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Things appear to be heating up on the issue of the behavior of the upper tier of the Louisiana State Police, though the rank and file (and retired officers) appears for the most part to support our efforts to peel back the veneer to expose widespread abuse by those in charge.

For openers, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy, the number-two man at State Police headquarters, has reportedly taken to name-calling as a result of revelations by LouisianaVoice and fellow blogger C.B. Forgotston.

Names like “idiots” and “a—holes” have apparently found their way into the discourse whenever Dupuy mentions us, according to a post by Forgotston. Those pet names reportedly accompanied his curious claim that the notorious Edmonson Amendment was constitutional—despite assurances to the contrary by the Florida attorney, a pension authority, brought in to examine the amendment by the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS).

It has been our experience that when we are able to invoke such colorful language it is usually because we’ve made someone extremely uncomfortable. And we would guess that knocking someone out of an additional $55,000 per year on his retirement income would make just about anyone uncomfortable. And calling attention to a questionable retire/re-hire in which the proponent gets to keep nearly $60,000 in unwarranted payouts could make one uncomfortable as could reporting the hiring of a South Carolina consultant as a state employee and paying her $437,000 over 28 months, plus another $13,000 in airfare to shuttle her back and forth between Baton Rouge and Columbia, S.C.

Dupuy is a member of the LSPRS board which will be discussing the amendment at the Sept. 4 board meeting.

We would strongly suggest that because it was he who pushed the amendment in the first place—not to mention his prejudicial comments about the messengers—he would be precluded from participation in next week’s board meeting called to discuss options regarding the amendment. His actions—and his comments—make it abundantly obvious that his mindset does not lend itself to an impartial and dispassionate discussion or vote on a course of action for the board.

State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) has even weighed in on the controversy, though his comments are somewhat puzzling considering that he is a candidate for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy who is trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Claitor, it seems, has been actively posting jokes on his Twitter account about our concerns over the Edmonson Amendment. It’s certainly nice to know that someone seeking elective office is so willing find humor in legitimate concerns over shady legislative practices—particularly when those practices originated in the State Senate where he currently serves. You may wish to ask him about that next time he solicits your vote.

Matthew L. Issman of Madisonville, a former state trooper and federal law enforcement officer who presently serves as police chief for LSU-Alexandria, has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Senate Bill 294, signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal as Act 859, the bill that was amended in conference committee by State Sen. Neil Riser to give Edmonson that generous retirement boost.

Contacted by the office of Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington), Issman wrote that his biggest concern with the advice received by LSPRS from that Florida attorney “is that the advice of ‘do nothing, and wait’ until someone files for the benefits and then refuse to pay, is that it will force a state board or agency to pick and choose which laws it likes or doesn’t like and which laws it will and won’t enforce.”

Schroder’s office had asked Issman to provide his rationale for litigating versus legislative repeal of the amendment.

Issman pointed out that once the governor signs the bill, it becomes law and until it is repealed or a court finds it unconstitutional, “it sets a very, very bad precedent for any agency or board to arbitrarily not comply with a state law.”

As a law enforcement officer, he said he “cannot pick and choose which laws I will enforce and which ones I will ignore. You cannot do that. It must be litigated now and a court must find it unconstitutional, otherwise other state employees who made an irrevocable DROP elect can file federal ‘equal rights’ suits against the state for the same equal status (as Edmonson). This has to be fixed now by litigation to have a court find it unconstitutional,” he said.

As a follow up to that message, Issman also sent an email to members of the LSPRS Board.

“Civics 101 tells me that you (LSPRS) are a state board in the executive branch. You carry out the laws passed by the legislative branch. The advice of your Florida counsel is in a vacuum specific to the retirement board issue of the law passed and signed by the governor (executive). I believe you are about to set a very poor precedent and are outside your charter, authority and the state constitution when you as a board decide that you have the options to pick and choose which laws you will enforce, agree with and like, and which ones you arbitrarily choose to ignore.

“You do not have the ability or authority. Hence, your options are to follow the law signed by the executive and passed by the legislative branch, or request the judicial branch review the law for constitutionality.

“I am not a constitutional scholar; however, 41-plus years in state, local, parish and federal government law enforcement have taught me the authorities and responsibilities of governmental agencies and branches.

“I am requesting you follow the law, your charter and state constitution and challenge this law through litigation in court,” he said.

Issman also is protesting the 15-speaker, two-minute limit per speaker being imposed by the board at its Sept. 4 meeting.

“I don’t believe that this meets the requirements, spirit or intent of the Open Meeting Law, nor is it enough time to hear the many concerns of the retirees you represent, unless the goal is to restrict and limit such comments,” he said in an email to board members. “I think limiting comment to 30 minutes regarding an issue that has engendered such interest and controversy is insulting to the interests of the retirees and citizens you purport to represent on this Board.

“Therefore, I am requesting that the public comment time be reasonably increased proportionately to the larger public attendance that you are anticipating.”

