by the sheriff’s office, even after the report, to apply for an occupational license.
According to local sources, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s office was busy following the report on Taylor as businesses outside Denham Springs and Walker scrambled to acquire their occupational license. The process is convoluted and relatively unknown to business owners who don’t pay sales taxes.
The school board is responsible for collecting parish sales taxes.
In the wake of the report of a lack of an occupational license, school board member Kelley Hennessy Dickerson asked if it was legal for the board to do business with Taylor.
Taylor provides services to the board and system including populating their website and newsletter.
According to school board attorney Mark Boyer, Livingston Parish Public Schools has not violated law or policy by engaging with Taylor Media Services for professional services as a sole proprietor.