KENNER- A former Kenner assistant city attorney has settled a state ethics complaint after a WWL-TV investigation revealed that the one-time prosecutor was moonlighting as a domestic violence counselor for Kenner defendants.
Attorney Christopher Weddle agreed to a pay a $2,500 fine as part of a consent order he signed last week in which he admitted profiting from defendants who had been ordered by the Kenner city attorney’s office to undergo counseling.
Operating as “Diversion Resources” in 2014, Weddle used the Kenner’s Lion Club Hall directly behind City Hall to conduct the counseling sessions. The Ethics Board said the dual roles violated several statutes of the state Ethics Code.
Weddle was in violation “by receiving a thing of economic value in fees from counseling services from persons who were participating in the pretrial diversion program regulated by the Kenner city attorney’s office,” stated the settlement of the ethics complaint.
City officials disallowed Weddle to continue operating as a counselor for Kenner defendants after WWL-TV aired its story in November 2014. By then, Weddle had been operating for nine months as a counselor, earning about $9,000, according to the ethics charges.
Loyola Law professor Dane Ciolino said that by agreeing to the ethics complaint, Weddle probably negotiated a less serious penalty than if he had contested the allegations.
“This was a pretty straightforward, clear violation of the code,” Ciolino said. “He (Weddle) was fined $2,500, which really at the end of the day allows him to have made some profit from this operation. But negotiated resolutions of ethics complaints often go down that way.”
Ciolino said if Weddle is found guilty, he could be forced to reimburse his profits and pay a fine as high as half of what he earned, putting his possible total penalty at $13,500.
Several licensed therapists said their Kenner referrals dried up when Weddle began operating as Diversion Resources. In addition to the convenience of his location next to City Hall, documents show that clients might have gravitated to Weddle because he could offer a shorter program than other counselors.
All the other agencies offered 52-week programs, the professional standard for domestic violence counseling. But Weddle was allowed to conduct 26-week programs. All of the city-approved therapists, including Weddle, were listed on a referral sheet given to defendants by the Kenner city attorney’s office.
On some early referral sheets, there is no mention of Weddle’s name, just his company. But on later versions of the sheet, the name “Mr. Chris” appears under his company, in stark contrast to the full names and licensing credentials listed for other counselors.
Weddle is still facing a complaint before the Louisiana Bar Association in connection with his dual arrangement. He could not be reached for comment.
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