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Archive for the ‘ATC’ Category

In the early morning hours of Jan. 22, 2012, Joseph Branch, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .307 percent (2½ higher than the .08 percent, the legal definition of intoxication in Louisiana) and driving at a high rate of speed, struck two bicyclists, killing Nathan Crowson and severely injuring his riding companion, Daniel Morris.

Branch, who had a previous DWI conviction in 2006 and was given a six-month suspended sentence, was convicted of vehicular homicide and first degree vehicular negligent injuring and sentenced to 7½ years in prison. http://theadvocate.com/news/11878236-123/baton-rouge-man-joseph-branch

That should be that, right?

Well, no. There remained the issue of whether or not The Bulldog, a bar where Branch had been drinking with two friends just before the accident, might be legally liable for continuing to serve Branch after it was evident that he was intoxicated.

Anytime there is an alcohol-related auto accident involving a fatality, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) investigates whether or not the driver had been served alcohol after it was obvious he was intoxicated. Such customers are supposed to be eighty-sixed, or cut off from being served more alcohol.

So, how are investigations carried out?

Meticulously. Carefully. Thoroughly.

Think again.

The investigation, which would routinely require weeks upon weeks of interviews, document and video review and which normally produce written reports 30 to 40 pages in length, was unusually short in duration and produced a report of a single page.

One page that completely exonerated the bar of any violation. http://www.wbrc.com/story/16903763/bar-cleared-in-fatal-crash

Initially, two ATC agents, neither of whom now work for the agency, began the investigation by requesting a video of the night in question to determine if Branch displayed any obvious signs of intoxication. They also asked owners of The Bulldog, located on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge, for certain other documents and information, including copies of any and all receipts of alcoholic beverages purchased by Branch.

When the bar initially refused to cooperate, the agents who customarily investigate such cases, obtained a subpoena and served it on the bar.

Enter ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert.

This is the same Troy Hebert who allegedly once admonished an agent for not shooting an unarmed man. When an ATC agent attempted to question a man who appeared to be intoxicated in the Tigerland area near the LSU campus where a number of bars and clubs are located, the man dove at the agent’s feet in an attempt to take him down. He was quickly overpowered and handcuffed by agents who reported the incident to Hebert. They said Hebert asked, “Why didn’t you shoot him?”

It is also the same Troy Hebert who another Baton Rouge bar owner says set his establishment up for selling to underage customers.

In December, his bartender refused to sell alcohol to an underage patron working undercover in tandem with an ATC agent. When the bartender refused to sell alcohol to the underage customer, the female ATC agent purchased the drink and gave to the younger girl and then cited the bar for selling alcohol to underage patron.

“That server is taught that they are to remove the drink from the individual who is underage,” Hebert said.

“She slides the beer to the underage girl,” bar owner Andrew Bayard said. “She assumed possession and gives it to the underage girl. I don’t feel that is a fault of my employee.” http://www1.wbrz.com/news/bar-owner-at-odds-with-state-alcohol-agents-claims-his-employee-was-set-up

Hebert officially resigned as commissioner, effective Jan. 10, the day before the new governor, John Bel Edwards, took office. He since has announced he will seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. David Vitter who is not seeking re-election.

But we digress.

In an unprecedented move, Hebert, who had zero experience as an investigator, decided he would be the lead investigator of the Bulldog.

What possible motive would Hebert have in rushing through an investigation and issuing a press release on Feb. 9 absolving the bar of any responsibility? Why would he instruct the lead agent on the case to limit his report to one page?

Why would Hebert watch the video footage for only a few seconds before proclaiming he “saw nothing” there? Why not watch the entire video to see if Branch did, in fact, appear intoxicated?

Even more curious, why would Hebert instruct that same agent to return to The Bulldog and retrieve the subpoena the agent had served on the establishment for video and records, thus freeing the bar of any responsibility to turn over key records?

Is it possible that the answer to each of these questions can consist of two words?

Might those two words be Chris Young?

The New Orleans attorney represents scores of clubs and bars (and convenience stores) before the ATC and his sister, Judy Pontin, is the executive management officer for ATC’s New Orleans office, earning $71,000 per year.

John Young, the brother of Chris Young and Pontin, is the former president of Jefferson Parish and was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in last fall’s statewide elections.