Meanwhile, State Treasurer John Kennedy, who, like Dupuy, is a member of the LSPRS Board, continues pressing for information about the circumstances surrounding the last minute legislative passage of Edmonson’s pension boost.

Kennedy also requested key players in the benefit becoming law appear at the Sept. 4 board meeting, including Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel Thomas Enright, who approved the legislation for the governor’s signature.

The law that created the enhancement for Edmonson and another veteran trooper was tacked on to legislation that had nothing to do with retirement benefits. And attorneys for the pension board recently concluded the action violated the constitution because, among other issues, proper notice was not given that the change would be proposed and the pension provision was added to legislation that had nothing to do with retirement law.

Kennedy said he wanted to know Enright’s opinion.

Kennedy’s requests came in a letter to the retirement board’s executive director Irwin Felps and board chairman Frank Besson, president of the Louisiana State Troopers Association.

We can’t speak for any of the others involved in this back door deal, but we are willing to give odds that Kennedy will not be able to convince anyone from the governor’s office to attend that meeting. Nor will Riser dare make an appearance.

Those kinds of people never do their work out in the open for everyone to see and we feel safe in predicting they will continue to avoid the glare of public accountability.

 

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Thanks to the resourcefulness of C.B. Forgotston, LouisianaVoice has obtained a copy of the seven-page report on the Edmonson Amendment and it appears that State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and trooper Louis Boquet of Houma are legally prohibited from taking advantage of a special amendment adopted on their behalf by the Louisiana Legislature.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice received an unconfirmed report concerning the origination of the amendment that if true, adds a new twist to the curious series of events leading up to passage of the amendment in the last hours of the recent legislative session.

The report, authored by Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) board attorney Denise Akers and Florida attorney Robert Klausner, specifically says that Edmonson and Boquet are barred from accepting the retirement windfall because the amendment granting them the special exemption from the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) is unconstitutional on no fewer than three levels.

Klausner and Akers also expressed concern that the source of funding for the increased benefits would have been the Employee Experience Account “which is reserved as the source of future cost of living benefits (for state police retirees and their widows and children) and payments toward the unfunded accrued liability.”

Edmonson, under the amendment would have seen his retirement income increase by $55,000 a year. The amount of what Boque’s retirement increase would have been is unknown.

The report, however, stopped short of recommending that the board file legal action to have Senate Bill 294, signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal as Act 859, declared unconstitutional.

Instead, it recommended that the LSPRS “simply decline to pay any benefit under Act 859” and that the matter “would only need to be litigated if someone benefitting from the act (Edmonson or Boque) filed to enforce it.” The reported added that both men “have indicated they do not desire to enforce it. Thus, LSPRS may incur no litigation cost in this matter.”

The report said that should either man attempt to collect the increase retirement benefits by challenging the board’s refusal to pay the benefits, “it would fall to the attorney general to defend the law, rather than expending (LSPRS) resources to pursue a costly declaratory relief action.”

The report noted that the Louisiana Supreme Court, in a decision handed down only last year, “made it clear that a pension law adopted in violation of constitutional requirements is void and of no effect.” That was the ruling that struck down Jindal’s controversial state pension reform legislation.

“It is our view that pursuit of a declaratory relief or other legal action seeking to declare Act 859 invalid is unnecessary,” the report said. “By determining that it will not enforce the act, the board acts consistent with its fiduciary duty.”

The board still must vote to accept the recommendations of Klausner and Akers and with Jindal and Edmonson controlling the majority of the 11 seats on the LSPRS board, such a vote remains uncertain.

The board is scheduled to take up the matter at its next meeting, set for Sept. 4 but likely to be moved up now that the report is public.

The report also noted that the amendment was not proposed in either the House or the Senate, but added during conference committee.

SB 294 was authored by State Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell and dealt only with administrative procedures in cases in which law enforcement officers came under investigation. State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) inserted the amendment during conference committee discussion of the bill but recent reports have surfaced that place Morrell, who also was one of the three senators—along with three representatives—who served on the conference committee, squarely at the center of the controversy as well.

Morrell authored the bill at the request of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) but was said to have subsequently told the FOP lobbyist that he would have to “hijack” the bill to conference committee in order to accommodate state police and Edmonson.

FOP President Darrell Basco, a Pineville police officer, said he had no personal knowledge of such events and lobbyist Joe Mapes did not return a phone call from LouisianaVoice.

Jindal, meanwhile, has remained strangely silent on the issue of his signing the bill with no apparent vetting by his legal counsel.

The Klausner report said the act was unconstitutional on three specific counts:

  • The amendment “does not meet the constitutionally required ‘one object’ requirement” which says, “The legislature shall enact no law except by a bill introduced during that session…Every bill…shall be confined tone object. Every bill shall contain a brief title indicative of its object. Action on any matter intended to have the effect of law shall be taken only in open, public meeting.” Conference committee proceedings occur in closed sessions.
  • The amendment “does not meet the germaneness requirement” of the Louisiana Constitution, which says, “No bill shall be amended in either house to make a change not germane to the bill as introduced.”
  • “No notice was provided as required by the constitution for retirement related bills and the bill itself never indicated that proper notice was given, all in violation of the Louisiana Constitution,” which says, “No proposal to effect any change in existing laws or constitutional provisions relating to any retirement system for public employees shall be introduced in the legislature unless notice of intention to introduce the proposal has been published, without cost to the state, in the official state journal on two separate days. The last day of publication shall be 60 days before introduction of the bill. The notice shall state the substance of the contemplated law or proposal, and the bill shall contain a recital that the notice has been given.”

