If anyone has any hopes that the matter of the Edmonson Amendment will be resolved Thursday when the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) Board meets, it might be worth your while to consider a few developments in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on the watch of Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson, aka “Precious.”
We have already examined the placing of “consultant” Kathleen Sill on the state payroll and paying her $437,000 plus $12,900 in air travel for 21 flights for her between Baton Rouge and her Columbia, S.C. home.
And we told you about DPS Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux’s taking a $46,000 cash payout incentive to retire at her $92,000 per year salary as Deputy Undersecretary, plus about $13,000 in payment for 300 hours of accrued annual leave and then re-hiring two days later—with a promotion to Undersecretary and at a higher salary of $118,600—while keeping the incentive payment and annual leave payment.
We even told you about then-Commissioner of Administration Angelé Davis ordering her to repay the money but resigning before she could follow through on her instructions. Under her successor, Paul Rainwater, the matter was quietly forgotten.
But we didn’t tell you about Boudreaux’s son-in-law Matthew Guthrie who, while employed in an offshore job, was simultaneously on the payroll for seven months (from April 2, 2012 to Nov. 9, 2012) as a $25 per hour “specialist” for the State Police Oil Spill Commission.
Nor did we tell you about John W. Alario, the son of Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) who serves as the $95,000 a year director of the DPS Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission. (We had earlier told you about his wife, Dionne Alario, who was hired in November o 2013 at a salary of $56,300 to work out of her Westwego home supervising state police personnel in Baton Rouge—something of a logistics problem, to say the least.)
Or about Danielle Rainwater, daughter of former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, who works as a “specialist” for State Police.
And then there are the spouses brought into the fold.
Jason Starnes has benefitted from two quick promotions since 2009 as his salary jumped from $59,800 to $81,250, an increase of almost 36 percent.
As if that were not enough, his wife Tammy was brought in from another agency on Jan. 13 of this year as an Audit Manager at a salary of $92,900. So not only does she now make nearly $11,700 a year more than her husband, she also is in charge of monitoring the agency’s financial transactions, including those of her husband.
In January of 2008, just before Edmonson was named Superintendent of State Police by Gov. Bobby Jindal, State Trooper Charles Dupuy was pulling down $80,500. Today, as Edmonson’s Chief of Staff, he makes $122,200, a bump of nearly $42,000, or 52 percent. Dupuy, it should be noted, is the Edmonson staffer who originated the drive to push the Edmonson Amendment through the Legislature on the last day of the session that gives his boss a $55,000 pension boost because the amendment allows Edmonson to revoke his decision to freeze his retirement at 100 percent of his $79,000 captain’s salary some 15 years or so ago to 100 percent of his current colonel’s salary of $134,000.
Kelly McNamara and Dupuy, both troopers, met at work and eventually married and Kelly Dupuy’s star began ascending almost immediately. Her salary has gone from $65,000 in 2009 to $80,600 today
Doug Cain serves as State Police Public Affairs Commander at $79,000 per year but the position appears to have been created especially for him, according to payroll records.
State Civil Service records for most promotions indicate whether or not the person being promoted is moving into a slot previously occupied by someone else. In Cain’s case the “Former Incumbent” block on the promotion form is blank indicating there was no one in that position prior to Cain’s being named to it.
The same is true for Edmonson’s brother Paul Edmonson.
On Sept. 7, 2011, Paul Edmonson was promoted from lieutenant to Captain, filling the spot previously held by Scott Reggio. On Oct. 10, 2013, Paul Edmonson was again promoted, this time to the rank of major. This time however, he was promoted into a spot in which there was no incumbent, indicating that the position was created especially for his benefit.
His rise has been nothing less than meteoric. Since December of 2006, less than eight years ago, he has gone from the rank of sergeant to lieutenant to captain to major at warp speed and his pay rose accordingly, from $57,500 to $93,000 a year, a 62 percent increase—all under the watchful eye of his brother.
And keep in mind all this transpired while the rank and file state troopers—and other state employees—were having to make do without pay raises.
As his reward for taking care of his people in such a noble way, Dupuy and State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) conspired, along with Gov. Bobby Jindal, to sneak the amendment to Senate Bill 294 during the closing minutes of the session that allowed Mike Edmonson a “do-over” on his decision to enter the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) which froze his retirement at his pay at that time.
The major problem with that little plan is that it leaves other state troopers and state employees who similarly opted to enter DROP and then received significant promotions or raises out in the cold because the amendment does not afford the same opportunity for them.
Accordingly, a group of retired state troopers have indicated their willingness to litigate the matter should the LSPRS board not decide to challenge the amendment in court themselves.
And it’s not at all likely the board will take that decisive step—for two reasons, neither of them sound.
First, Florida attorney Robert Klausner, an authority on pension law, advised that the amendment is unconstitutional and that the board should simply ignore it and refused to pay the increased pension should Edmonson and one other trooper caught up in the language’s net apply for the higher benefits.
The board would have a difficult time justifying such action, however, because it is bound by the Louisiana Constitution to comply with laws passed by the Legislature. The only recourse to that action would be to file a lawsuit formally challenging the constitutionality of the amendment. To ignore it would solve nothing, several attorneys and State Treasurer John Kennedy, a member of the board, have said.
Second, the LSPRS board is stacked heavily with those who are unquestionably Edmonson and Jindal loyalists. It was Jindal who signed the bill into law as Act 859 and his Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols is an ex-officio member of the board, assigning as her designee Andrea Hubbard. No way she’s going against the administration.
State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas), chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee, is nothing short of wishy-washy as evidenced by his constant switching from Republican to Democrat and back to Republican. He is Jindal’s lap dog and would cut his throat before invoking the governor’s ire and potential endorsement for lieutenant governor.
Dupuy is a member as well but should be run off by a mean, biting dog if he does not abstain from voting for his obvious conflict of interest as Edmonson’s Chief of Staff as well as the one who originally pushed the amendment.
A couple of other members are active troopers and they are a lock for bucking litigation since their boss will be watching and waiting for any sign of weakness or betrayal.
The only certain vote in favor of litigation will come from Kennedy when the board convenes Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System LASERS) Building at 4501 United Plaza Blvd. in Baton Rouge.
And unless Chicken Little was correct about the sky falling, Kennedy’s will be a lone voice when the dust settles.
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