ATC insiders told LouisianaVoice that when an establishment wants to apply for an alcohol permit or whenever the business experiences problems with ATC, Pontin refers them to Chris Young for legal representation.

Chris Young was the legal counsel for The Bulldog prior to and throughout the ATC investigation.

Daniel Morris, who was severely injured in the accident, retained the representation of Lafayette attorney Patrick Daniel who issued his own subpoena to ATC for certain records to bolster his litigation against The Bulldog.

In February 2013, more than a year after the accident which left Morris disabled, Daniel sent a letter to ATC general Counsel Jessica Starns noting that ATC FAILED TO PROVIDE RECORDS TO MORRIS

“Your response is considered incomplete as it does not contain certain items referenced in the produced documents,” he said.

It was not immediately determined if the records were finally produced but it does raise the obvious question of why did ATC not comply with that subpoena in the first place, thus necessitating a follow up letter from the attorney?

Could those records have contained information that conflicted with ATC’s one-page report of Feb. 9, 2012, the report that supposedly cleared The Bulldog?

A lot of questions were left hanging out there and someone deserves some answers.

We’re guessing that would be the families of the two cyclists.

But we may never know those answers.

In June 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a Baton Rouge state district court in tossing Morris’s lawsuit on the basis that the responsibility for intoxication lies with the individual, not the establishment.

Thus was added insult to Morris’s considerable injuries.

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When LouisianaVoice was first contacted about Troy Hebert back in December, one of the things our anonymous source said was that the former Commissioner of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was positioning himself for a congressional run.

While everything the source told us was verified in a month-long investigation, we simply could not bring ourselves to believe that Hebert would seriously believe he could be a serious candidate for Congress.

After all, the Jeanerette native had enough baggage to justify an extra train car on any such expedition to Washington.

For openers, the veteran legislator cum ATC commissioner had, while serving as a state representative, managed to finagle a state contract for debris cleanup following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That alone was a flagrant conflict of interest but because he was apparently close to Bobby Jindal, the State Board of Ethics chose to look the other way.

Then there is his tenure at ATC, marked by constant battles with his agents. Rumors of racism on his part persisted and he required his agents to rise and chirp, “Good morning, commissioner” whenever he entered the room. At hearings on alcohol permit revocations and other penalties, he insisted on being called “judge,” though he was merely an administrative officer.

So we discounted out of hand the report that he might make a run for a congressional seat. We assumed he was taking aim of the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany who has made his intentions known that he plans to seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter.

Nah, we said. The source is simply wrong.

But wait.

Politics necessarily dictate sizable egos and apparently there is none bigger than Hebert’s.

And there it was, when we googled “Hebert announces for U.S. Senate.” Up popped this link: http://www.katc.com/story/31082873/troy-hebert-to-run-for-senate?clienttype=mobile

That’s the web site of Lafayette television station KATC. We clicked on the link and this story appeared on our screen:

Troy Hebert, a former state senator and former commissioner of the state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Office, says he plans to run for the U.S. Senate this fall. 

Hebert, who is from Jeanerette and lives in Baton Rouge, served in the Louisiana state Senate as a Democrat, but later switched to Independent. He was Alcohol & Tobacco Control Commissioner for the past five years and resigned at the end of December. 

Hebert said he plans to run as an Independent.

“Given the number of voters that are fed up with both parties, the large number of registered Independents and the swollen number of republican candidates, simple math shows a great opportunity for voters to elect their first truly conservative Independent United States Senator,” Hebert said. “This realization has some people in high places, with a lot to lose, already trying to keep me out the race. They think I kicked their asses before, just think what I could do as a U.S. Senator.” 

Hebert joins three other Louisiana politicians who have announced they are vying for U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s Senate seat. Vitter announced he would not seek re-election after losing the governor’s race last fall.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, and state Treasurer John Kennedy, also a Republican, have said they are running.

So it’s not the House but the Senate that Hebert is running for. Seems our source was pretty much spot on with this opening line back on Dec. 18, 2015:

“I have watched all of Mr. Herbert’s actions in the last year with amazement. His latest attempts to go around the State to get name recognition for what I hear will be a Congressional run has led me from watching from the sidelines to sending you this information.”

“Herbert also has been holding town hall type meetings across the State after he announced his resignation at end of year so he can get name recognition for his run for Congress,” she said.

Okay, it’s not the House, but that and other information provided us was accurate enough for us to see that our source is up in the middle of Troy Hebert’s business—and he has no idea who it is.