Here is the full Klausner report:

Klausner Report on SB 294

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It’s the story that won’t die, no matter how the Runaway Governor (apologies to Julia Roberts) would like it to.

While Gov. Bobby Jindal may go running off to Iowa or New Hampshire or Washington, D.C., or wherever his latest odyssey takes him in his futile attempt at resuscitation of his moribund presidential aspirations while ducking his responsibilities at home, folks like political curmudgeon C.B. Forgotston and State Treasurer John Kennedy just won’t go away.

Instead, Kennedy is staying home and demanding answers to the nagging problem of the Edmonson Amendment that Jindal so obligingly signed into law as Act 859, giving State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson that $55,000 bump in retirement income.

Act 859, which began as a bland, nondescript bill by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) that addressed procedures in cases where law enforcement officers are under investigation, quietly turned into a retirement bonanza for Edmonson.

That happened when State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) inserted language into a Conference Committee amendment to the bill that allows Edmonson and one other state trooper in Houma to revoke their decisions of several years ago to enter into the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) which gave them higher take home pay but froze their retirements at their pay level at the time of their decision.

In Edmonson’s case, his payment was frozen at 100 percent of his $79,000 a year captain’s pay but Act 859 allows him a do-over and to act as though all that never happened so that he can retire at 100 percent of his $134,000 per year colonel’s pay instead.

Other state troopers, teachers and civil service employees who made similar decisions, meanwhile, are stuck with their decisions because….well, sorry, but this is special for Col. Mike Edmonson Esq. Swank. Riff raff need not apply.

The Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) board is scheduled to receive a special report by Florida attorney Robert Klausner, an acknowledged authority on public retirement plans, and local attorney Denise Akers at its Sept. 4 meeting but Kennedy isn’t waiting that long.

As State Treasurer, Kennedy holds a seat on the LSPRS board and he has repeatedly voiced his concern over the amendment which he says could put enormous strain on LSPRS if other retired state police officers file suit to obtain similar consideration as Edmonson.

He has claimed the board has a fiduciary responsibility to file suit to overturn the new law that Jindal so hastily signed.

A group of retired state troopers also has signaled its willingness to enter into litigation to get the law overturned.

Both Kennedy and the retired troopers contend the law is unconstitutional because it was not properly advertised in advance of its passage.

“Talking points” originating in State Police headquarters by Capt. Jason Starnes and sent to Edmonson, his Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy, and—for whatever reason—Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones, said the bill was properly advertised but because the bill in its original form in no way addressed retirement issues, that claim appears rather weak, especially given the fact that state police should be more skilled in producing hard evidence to back their cases.

The additional fact that the amendment never made its appearance until the last day of the session even though it had been discussed weeks before adds to the cloud of suspicion and wholesale chicanery enveloping Jindal, Riser, Edmonson, and Dupuy.

And Kennedy, who already has fired off two previous letters to LSPRS Executive Director Irwin Felps demanding a full investigation of the rogue amendment, now has written a third.

That letter, dated today (Aug. 13), while much shorter than the others, loses no time in getting right to the point: Kennedy is demanding under the state’s public records statutes (La. R.S. 44:31, et seq.) that Felps provide him a copy of the report generated by Klausner and/or Akers.

“Please immediately email the document(s) requested to me,” he wrote. “If you cannot or will not email them, please immediately inform me, and I will send a representative to your office to pick them up right away.”

Here is the link to his letter: Treasurer Kennedy Public Records Request to Irwin Felps August 13 2014

His letter sets the stage for a probable showdown between Kennedy and the rest of the board given the fact that Felps has previously denied Kennedy’s informal request for the report.

Felps said following Kennedy’s initial request, he was advised by legal counsel (most probably Akers) to release the report to the board members but not to the general public. He added that he expected Kennedy will have the report Thursday morning.

“I don’t know why the big cloak and dagger that they won’t share with the board,” Kennedy told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/08/john_kennedy_demands_state_pol.html#incart_river

“I’m a board member and I’m entitled to it. They can’t tell me I can’t see it,” Kennedy said. “This is a very important issue and it’s not just limited to state police. We have thousands of employees in the retirement system (who) didn’t get this treatment.

“I just want to see a report that I asked for and the board asked for. It is a public document.”

Kennedy should know better. LouisianaVoice has already received its comeuppance from the House and Senate, both of which have refused to comply with our request for copies of emails and text messages between the six Conference Committee members who approved the amendment and Jindal, Edmonson or any of their staff members.

