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|Governor signs Ellington exemption|
By Michael DeVault
State Rep. Noble Ellington's wife will continue to serve as his legislative assistant indefinitely, after Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law an exemption written specifically for her.
Last week, Jindal signed Senate Bill 769, a bill by Senate President Joel Chaisson that was aimed at clarifying recent ethics reforms. Chaisson's bill included an amendment exempting Brenda Anderson Armstrong Ellington from ethics rules that prohibit legislators from hiring immediate family members for state jobs.
Ellington said he was pleased that Jindal signed the bill into law but said he had not requested the move nor did he speak in favor of it.
"The president of the Senate was the one who decided to do that," Ellington said. "He thought there was a need."
Ellington also noted he did not cast a vote on the amendment because it would have been a conflict of interest.
"I never voted on it one time nor talked to anyone about it," said Ellington. "I just did not feel like that was a place I needed to be visible."
Armstrong has worked as Ellington's legislative assistant since 1988, when Ellington first took office as a member of the state House of Representatives.
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 that he intended hire Armstrong to serve as his legislative assistant anyway. Butch Speer, clerk for the House of Representatives, blocked Armstrong's hiring, referring to the Ethics Board ruling.
Ellington then sued in East Baton Rouge District Court and was granted a temporary injunction against Anderson's termination. However, a judge in that case eventually ruled against Anderson's continued employment.
Anderson remained at her post pending appeal of the East Baton Rouge Parish court ruling.
Those appeals are moot now, as the new law clears the way for her to keep her job indefinitely.
Ellington said that outcome confirmed for him what the couple has known the whole time.
"She has been a legislative assistant for 20 years," Ellington said.
In those 20 years, Ellington noted he has moved from the House of Representatives to the Senate and then back to the House. In all that time, Ellington said Anderson's title has remained unchanged.
"So her title implies she works for the Legislature, not a particular house," Ellington said.
Though most of the comments he has heard have been positive, Ellington said he knew there would be some bad feedback from the exemption.
"I know there were some negative things being said but all I can say about that is that's politics," Ellington said.
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