Stand by folks. If you thought last fall’s governor’s race was nasty, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

As C.B. would say if he were still with us: You can’t make this stuff up.

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Did the former director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control strong-arm New Orleans-area night club owners to contribute to the campaign of one of the candidates for governor in last fall’s elections?

A confidential source told LouisianaVoice that club owners and businesses in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were pressured during two separate meetings prior to the Oct. 24 primary election to contribute to the gubernatorial campaign of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.

There is no evidence that Angelle knew about or approved of the alleged coercion to contribute to his campaign.

Ten businesses or individuals subsequently contributed more than $30,500 to Angelle’s campaign, all of which was given prior to the primary election in which Angelle finished third to eventual winner John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

Why would club owners be asked to contribute to Angelle? One possible explanation might be that ATC Director Troy Hebert thought Angelle’s election represented his best chance for reappointment. Hebert resigned on Jan. 10, the day before John Bel Edwards became governor.

None of the 10 contributed to either of the other three candidates for governor though seven of them also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, campaign records show.

John Young’s brother, attorney Chris Young, represents numerous New Orleans clubs and bars in proceedings before the ATC. Chris Young also serves as a lobbyist for the Beer Industry League of Louisiana. Their sister, Judy Pontin, serves as ATC’s $71,000-per-year “executive management officer” in ATC’s New Orleans office.

The timing of Operation Trick or Treat, a joint sting operation conducted by ATC and Louisiana State Police, also raises the question of whether there may have been a pattern of selective investigations of French Quarter strip clubs, particularly in New Orleans, last September and October.

Eighteen clubs in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were subjected to the investigation. Seventeen of the 18 did not contribute to Angelle. Only Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club among those that contributed was among those clubs visited in Operation Trick or Treat, according to a list obtained from ATC by LouisianaVoice. No violations were found there.

In all, nine clubs were found in violation of infractions of underage alcohol sales, drug use and/or prostitution.

Were club owners who contributed to Angelle and/or Young deliberately passed over during the joint LSP-ATC operation? Or were they just lucky?

Did the undercover investigation just happen to coincide with the run-up to the 2015 election for governor and lieutenant governor? Were those clubs who had their liquor licenses pulled targeted for their failure to follow through with political contributions? And did the license revocations help eliminate French Quarter competition for favored clubs?

A source close to the events contacted LouisianaVoice by email several weeks ago. Writing under an assumed name, the source said that prior to the Oct. 24 primary election, Hebert held private meetings with several club owners “to shake down the businesses” for contributions to Angelle’s campaign fund. She said the meetings were held “on top of Oceana Restaurant on Conti and in Metairie on Veterans Highway at Cajun Canyons Restaurant” (Cajun Cannon), run by former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert (no relation to Troy Hebert). It wasn’t immediately clear if she meant the rooftop of the Oceana or on the top floor of the restaurant.

Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon Restaurant & Bar is located at 4101 Veterans Memorial Blvd., but nowhere in the Secretary of State’s corporate records is Hebert listed as an officer of that or any other corporate entity in Orleans or Jefferson Parish.

Instead, the trade name Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon is listed at 5828 Marcia Ave. in New Orleans—the same address as several other corporations.

Oceana Restaurant is located at 739 Conti Street, the same address as Oceana Enterprises, LLC. Wassek N. Badr is listed as both the registered agent and the only officer of Oceana Enterprises.

And this is where it gets really confusing.

The name Badr, or Bader, crops up in several other corporate filings in New Orleans, all with the same 5828 Marcia Ave. address as Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon nightclub.

Others with Wassek Badr’s name listed as officer include Cajun Estates of 5828 Marcia, Cajun Conti, LLC, and Cajun Cuisine, LLC, both of 739 Conti (same address as Oceana Restaurant), and MRW Orleans, LLC (Mohamad Wassek Bader and Rami Wassek Badr), 5828 Marcia.

Moe Wassek Badr is listed as the agent and only officer of Cajun Maple, LLC, of 5828 Marcia while Mohamad “Moe” Badr is given as agent and only officer of Olde Creole Palace, LLC. And Rami Badr is listed as agent and only officer of Cajun Broad, LLC, both located at 5828 Marcia.

Additionally, Morton Bader is named as agent for Cajun Estates.