Even though such discussions would have fallen under the narrowest of definitions of public business, we were told the public has no business peeking over legislators’ shoulders to see what they’re doing and to please just butt out.

LSPRS board Chairman Frank Besson, president of the Louisiana State Troopers Association, told the Times-Picayune in a statement (prepared as talking points by Starnes, perhaps?) that he felt it would be “inappropriate and premature” for the board to take a position on Act 859 until it heard the attorneys’ report.

Uh, Trooper Besson, would that be more or less “inappropriate” than passing a secretive bill in the final hours of the session to benefit one person (well, two, since one other trooper fell within the strictly limited parameters of the bill’s language) while no one was looking?

Just as a reminder, it’s going to be difficult to get the board off dead center on this issue considering the board’s 11-person membership is comprised of four active troopers, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and one of Jindal’s legislative puppets, State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas), chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee (you can almost see Jindal’s lips move when he talks).

Just in case you lost count, that’s six members that Jindal and Edmonson control—and that’s a majority.

Folks, it’s looking more and more like that group of retired state troopers is going to have to make good on that threat to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the act.

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Call it coincidence, but the Baton Rouge Advocate today had an interesting lead editorial thanking State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and Gov. Bobby Jindal for assigning 100 state troopers to patrol the city of New Orleans through Labor Day in response to a Bourbon Street shooting spree on June 29 that left one dead and nine others injured. http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/9965586-123/our-views-thanks-to-state

Certainly the timing of the editorial had nothing to do with the controversy swirling around the secretive passage of an obscure Senate bill during the last day of the recent legislative session that proved financially beneficial to Edmonson.

And certainly it had nothing to do with the fact that Advocate publisher John Georges wants to keep Edmonson happy because Georges holds a majority ownership in seven firms which provide video gambling machines and other services to gambling establishments—and because Edmonson oversees gaming through the State Gaming Control Board chaired by Ronnie Jones who served as Edmonson’s confidential assistant prior to his appointment to the Gaming Control Board. He is still listed as Edmonson’s confidential assistant on the State Police web page even though Jones says he resigned from that position last August. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2008/02/john_georges_gets_back_into_ga.html

Jones denies any knowledge of Georges’ video poker interests and says Edmonson is not his boss. “I wouldn’t know John Georges if he walked in the room right now and the fact that he has gaming interests doesn’t impress me,” he said, adding that Edmonson “has no control or influence over my board or its decisions.”

Jones’s denials notwithstanding, it appears we can dismiss any chance that the Advocate might delve into the murky political machinations behind the amendment especially tailored for Edmonson (though it did catch one other state trooper up in its generous net).

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley refused to open an investigation into the infamous Edmonson Amendment because he said the amendment was part of a bill that originated in the Senate. But one would expect no action from Kleckley. Otherwise, Jindal might remove his hand from his butt and Kleckley would then be rendered unable to speak—not that he’s ever said anything profound anyway.

The amendment, of course, tacked on an additional $55,000 per year to Edmonson’s retirement benefits and though Edmonson has since said he will not accept the extra income, he apparently overlooked the fact that the bill is now law, thanks to Executive Counsel Tom Enright’s stamp of approval and Jindal’s signing it as Act 859, which makes it impossible for him to arbitrarily refuse the financial windfall.

And it’s true enough that, Senate Bill 294 by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) did originate in the upper chamber and we now know that the amendment was added by Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) but Kleckley conveniently overlooked the fact that three members of the Conference Committee which tacked on the amendment were members of the House.

But what about Senate President John Alario, Jr. (R-Westwego)? Certainly the esteemed Senate President would never let such a furtive move stain the stellar reputation of the Louisiana upper chamber. Surely he will launch a thorough investigation of the amendment since the bill and the ensuing amendment were the works of members of the Senate.

Don’t count on it. It’s rare that an elected official will bite the hand that feeds him—or a family member.

In this case, we’re speaking of one Dionne Alario, also of Westwego, who just happens to hold the title of Administrative Program Manager 3 for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety at $56,300 per year. She was hired last November and somehow manages to pull off the unlikely logistics of supervising DPS employees in Baton Rouge while working from her home in Westwego.

Oh, did we mention that she also just happens to be Sen. John Alario’s daughter-in-law?

We attempted to contact her at the Baton Rouge headquarters through the DPS Human Resources Department but we were given a cell phone number with a 504 (New Orleans) area code.

So if you expect Alario to conduct an investigation into the Edmonson Amendment, you can fuggedaboutit. It ain’t happening. His nest has been sufficiently feathered as to guarantee there will be no questions on his part.

It’s beginning to look more and more like the ol’ Louisiana political science professor C.B. Forgotston is correct: This entire Edmonson Amendment affair is quickly being swept under a very big rug.

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“Know this: we will support and protect the other retirees, surviving spouses and orphans as well as the citizens of this state, as we once took an oath to do, by any legal means at our disposal.”

—Excerpt from letter to State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson by retired state police officers objecting to the so-called Edmonson Amendment.

