Poor Troy Hebert. He just can’t catch a break.
If he’s not placing a former business partner on the payroll of the Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commission (ATC) but who is not required to report to work, he’s placing a person on the payroll specifically for the purpose of visiting lawmakers in the area.
If he’s not requiring employees to stand as he enters a room and greet him with a cheery, “Good morning, Commissioner,” he’s issuing a new directive prohibiting agents from criticizing other agents to the public and media—a clear violation of the First Amendment.
If he’s not cracking down on state cellphone use by ATC agents—even after explicitly informing them that they were free to use the phones for personal use because of their unusually long working hours across the state (and because the phones come with unlimited minutes), he is putting his agency in such a state of disarray that other law enforcement agencies now exclude ATC from participation in raids—a radical departure from past protocol.
If he isn’t taking off to St. Lucia for a week in December of 2010 without taking leave or leave without pay, he’s using state equipment to haul materials to his home currently under construction in Baton Rouge.
And if he’s not purchasing a $10,000 dog ostensibly for the purpose of sniffing synthetic marijuana even though no drug sniffing canine is qualified to locate synthetic drugs (because the chemical ingredients are constantly changing) and then reassigning the agent who went through training with the dog, then he’s pursuing trespassing charges against a person who rescued an emaciated dog from his vacant, unfinished home.
The latest incident involving the former state senator-cum-highly-paid Piyush Jindal appointee revolves around an 11-month Great Dane that Hebert said he was attempting to nurse through an episode of hip dysplasia—by leaving the animal unattended in a vacant house on Christmas Eve.
Hebert is building a new home on South Lakeshore Drive in Baton Rouge and Angie Brumfield of Denham Springs was walking her own dog around the Louisiana State University lakes with a friend. They stopped at the house which had a sign inviting passersby to photograph the home’s Christmas display.
As they waited for others to finish taking photos, Brumfield looked through a window of the unoccupied home which had no curtains.
Inside, she saw the sick gray-and-white female Great Dane lying on the floor. She described the animal as “emaciated, in distress and with bones protruding where they should not be.”
She said she thought the dog had been abandoned and left there to die.
A photograph by the New Orleans Times-Picayune posted on its nola.com http://www.nola.com/news/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2013/01/sick_dog_found_in_baton_rouge.html
showed an extremely sickly animal lying on a floor, with protruding ribs and hip bones.
She coaxed the dog through a sliding door in the rear of the home but never entered the house, she said. She took the animal home, cared for it over Christmas, looked for lost dog signs, and posted a Cragslist ad in an attempt to locate the owner.
She took it to a veterinarian the day after Christmas and the vet discovered a microchip in the dog which indicated it was owned by Hebert.
Hebert said his veterinarian had given pain medication for the dog and instructed the family to monitor the animal’s progress but the dog, named T-Girl, lost considerable weight because of the illness and was able to walk on only three legs.
Brumfield posted a photo of the dog on Facebook, expressed her distress at its condition and named Hebert and his pediatrician wife Dawn Vick as its owners and that’s when the trouble started.
Hebert, who seems to take undue pleasure at demeaning his employees and criticizing them both privately and in the media, took umbrage at Brumfield’s perceived attack on his reputation. “We have done nothing wrong,” Hebert sniffed. “We’re not going to stand back and allow some stranger who broke into our home, stole our dog and is attacking us on a social website when all we’ve been trying to do is deal with a very sad situation.”
Sure sounds like a vicious crime wave to us.
Sad or not, employees of ATC have confirmed that Hebert regularly brought a Great Dane (it’s not certain if it was T-Girl or another Great Dane owned by Hebert) to ATC last summer and would routinely leave the animal in the back of his pickup truck, exposed to the hot summer sun throughout the day with no food or water.
Now, though, he claims that Brumfield may have harmed T-Girl by moving her and keeping her without medication. “We firmly believe that after she took our dog, it made matters worse,” he said.
Hebert reported the matter to Baton Rouge police and Brumfield and her friend now face misdemeanor charges of unlawfully entering premises and unauthorized use of a “movable.”
Apparently, Hebert can do little more these days than pursue those who attempt to aid an animal in distress now that the Baton Rouge Police Department and the parish Alcohol and Beverage Control Board no longer work with ATC.
Prior to Hebert’s appointment ATC regularly participated in raids with other law enforcement agencies but two recent raids—one in Baton Rouge and the other in Lafayette—were carried out without ATC’s involvement.
A retired ATC agent told LouisianaVoice that Hebert “has destroyed an agency that once took the lead in serious investigations.”
The former agent said that agents spent years building relationships with local, federal and other state agencies. “We constantly worked with the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. marshals, military Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and other agencies,” he said.
“Many of us were integral members of Joint Terrorism Task Forces; we were teaching classes on alcohol and tobacco laws in police academies. We were one of the leading agencies in our field. We conducted compliance checks for sales of alcohol and tobacco to underage customers. We worked with the Louisiana State Police conducting DWI checkpoints.
“We trained and worked with local police departments and sheriffs’ offices to conduct their own operations.
“I think all that has been destroyed,” he said.
Hebert was appointed by Jindal on Nov. 23, 2010 and less than a month later he and his wife vacationed for a week in St. Lucia. He took neither annual leave (because he had not worked long enough to accumulate a week’s leave time) nor leave without pay.
When later confronted by state officials, he blamed a subordinate and was allowed to correct the “error” which, in some quarters, might be considered payroll fraud and grounds for dismissal.
He also hired Sean Magee of Jeanerette, a former business partner in a Hurricane Katrina debris cleanup business (while Hebert was still a state senator), to work for ATC but several agents say he never appears at the Baton Rouge headquarters.
More recently he has hired a legislative liaison whose only duties are to visit with legislators—even as he has reduced the number of enforcement positions which in return resulted in ATC’s becoming ineligible for certain federal grants. The agency also has lost its eligibility for sending agents to the FBI National Academy.
His most recent innovation is to craft a personnel policy expected to be released within the next few days that prohibits agents from criticizing other agents to the public or media.
As the head of a state law enforcement agency, perhaps Mr. Hebert should take the time to familiarize himself with the Louisiana Whistleblower Protection Act (R.S. 42:1169), the Louisiana State Employee Governmental Code of Ethics and the Bill of Rights, particularly the pesky First Amendment which guarantees citizens the right of free speech.