Amer Bader is listed in corporate records as a member of Wasek Badr, LLC, and it is Amer Bader who has said that he exchanged text messages with Hebert in which he accused Hebert of extorting sexual favors from a woman experiencing licensing problems with ATC. http://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/26/fbi-said-investigating-troy-hebert-for-using-office-to-extort-sex-from-woman-in-exchange-for-fixing-licensing-problems/

Campaign finance reports filed by Angelle would seem to indicate the meetings at Oceana and Cajun Cannon were likely held on or around Sept. 16 and Oct. 12, 2015, since all the contributions to Angelle were on those two dates.

Two contributions of $5,000 each were made on Sept. 16 by Hospitality Consultants and Magnolia Enterprises, records show, and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply gave $500 on that same date.

On Oct. 12, Quarter Holdings and ITMC Enterprises contributed $5,000 each to Angelle’s campaign, Bourbon Heat and Promenade Entertainment gave $2,500 each, and HDV No. 1, SB Entertainment, and CATS 701 each gave $1,666.66.

Here are those contributors to Angelle and the dates of their contributions:

  • Hospitality Consultants: $5,000 on Sept. 16, 2015;
  • Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $5,000 on Sept. 16;
  • Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.: $500 on Sept. 16;
  • Quarter Holdings: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
  • JTMC Enterprises: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
  • Bourbon Heat: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
  • Promenade Entertainment, LLC: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
  • HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
  • SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
  • CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.66 on Oct. 12

Here are the seven who also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, according to campaign reports obtained from the State Board of Ethics:

  • Quarter Holdings, LLC: $5,000 on Dec. 29, 2014;
  • Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $3,000 on Feb. 26, 2015 and $1,000 on April 29, 2015;
  • SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Aug. 21;
  • CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.67 on Aug. 24;
  • HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.66 on Aug. 24;
  • JTMC Enterprises, LLC: $834 on Aug. 24;
  • Bourbon Heat, LLC: $2,500 on Aug. 28, 2014 and $2,500 on Aug. 26, 2015.

Besides those businesses, also conspicuously absent from the list of clubs investigated by the joint ATC/LSP sting operation was Rick’s Cabaret. Rick’s bills itself on its web site as “New Orleans’ finest gentlemen’s experience.” Located at 315 Bourbon Street, it is within three blocks of all nine strip clubs which had their licenses suspended. Because of its proximity to the other clubs, it would stand to gain financially from business lost by the penalized establishments because of their inability to sell alcoholic beverages.

Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret, is said to be friends with both Troy Hebert and State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

The corporate records on the businesses are equally confusing.

Magnolia Enterprises and Quarter Holdings, LLC, share the same agent, Marcus Giusti, and at least one officer, Kishore V. Motwani. Additionally, Aaron K. Motwani is an officer in Magnolia Enterprises. Kishore Motwani also is an officer for Quarter Holdings, Inc. All three share the same Canal Street mailing address.

Neither CATS 701 Bourbon, which runs Cat’s Meow Club at that address, nor HDV No. 1, which operates Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, list any officers on the Secretary of State’s corporate web site, but they list the same Reno, Nevada address as their domicile. Along with SB Entertainment, they give Durand, Michigan, as their mailing address and SB Entertainment lists two corporate officers, both in Reno.

Bourbon Heat, LLC lists Huey Farrell as its agent and Angelo and Regina Farrell as officers while Jude Marullo is both agent and officer for Promenade Entertainment, LLC. Likewise, Warren Reuther, Jr., is agent and the only officer listed for Hospitality Consultants.

Pat O’Brien is listed as manager of Pat O’Brien Developments, LLC while only agents and no officers are given for JTMC Enterprises, LLC and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.

Attempts to reach spokesmen for the businesses who contributed to Angelle to determine if they were pressured to give to his campaign were unsuccessful.

 

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© 2016

A joint investigation by LouisianaVoice and Fox8 News has revealed that a federal investigation has been launched into allegations that former Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control director Troy Hebert used his position to extort sex from a woman who experienced problems with ATC over a liquor license for her New Orleans restaurant.

New Orleans businessman Amer Bader, who initially told LouisianaVoice he had been visited by the FBI, told a former ATC agent he exchanged text messages with Hebert. In those texts, he accused Hebert of extorting sexual favors from a woman friend of Bader’s who was experiencing problems in licensing her restaurant with ATC. He later said it was not he who was visited by federal agents, but his friend who runs the Star Steak House on Decatur Street.