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A group of retired state troopers has sent a letter to State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson pointing out inconsistencies in Edmonson’s version of events surrounding the amendment to a Senate bill that bumped his retirement income up by $55,000 per year while at the same time, calling on Edmonson to demand that the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) board take “immediate action to legally enjoin Act 859 and further seek a ruling on this unconstitutional law.”

In their letter, the retired troopers even dropped a thinly-veiled hint that they would file legal action to have the new law declared unconstitutional in the event that Edmonson and the LSPRS board do not take it upon themselves to have the new law stricken.

At the same time, LouisianaVoice has obtained records which reveal that four state police officers closely affiliated with Edmonson have enjoyed rapid advancement through the ranks and have been rewarded with combined pay raises totaling more than $115,000 (an average of $28,750 each) in the 6 ½ years since Edmonson was appointed superintendent on Jan. 14, 2007, the same day Bobby Jindal was sworn in as governor.

Those increases came during a time that covered a five-year span in which merit pay increases were suspended and state civil service employees had their salaries frozen.

The four state troopers’ pay raises, it should be pointed out, were for promotions and not merit increases and do not include the $42 million appropriated this year by the legislature for pay raises for all state troopers.

Senate Bill 294, which became Act 859 when Jindal signed the bill into law, was authored by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) and dealt specifically with disciplinary procedures to be taken in cases in which law enforcement officers came under investigation. The bill was never properly advertised as a retirement bill as required by the State Constitution.

That’s because the bill in its original form did not address retirement issues but when it was referred to a conference committee of three senators and three representatives, conference committee member Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) inserted what has come to be known as the “Edmonson Amendment” because it allowed Edmonson and one other trooper to rescind their decisions to enter the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) which had frozen Edmonson’s retirement at 100 percent of his captain’s pay grade of $79,000 and instead allows him to retire at 100 percent of his current colonel’s salary of $134,000.

All other troopers, teachers, and state employees who entered DROP years ago and subsequently received promotions or pay raises do not have that option available to them and still have their retirements frozen at the pay level at the time they entered DROP.

LouisianaVoice recently received a series of emails from State Police headquarters through a public records request that revealed that Capt. Jason Starnes, while questioning the motives of LouisianaVoice reporter Robert Burns in attending last month’s LSTRS board meeting, also issued a laundry list of talking points as a response to the controversy arising from the Edmonson Amendment.

Starnes was a state police sergeant in 2007 but on Feb. 3, 2009, he was promoted to lieutenant. Less than four years later, on Oct. 19, 2012, he was again promoted, this time to captain. Over that period of time, his salary has gone from $59,800 to $81,250, an increase of nearly 36 percent.

And then there is Paul Edmonson, Mike Edmonson’s brother. He has done even better than Starnes.

A state police sergeant when his brother was named superintendent, Paul Edmonson was promoted to lieutenant on July 25, 2008, just six months after his brother was appointed superintendent by Jindal. He was promoted again on Sept. 7, 2011, to captain and again just two years later, on Oct. 9, 2013, to major.

During his brother’s tenure as superintendent, Paul Edmonson has seen his salary jump from $63,500 per year to $93,000, an increase of 46 percent.

But even that pales in comparison to Edmonson’s Chief of Staff, Assistant Superintendent Charles Dupuy.

Dupuy was already a captain when Mike Edmonson was appointed superintendent and was promoted to major on Jan. 28, 2010—two years after Edmonson’s appointment. But less than a year later, on Jan. 10, 2011, Edmonson moved him up to Deputy Superintendent for Operations Planning and Training.

Edmonson kept Dupuy on the career fast track, promoting him again on April 9, 2012, to Assistant Superintendent and Chief of Staff.

Over that span, Dupuy’s salary went from $80,000 to $122,000, an increase of 52.5 percent.

Dupuy’s wife, Kelly Dupuy, even has gone along for the ride. A state police sergeant making $59,800 a year when Mike Edmonson was appointed superintendent, her acceleration through the ranks in a relative short time has been equally impressive. She was promoted to lieutenant on Oct. 27, 2009, just three months before her husband was promoted to major. She made captain last Oct. 25 and now earns $80,500, an overall salary increase of nearly 35 percent.

Moreover, the current positions held by Paul Edmonson and Kelly Dupuy did not exist before their respective promotions. The positions were created especially for them to be promoted into—which should go a long way in explaining why the state has nepotism regulations in place to govern such favoritism in the workplace.

Charles Dupuy, it should be noted, represents his boss on the LSPRS board and might seem predisposed to look the other way on the Edmonson Amendment issue. Others who might be expected to take a similar “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” approach to the amendment are Andrea Hubbard who represents Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas), chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee. State Rep. Kevin Pearson is chairman of the House Retirement Committee but has expressed surprise at the content of the Edmonson Amendment. Other unknown qualities on the board are board Chairman Frank Besson, president of the Louisiana State Troopers Association, Kevin Marcel, vice chairman, and Thurman Miller of the Central State Troopers Coalition.

The retired troopers, in their letter to Edmonson said the perceived reluctance on the part of the LSPRS board to act on the amendment is “seriously eroding the public’s confidence in the integrity of the state police.”

