NEW ORLEANS -- Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa is now the subject of a Louisiana Board of Ethics case.
The board is considering charges against Ragusa for his involvement with an application to a city-run loan program, from which his family members benefited.
The agency’s documents on the case say Ragusa’s two sons and daughter-in-law received a $50,000 loan from the city’s Historical District fund in 2003, before Ragusa was mayor, to buy a restaurant and fix it up.
Six years later, the trio sold the business for $225,000 to Jimmy Gregory, who was elected to the town’s Board of Aldermen earlier this year.
The terms of the deal required a $130,000 down payment, which Gregory got three months prior to the sale through a loan from the city’s Historical District fund, just as Ragusa’s family members had done in 2003. The documents say Ragusa presented the loan application to the Board of Aldermen for approval and participated in the discussions about the application, even though it was clear the application was for the purchase of the mayor’s sons’ business.
The board approved the loan and Ragusa signed off on it. That sent the $130,000 straight from the city’s loan account, to the title company handling the closing of the purchase of the restaurant.
The title company turned more than $94,000 of it over to the family members’ business, which more than $34,000 was given back to the town to pay the rest of the 2003 loan.
“I didn't do anything wrong," Ragusa said. "I did whatever I was told to do. It was my duty to present the loan application to the Board of Aldermen, and I acted upon the town attorney's recommendation to sign the loan after the board approved it."
Ragusa still faces criminal charges for an altercation with a town police officer in August, which was made public in a story Eyewitness News brought you first.