The restaurant, according to the former agent, was delinquent in paying its taxes and its license expired on May 31, 2015. Following an appearance at ATC in Baton Rouge, Hebert allegedly contacted her and offered to help, according to the source who voluntarily came forward. The two began meeting for dinner, the anonymous source told LouisianaVoice via email on Dec. 18. She said Hebert eventually took the woman to an apartment he keeps above the Copper Monkey Grill at 725 Conti St. in New Orleans where they engaged in sex.

She said the woman, whom she identified as Sarah Palmer, took photos of the interior of the apartment on her cell phone and that she also saved text messages from Hebert despite his admonition to delete the photos and texts. Those photos and text messages were eventually turned over to the FBI, the source said.

Hebert, in response to Bader’s text messages, reportedly claimed that he did not seduce the woman but that she seduced him.

LouisianaVoice reached Hebert by phone late Tuesday and asked for a statement. Hebert requested that we put any questions in writing and email them to him, so we did:

  • Did you in fact offer to help (Sarah Palmer) with her licensing?
  • Did you offer to help her financially with paying for her children’s school?
  • Did you issue temporary permits so she could continue to sell alcohol?
  • Does the director of ATC have authority to issue temporary permits in cases of delinquent sales tax remittances?
  • Did you dismiss the case against her? If so, why?
  • Did you have sex with Sarah Palmer?
  • Did you exchange emails with Amer Bader regarding your relationship with Sarah Palmer?
  • Who provided legal representation for restaurant and bar owners before the ATC when you were director?

Hebert offered this written statement by email:

“Like Paul Harvey use to say, this is ‘the rest of the story.’

“Star Steak House in the French Quarter was facing suspension/revocation of their alcohol permit because Ms. Palmer’s Middle Eastern manager, who is a convicted felon, was breaking the law and pocketing thousands of state sales tax dollars from the business.

“At the ATC hearing, Ms. Palmer stated that she was committed to keeping her business open legally and her 20-plus employees working. She was advised that she would have to remove her manager from any and all dealings with the business and work out a payment plan with the Department of Revenue (LDR) to pay all taxes owed the state.

“She was granted a temporary permit to give her and LDR time to work out a payment plan in which they did. It is customary to grant several 35-day temporary permits rather than permanent ones to ensure that all details have been worked out. Ms. Palmer was asked on several occasions to finalize the proper paper work to resolve this issue completely, which she did not. At that point and time, no more permits were issued and ATC learned the business had actually closed. Because you cannot collect from a business that no longer exists, the charges were dropped.

“At no point and time did I or ATC do anything illegal or unethical and the records and policy clearly reflect that. It is standard procedure to try and allow a business to remain open, if possible, in order for the state to collect the taxes owed as well as save innocent people’s jobs. ‘You can’t get blood out of a turnip.’ To try and suggest otherwise is simply a ploy to discredit me and a great agency for doing our job dealing with those who don’t do theirs.

“During the course of this time, Ms. Palmer’s manager, whom I suggested that she fire, began threatening me. Due to the numerous other threats and the torching of my car, I reached out to the FBI for help and protection of my family and I (sic).

“Your sources that say the FBI is investigating me must have their wires crossed. Why would the FBI investigate me for doing my job and was threatened for doing so? Common sense says that if there is an investigation, it is about the people who threatened my life and family for fighting for the good law-abiding taxpayers of our state.

“I love my wife and children with all my heart and would never do anything to jeopardize that or put them in harm’s way.

“As a respected public servant for 25 years and now a private citizen, any malice, defamation, suggestions or slander from your reporting against my character that will cause irreparable harm to me personally, professionally or politically will be dealt with in the court of law. I do not mean to come across disrespectful, but sometimes you cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube.”

He also included a copy of a Nov. 19, 2015, letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in which he claimed he and his family had been threatened. In his letter, he said FBI offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge had declined to assist him.

Hebert also forwarded an email from Palmer to him dated Oct. 13, 2015 which said, “I am proposing the following terms in order to satisfy my tax issues with the state.

  • 10 percent down on the balance that I currently owe;
  • Remaining money owed would be paid over a course of 12 months as long as I stay current on the money due each and every month.”

That email, however, was not part of the file on the restaurant obtained from ATC by LouisianaVoice, an indication it was a private communication between Palmer and Hebert and outside official channels.