“That is unfortunate because Louisiana state police troopers are dedicated and professional men and women who risk their lives every day in service to the citizens. They deserve better than this and we demand better on their behalf,” the letter said.

“We look to you (Edmonson) to resolve this but make no mistake, we will not allow this unconstitutional and damaging law to stand until we have availed ourselves of all options and all avenues have been pursued. We feel it does no good to the long history of honor and integrity of the Louisiana state police for us to have to resolve this instead of the legislature, the LSPRS board, or you. But know this: we will support and protect the other retirees, surviving spouses and orphans as well as the citizens of this state, as we once took an oath to do, by any legal means at our disposal.”

Here is the complete text of the retired troopers’ letter to Edmonson:

Colonel:

There is much attention on and discussion of anticipated action by the LSPRS regarding legislation passed during the recent (2014) session of the Louisiana Legislature. We specifically refer to Senate Bill 294, now Act 859. While there are still unanswered questions regarding when and how the amendment evolved, and who the participants were, what is clear is this bill as amended provides for you and one other Trooper to now revoke a previously irrevocable decision to enter the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). The effect of this change increases substantially your retirement benefits, and most disturbing, the funding for it is from the same fund that provides cost of living adjustments (COLA) to state police retirees, surviving spouses, and orphans.

You have been quoted in various reports as saying you “didn’t ask for the change to state law” and you “didn’t know who initiated it.” Later that same day you revised your statement to say you “did not request the change”, but your “staff” told you there was legislation available that would ‘fix not only you but other members,” (We would find out two weeks later from State Senator Neil Riser, who had mounting pressure from media investigations that he “was asked by Louisiana State Police Deputy Superintendent Charlie Dupuy to offer the amendment, which became part of a bill to address rights of law enforcement officers. It was presented to me as addressing broad retirement issues”.) If, as you and Senator Riser have publicly stated, Dupuy provided false information, what he has done is at best unethical and possibly illegal.

You have also said, “Let’s let the board review it and make sure things are the way they should be, if not, let’s correct it.” A little over a week after your initial comments you issued a statement, “…regardless of what comes back from the review by the attorneys for the retirement committee, I’m going to follow my heart and not accept it…” noting that you want to let the legislature review it next session based on any proper protocol.” Contrary to erroneous briefing points provided to you by Captain Jason Starnes, as reported in the media, this bill was not advertised as a retirement bill. It does not meet constitutional requirements; the same Constitution you have sworn to uphold, therefore things ARE NOT “as they should be.”

Every legislator that has commented on this issue has said they were unaware of what they had voted for and expressed concern and outrage that the true facts and impacts of the bill were hidden from them. Some have vowed to introduce changes to ensure in the future, this process is transparent. Additionally, several attorneys familiar with federal and state retirement laws and court rulings have agreed this is blatantly unconstitutional and suggested that the unintended consequences of this bill as it remains today could likely lead to a class action suit by all other state retirees who had the same decision as you regarding DROP, under federal equal protection guidelines.

If they should prevail, the results would be catastrophic for all state retirement systems and detrimental to the state’s credit rating. This would in turn ensure significant impact on the citizens of Louisiana with most likely drastic cuts in public services and higher education along with tax increases. In the face of all this, Colonel, it is being reported, and we have been told that the LSPRS may not be planning to conduct a meeting to hear the results of the investigation and take action.

Other reports concern us in that board members who work for or contract with the department are purportedly being pressured by your “staff” to be loyal to you at all costs. In your statements, you encouraged an investigation, and further declared you would not accept the benefits provided for in this legislation. Therefore we don’t understand why action by the board would be of concern to you or your staff unless your intent is other than you’ve stated. In fact based on your previous statements it would appear that board action to challenge and enjoin legally this unconstitutional, ill-conceived and poorly thought out law is consistent with what you have said publicly and is in the best interests of the other state police retirees and all citizens of Louisiana.

This matter and the subsequent actions surrounding this law are seriously eroding the public’s confidence in the integrity of state police. This affects not only department trust from the legislators, essential to the future success of state police, but also the trust of the public that reflects on every trooper who puts on that uniform and badge each day. That is unfortunate because Louisiana state police troopers are dedicated and professional men and women who risk their lives every day in service to the citizens. They deserve better than this and we demand better on their behalf.

Colonel Edmonson, you have said this is a distraction to our troopers. We agree and therefore call on you to openly and publicly demand the Louisiana State Police Retirement System Board take immediate action to legally enjoin Act 859 and further seek a ruling on this unconstitutional law.

If your intent is to pursue this openly next year in the legislature, this action will clear the air for that to occur in an open forum without the hint of impropriety. You know that should Act 859 remain as law, the legislature could simply not act next year, or should some change occur (even not of your own making) to require you to retire before you plan, the law as passed is binding on the LSPRS and on you. To ignore this subjects the state to liability.

