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Former state senator Cheryl Jacques faces ethics charge; allegedly tried to use clout to reduce brother-in-law’s dental bill

Former state senator Cheryl Jacques tried to use her clout as an administrative judge for the state Department of Industrial Accidents to get a dental office to reduce her brother-in-law’s bill, the State Ethics Commission said this afternoon.

The commission’s enforcement division issued an order to show cause alleging that Jacques violated the state conflict of interest law, the commission said in a statement.

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Jacques’s attorney, Leonard H. Kesten, said his client’s actions were appropriate and she would be vindicated after a commission hearing.

In the fall of 2010, Jacques allegedly asked the dental office to write off the remaining balance on her brother-in-law’s bill, which was more than $1,000.

State law prohibits a state employee from using or attempting to use their position to secure unwarranted privileges for themselves or others, the commission said. The reduction of the dental bill was a privilege, the show-cause order alleges.

“By repeatedly mentioning her position as a judge to resolve a private billing dispute, Jacques knowingly or with reason to know attempted to use her administrative judge position to obtain for her brother-in-law an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to other similarly situated individuals,” the order alleges.

Kesten said Jacques had called the dentist’s office because her brother-in-law, after being told he would be charged lower PPO rates, was charged the full rate instead by mistake and was having trouble settling the dispute.

“She wasn’t trying to get free service,” he said. “She was trying to get them to charge the appropriate price. It was consumer protection.”

He said Jacques did not present herself as a judge, but did eventually confirm that she was one, when asked by the dentist. She acknowledges, he said, that she should not have done that.

But he insisted, “What she was doing is totally appropriate. ... I have no doubt that she will be vindicated.”

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