In a separate email to WVUE-TV, he also said, “Is it your station’s policy to report such damaging allegations against someone’s reputation from only a source and not an actual confirmation from the FBI?”

The FBI, of course, neither confirms nor denies the existence of criminal investigations.

LouisianaVoice obtained public records from ATC which show that Hebert issued a “Commissioner’s Findings and Order” on Sept. 9 in which he suspended the woman’s license upon finding there was “sufficient evidence to support a finding that the permittee (Louisiana Oyster House, dba as Star Steak and Lobster at 237 Decatur Street) did violate the provisions” of:

  • LA. R.S. 26:75/26:295 (proper permit not held, first offense) and
  • LA R.S. 26:91B/16:287B (failure to pay state sales tax, first offense). HEARING NOTE PAGE 1

HEARING NOTE PAGE 2

(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

The confidential source, who has requested anonymity, said the day following the hearing attended by Palmer, she received a call from Hebert “offering to help her get her license back.”

In a Dec. 18 email to LouisianaVoice, the source said, “He wanted to meet her for a drink to discuss it. She met with him and he told her he would reinstate her license if she would go out with him. She agreed and went to dinner with him at a local restaurant. He was accompanied by two of his bodyguards (ATC agents) who remained outside the restaurant while he dined with her. He even took her to his French Quarter apartment on top of the Copper Monkey Bar on Conti St. He revoked the suspension of her license the next day, and did not make her pay the fine. He continued to go out with her and have sex with her,” she wrote. copper monkey3

She said that Palmer “has evidence of her relations with him consisting of pictures and text messages. She has kept quiet until now for fear that he will retaliate against her business.”

The following day, Dec. 19, she sent another email in which she reiterated her claim that Palmer possessed photos of Hebert’s apartment on her cell phone. “He has also sent her numerous text messages from his state-issued cell phone telling her how much he wants to see her. Two weeks ago, he called her and said be sure to erase the text messages but she didn’t because she did not trust him. He even told her that he was going to help her with some money for her kids’ schools. She also has not had to pay the fines. He keeps pushing them back. She believes they will disappear before the new commissioner takes office.”

A temporary permit was in fact issued on Sept. 11, according to records obtained from ATC offices in Baton Rouge. Subsequent temporary permits were issued on Oct. 15 and Nov. 20. Each permit was marked “Valid for 35 days only.” SEPT. TEMPORARY PERMIT

OCT. TEMPORARY PERMITNOV. TEMPORARY PERMIT

And while each of the temporary permits bore the name and title of ATC Commissioner Hebert, the person who signed each of them was Judy Pontin, executive management officer for ATC’s New Orleans office.

Pontin is the sister of Chris Young, a New Orleans attorney who represents bar and restaurant owners before ATC and who is a lobbyist for the Beer Industry League of Louisiana. Another brother is John Young, former Jefferson Parish President and unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in last fall’s statewide election. Pontin was hired by Hebert on Nov. 4, 2013 at a salary of $71,000. JUDY PONTIN

JUDY PONTIN

On Jan. 6, just four days before he left office, Hebert issued a second “Commissioner’s Findings and Order” on the restaurant but this time he wrote, “After reviewing the evidence and all relevant testimony, the Commissioner finds the following:

“There is not sufficient evidence (emphasis ours) to support the finding that the permittee did violate the provisions of:

  • LA R.S. 26:75 & 26:275—Proper Permit not held;
  • LA. R.S. 2691B & 26:287B—Failure to Pay Sales Tax. DISMISSAL LETTER PAGE 1DISMISSAL LETTER PAGE 2

“It is hereby ordered that this matter be dismissed,” he wrote as one of, if not the final act in his capacity as ATC commissioner.

There followed on last Wednesday (Jan. 20), a flurry of several quick emails pertaining to the application process for renewal of the restaurant’s license, a development that does not square with Hebert’s claim that the restaurant had closed. The first, at 9:52 a.m., was a forward from ATC attorney Linda Pham to fellow attorney Jacqueline Wilson of an earlier (8:18 a.m.) message from a Lorie Hebert and given “high importance,” which said, “I received a phone message from an atty. David Corkern about this mandatory case set for today at 2:30 p.m.” The reference was to the license for Star Restaurant and Corkern was the attorney for manager Sarah Palmer.