We look to you to resolve this but make no mistake, we will not allow this unconstitutional and damaging law to stand until we have availed ourselves of all options and all avenues have been pursued. We feel it does no good to the long history of honor and integrity of the Louisiana state police for us to have to resolve this instead of the legislature, the LSPRS board, or you. But know this: we will support and protect the other retirees, surviving spouses and orphans as well as the citizens of this state, as we once took an oath to do, by any legal means at our disposal.

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State Sen. Neil Riser wants it to go away. Boy, does he want it to go away!

Gov. Bobby Jindal and State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson just went away—to Texas, ostensibly to join the Texas National Guard to protect our borders from pre-teen Guatemalan children but perhaps in reality to get away. (But of course with Jindal, it’s difficult to tell; he’s always gone.)

But State Treasurer John Kennedy and blogger C.B. Forgotston won’t let the issue go away and now retired State Police have weighed in on the now infamous Senate Bill 294 amendment, aka the Edmonson Amendment that gave their boss a whopping $55,000 raise in retirement income.

Some observers feel the controversy is dying—as people like Riser and Jindal and Edmonson certainly wish it would—but as long as Forgotston, Kennedy, LouisianaVoice and now the retired state troopers have a voice, there’s no chance the issue will fade away.

It is particularly galling that our governor has left to defend the Texas border from children without ever once opening his mouth to address the bill. It was, after all, Jindal who signed the bill supposedly after his legal counsel Thomas Enright read it, understood the potential long-range impact on the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) and recommended it for signing.

Just as offensive is the continuing silence from members of the LSPRS board, Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego), and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles). Kleckley, Jindal’s personal puppet in the House, has already declined to investigate the matter on the premise that the amendment was inserted by a senator (Riser). Never mind that three of the six-member Conference Committee that approved the amendment were members of the House. Other than Executive Director Irwin Felps who said the board’s legal counsel is considering its options, not a single member of the board has uttered so much as a single word about the Edmonson Amendment.

Perhaps that’s because the board is dominated by Jindal appointees and Edmonson subordinates. That’s not a conflict of interests, that’s a slam dunk for Edmonson and no one, not one person, has challenged Riser’s integrity on this sleazy attempt at legislative chicanery.

And make no mistake about it; there is no other word for it but chicanery. Otherwise, why was the amendment attached to a bill completely unrelated to retirement (despite those state police talking points LouisianaVoice got through a public records request that claimed the amendment was “germane to the original bill.” We don’t know what parallel universe the author of those talking points resides in, but that claim is pure B.S.

Jindal and Edmonson are preparing to shove eight-year-old Guatemalan children back across the Rio Grande to protect us from the horde of refugees (and there is a distinction between illegal immigrants and refugees; these are refugees from child trafficking and Jindal and his pal Texas Gov. Rick Perry want to send them back to prostitution). Jindal whines the TEA Party mantra that they will overload our public school system.

First of all, when did Jindal suddenly give a damn about our public schools? It was he who told LABI that public school teachers have jobs only by virtue of their being able to breathe. Second, Louisiana currently has a little less than 1,100 of these refugees who have been taken in by Louisiana residents. That’s 17 per parish (approximately 1.5 per grade if they are all old enough to enter first grade). That’s overload? Perhaps only because Jindal has raped the public school systems’ budgets for his precious voucher schools like New Living Word in Ruston. No one complained of overload when the Vietnamese came here to escape war ravaged Vietnam. Nor did anyone protest when Cubans poured onto our shores to get away from Castro half-a-century ago. Indeed, we welcomed them with open arms as we should have.

But we digress.

The retired state troopers have fired off two letters. The first is to the LSPRS board and the second is to you, the citizens of Louisiana who, if you can pull yourselves away from Bachelor in Paradise and LSU preseason reports long enough, can put the kibosh on this irresponsible waste of your taxpayer dollars to benefit Edmonson and, by default, one other trooper. We will take the second letter first:

TO ALL LOUISIANA CITIZENS (Special Attention to Louisiana State Police Retirees)

            SB 294 was originally a bill dealing with Investigation Standards in Law Enforcement, more specifically guidelines for dealing with complaints on officers. It was sent to Conference Committee on the next to last day of the 2014 Legislative Session. The next day, when it came out of Conference Committee, a stealth amendment had been added that provided a large increase (reported from $30,000 to $55,000 additional per year) in the Retirement benefit of State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson. This was accomplished by allowing him to revoke his previously irrevocable decision to enter DROP. This permits him to retire at his current salary of $135,000.00 per year and reportedly collect three years of his current salary upon his retirement.

While the circumstances surrounding the submission and passage of the bill are concerning and somewhat a mystery, what is clear is that the bill is funded from the same funds that provide Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to State Police Retirees, Surviving Spouses, and Children.

            State Treasurer John Kennedy, a member of the Retirement Board additionally has warned that this Legislation potentially jeopardizes the State’s Bond Rating. The amendment and subsequent law was passed in violation of The State Constitution, Article X, Section 29 which specifies Retirement Legislation has to be advertised before the session, which it wasn’t. The amendment dealing with another matter altogether subjects it to additional Constitutional challenge. Kennedy has called for an investigation and the Retirement Board has hired an outside attorney to review and make recommendations to the Board. The Board is preparing to meet on this, but indications are that they won’t take any action.