At 9:31 a.m., Pontin forwarded a pdf attachment to Wilson and at 10:04 a.m., Pontin sent an email to Palmer saying, “Please see attached the 2015 renewal application we discussed as per or (sic) phone conversation. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to call. That was likely the same attachment that Pontin had sent to Wilson at 10:04 a.m.

The anonymous source, who has sent 11 separate emails to date, said she had seen text messages from Hebert to Palmer and “there are witnesses who followed their dinners.”

Seven of her emails were sent between Dec. 18 and Dec. 27. Then her messages went dark before suddenly resuming on Saturday (Jan 23). “I have stayed clear because FBI is now actively involved,” she said on Saturday by way of explaining why her communications ceased for nearly a month. “They have made contact with Palmer and have seized photos, emails and text messages,” she said.

“The FBI now has evidence but is expanding (its) investigation further,” she said. “The investigation (is) going in this direction: Hebert makes trouble for a business. Then his number-one assistant Judy (Pontin), maiden name Young, sister to (attorney) Chris Young, sends word to (the) targeted business to hire Chris Young and pay big fees to get them off Hebert’s radar. Once Young is hired (and the) fee paid, problem disappears. Once (the) deal is done, Chris Young calls his sister Judy in Hebert’s office and the coverup begins.”

Asked how she knew Palmer, she said simply, “She is a girlfriend of mine.”

Tomorrow: LouisianaVoice examines political contributions by New Orleans strip clubs which were passed over in ATC’s “Operation Trick or Treat” sweep of the French Quarter in October.

 

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When LouisianaVoice attempted through a public records request to obtain an unredacted version of the disciplinary records of a trooper in State Police Troop D, our request was denied. Louisiana State Police Attorney Supervisor Michele Giroir explained that the individual’s rights to privacy outweighed the public’s right to know.

Specifically, her letter of Aug. 18 said:

  • The Department has reviewed your request. It remains the Department’s position that you are not entitled to review the redacted information. The individuals’ rights to privacy established by Article 1, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, as amended, outweigh the public’s right to know the personal information in this matter….The substance of the matter is personal in nature and not related to (the trooper’s) duties as a state trooper. The information that you reviewed in the letter (in the redacted document we were provided) contains the substance of the conduct for which (the trooper) was disciplined as it related to his duties as state trooper. Providing further information would violate the involved parties’ rights to privacy.

Her decision left us disappointed but at the same time, we understand there are certain rights to privacy that must be upheld.

Apparently Troy Hebert did not get the memo. And now he is being sued for making just such private information public.

Moreover, it appears he may have violated an order from a Civil Service hearing referee not to discuss the matter with anyone, “including the media.”

Actually, his actions only provided cause for the filing of an amendment to a lawsuit already filed in Federal District Court in Baton Rouge over Hebert’s retaliation against former ATC agent Brette Tingle.

One day after Giroir’s letter, on Aug. 19, Hebert, Director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), issued a news release that was disseminated widely over television and print media in which Hebert leaked the contents of private cell phone text messages and emails.

Though Tingle’s communications on his state-issued cell phone contained sexually and racially-charged messages, the messages were to friends and family members, some of them African-American. Such messages are considered private under the Louisiana Constitution, as Giroir said in her letter. Moreover, LouisianaVoice learned in interviewing two African-American agents that some of the racial remarks were made to them but were said in jest. “I say some of the same things he said,” said one African-American agent, a female. “We joke back and forth with each other that way.”

Another African-American who worked with Tingle, Larry Hingle, said he understood the context in which Tingle’s messages were made and that he had no problem with him.

Tingle, in fact, contends that Hebert’s vendetta against him stems from his (Tingle’s) testimony on behalf of Charles Gilmore, one of three African-American ATC agents who filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints against Hebert. The three, Gilmore, Hingle, and Daimian T. McDowell subsequently filed suit against Hebert in Baton Rouge Federal District Court. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/14/forcing-grown-men-to-write-lines-overnight-transfers-other-bizarre-actions-by-troy-hebert-culminate-in-federal-lawsuit/

In his amended lawsuit, Tingle cites the same Article 1, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution which says, “Every person shall be secure in his person, property, communications, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches, seizures, or invasions of privacy.” That pretty much tracks the Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

The search and seizure of the text messages in this case was (sic) unreasonable because, at the search’s inception, there was (sic) no reasonable grounds to believe that the search would reveal any employee misconduct and because Troy Hebert provoked this search in bad faith, in an arbitrary and maximally intrusive manner, and in retaliation for Brette Tingle’s exercise of protected activity,” Tingle says in his amended petition.

“The plaintiff (Tingle) never consented to Troy Hebert or anybody else searching his private text messages with his friends and family in an intrusive fishing expedition to search for any evidence that Troy Hebert could try to use to avoid the consequences of his overt race discrimination against African-American employees by discrediting Brette Tingle as a witness,” it said.

Moreover, the petition says, Hebert laid out false allegations of payroll fraud against Tingle in his news releases “even though an extensive investigation by the Louisiana Office of Inspector General (OIG) had found no probable cause for the payroll fraud accusation…”

(Both Hebert and the OIG’s Inspector General are appointed by the governor.)

Even more egregious, Tingle says, Hebert read Tingle’s communications aloud to 12 female ATC employees on Aug. 21.

“The extracts of these conversation, which were widely publicized by Troy Hebert, constitute defamation by innuendo and the embarrassing disclosure of personal and private facts,” the petition says. “This is particularly so since these alleged conversations have nothing whatsoever to do with Brette Tingle’s job performance and thus, Troy Hebert had no legitimate interest in publicly broadcasting these alleged private conversations.”

Hebert even hinted that Tingle may have been guilty of setting fire to Hebert’s state vehicle, Tingle said. “In an interview with a New Orleans news outlet, WVUE-TV, on Aug. 19, Troy Hebert…stated that if a person was (sic) to ‘connect the dots,’ it would be clear who vandalized the vehicle.

“While it is apparently true that Troy’s vehicle had been set on fire, Troy Hebert had no evidence that the plaintiff had committed this crime,” Tingle said. “Troy Hebert did know, or certainly should have known, that the temporal proximity of his statements and the termination of the plaintiff carried false and defamatory implications.”

The petition said the communications from his cellphone were “taken out of context and do not accurately reflect Brette Tingle’s attitudes toward persons of color.” He said he is “well-respected” by persons of color for his “fair-minded attitudes and conduct. Indeed, it is only because Brette Tingle took a firm and courageous stand against Troy Hebert’s race discrimination and retaliation against former fellow employees that Troy Hebert has gone to great lengths to destroy his (Tingle’s) career and reputation,” it said.

We at LouisianaVoice have followed Troy Hebert’s ham-handed manner of running his agency since he was named to replace Murphy Painter who was fired on bogus charges by the Jindal administration.

If there is anything that can be said of Hebert, it’s that he appears to be as inept and clueless as his boss. He has managed to run a once-fine investigative agency into the ground with his petty insistence on requiring agents rise and greet him with an enthusiastic “Good morning, Commissioner” upon his entering a room. We were dismayed to learn that he has forced agents, fully grown adults, to literally write lines. We were incredulous when he ordered Gilmore transferred from Baton Rouge to Shreveport literally overnight with no opportunity for him to make plans for such a move. And we were shocked to the point of disbelief upon learning that he had ordered a female agent to return to a New Orleans bar in full uniform—after she had purchased drugs while working as a plainclothes undercover agent in that same bar only days before.

We were puzzled when Jindal snatched him from the Legislature to serve as the top enforcement agent for ATC with no qualifications other than the fact that his wife is the Jindals’ children’s pediatrician.

But now, somehow we are unable to be shocked at anything this man does. Apparently no underhanded tactic is beneath him—even when it comes to violating the same State Constitution that the chief legal counsel for the Louisiana State Police was sufficiently cognizant to uphold in denying our access to personal records.

Hebert apparently has no problem violating a direct order from a Civil Service hearing referee who presided over an appeal of Tingle’s firing in July. The referee was quite specific in admonishing witnesses not to discuss the Tingle matter “with each other or anyone else, including the media.” That order was issued when Tingle’s hearing was continued by the referee who said a violation of her dictum “could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal” from their jobs. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/07/10/civil-service-hearing-for-fired-atc-agent-continued-to-sept-after-settlement-talks-break-down-troy-didnt-want-us-there/

In an otherwise competent, transparent and ethical administration, we would have expected Hebert to have been fired months ago. Under the Jindal administration, we harbor no such hope. In fact, Jindal did quite the opposite in naming Hebert his office’s legislative liaison.

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