            Please let the Board Members know how you feel about this unconstitutional attack on the State Police Retirement System. Also, please call or share with your Legislators, those on your email lists and through Social Media such as Facebook so we may all let the Board Members know we won’t accept this. They need to hear not only from Retirees who will be adversely affected by this, but also by all citizens, who will bear the cost and suffer the negative effects from possible weakening of the Credit Rating of the State. It is important to encourage as many people as possible to contact them to let them know you are watching and expect them to defend the system and members. The State Police Retirees and the People of Louisiana deserve better.

If you’d like to correspond with us, we are at lsp_retirees@cox.net. If you prefer, your communications with us will remain anonymous. LSPRS BOARD OF TRUSTEES Irwin Felps: ifelps@lsprs.org Executive Director Frank Besson: frank.besson@dps.la.gov Chairman Kevin Marcel: kevin.marcel@dps.la.gov Vice Chairman Shirley Bourg: No email available Mike Edmonson: mike.edmonson@dps.la.gov Designee: Charlie Dupuy: charlie.dupuy@dps.la.gov Elbert Guillory: guillorye@legis.la.gov John Kennedy: jkennedy@treasury.state.la.us Designee: Amy Mathews: AMathews@treasury.state.la.us Stephen Lafargue: slafargue1214@gmail.com Kristy Nichols: kristy.nichols@la.gov Designee: Andrea Hubbard: andrea.hubbard@la.gov Thurman Miller: thurman.miller@.la.gov Kevin Pearson: pearsonk@legis.la.gov Bobby Smith: bobby.smith@dps.la.gov

Here is the letter the retired troopers wrote to the LSPRS board:

Open Letter to Louisiana State Police Retirement System Board Members

Re: Emergency Board Meeting to deal with SB 294

Soon, you will be meeting to decide what action is appropriate to deal with the negative impacts to the retirement system and the state bond ratings of SB 294. Although the meeting will be short, the effects of your decisions will be felt for a long time. SB294 was amended in Conference Committee on June 2, 2014, from a bill dealing with investigation standards in law enforcement complaints to a bill making changes to existing retirement law.

The State Constitution, Article X, Section 29 (C) states:

(C) Retirement Systems; Change; Notice. No proposal to effect any change in existing laws or constitutional provisions relating to any retirement system for public employees shall be introduced in the legislature unless notice of intention to introduce the proposal has been published, without cost to the state, in the official state journal on two separate days. The last day of publication shall be at least sixty days before introduction of the bill. The notice shall state the substance of the contemplated law or proposal, and the bill shall contain a recital that the notice has been given.

The final version signed into law had the effect of enabling Colonel Edmonson and one other Trooper to revoke what was heretofore an irrevocable decision for them and many other troopers who retired under those guidelines. Regardless of intent, this law was narrowly written to only apply to two individuals and does not address any others who had already retired within the same original guidelines. Signed by the Governor on June 2, 2014 it became Act 859 of the 2014 regular session.

We call your attention to some things that should guide you in your decision.

For commissioned officers, you took an oath as a Louisiana State Trooper to support the Louisiana Constitution, and to faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all duties according to the best of your ability and understanding.

For all trustees, your oath as trustees on the board binds you to fiduciary responsibility and the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics. Here is an excerpt from your handbook:

II. ETHICS

The Louisiana State Police Retirement System trustees shall conform to the standard of ethics as established under the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics (R.S. 42:1101 et seq), and perform all their duties and obligations in accordance with their fiduciary obligations as established under Louisiana law and the standard of conduct for business relations which each trustee shall sign upon taking office.

Be aware, the ethics laws are binding on you personally and your decisions and conduct must conform to these statutes and your fiduciary responsibility. Failure to adhere to these subjects you as an individual to possible civil and/or criminal penalties. We recommend each board member, if you haven’t already; familiarize yourself with these statutes, as they are your protection as long as you abide by them. And lastly, your decision should be based on what is best for the retirement system and those retirees and surviving spouses and children who depend on this board to protect their future. The funding for SB 294/ Act 859 comes from the account used for cost of living adjustments (COLAs) which has a direct negative impact on those retirees, widows/widowers, and children who most need and deserve these increases.

Administrations and people come and go. What we are left with is our Integrity and our Honor. No one can forcibly take those from you; you have to choose to give them up. How you handle this situation will define and follow you. Regardless of all the other issues related to this, your responsibility is to defend the Integrity of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System with fairness and impartiality.

The only course of action that protects the system, its participants, the state, and you as a trustee is to immediately initiate legal action. You must seek to enjoin this unconstitutional and damaging law and further pursue a permanent ruling by the courts to strike this law down on constitutional and dual object grounds.

We request this be provided to each Board Member at the meeting dealing with this issue and that the Board Members affirmatively add this into the regular record and minutes.

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