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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Thursday’s regular meeting of the State Police Commission was brief but there could be decidedly bad news for members of the Louisiana State Police Association who approved all those political contributions and the endorsement of John Bel Edwards for governor last year.

Meanwhile, the commission approved a settlement of Troop D commander Capt. Chris Guillory’s appeal of his letter of reprimand that gives him carte blanche to do just about anything he likes with impunity.

But even that didn’t stop his nemesis Dwight Gerst from filing a brand new complaint against Guillory with LSP internal affairs.

Commission attorney Lenore Feeney told the commission that it had no authority to investigate the association or its executive director David Young because it was a private organization and Young is not a LSP employee.

But state troopers do come under the commission’s authority, she said. Any state trooper who was a part of the decisions to endorse a candidate or to funnel campaign contribution funds through the LSPA’s director “could face disciplinary action.” In fact, she said, the commission has a duty to determine who was responsible for the decision.

Well, it’s for certain that Young didn’t make an arbitrary decision to contribute more than $45,000 to various political candidates. And he certainly didn’t make the decision on his own to have the LSPA reimburse him. Those decisions had to be made by the LSPA board and the board consists of LSP officers.

It remains to be seen what, if any, action will be taken in regards to conducting an investigation of the circumstances of the endorsement and the contributions.

But the commission, without comment, approved a settlement agreement between Guillory and LSP that will replace a November letter of reprimand with a letter of counseling which will cleanse his record.

The reprimand was issued over Guillory’s allowing Trooper Jimmy Rogers to continue working special details for Local Area Compensated Enforcement Program for the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s office and to perform off-duty escorts while serving a discipline-related suspension. Here is the original letter of reprimand and Thursday’s settlement document:

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Guillory, while still a lieutenant, had previously been given a letter of reprimand after an investigation into his prescription narcotic use while on the job but was promoted to captain shortly afterward and named commander of Troop D.

A letter of reprimand remains on one’s record and is taken into account in promotion considerations. A letter of counseling, however, does not go into the individual’s personnel file and cannot be a factor when promotions are considered. Here is the original letter of reprimand and the subsequent settlement agreement.

This comes on the heels of LSP internal affairs decision denial of a complaint by Lake Charles resident Dwight Gerst, against Guillory. Gerst had complained that Guillory refused to accept Gerst’s complaint against Rogers.

Subsequent to that IA denial, LouisianaVoice released an audio recording which clearly shows that Guillory did indeed refused to accept Gerst’s complaint.

Following Thursday’s commission meeting, Gerst paid a visit to Internal Affairs and submitted a new complaint against Guillory on the basis of the contents of the recording.

Gerst said he was asked by IA why he had not provided the recording originally and his response was that he did not trust the investigators. It seems his fears were well-grounded, considering the manner in which Guillory was exonerate out of hand by investigators and then underscored by the reduction of the reprimand letter to one of counseling.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how LSP maneuvers to deny Gerst once again and continue to enable Guillory.

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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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“…if you are here to file a complaint or you have a complaint, I’m not accepting your complaint. I am not going to accept any form of complaint you may have. Any part of that unclear to you?”

—State Police Troop D Commander Capt. Chris Guillory to Dwight Gerst when Gerst visited Troop D headquarters to file a formal complaint against State Trooper Jimmy Rogers.

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Troop D Commander Captain Chris Guillory has been caught lying again.

Troopers say lying is the only guaranteed way to get fired but that apparently does not apply to Guillory. LouisianaVoice ran a story on Guillory citing an LSP investigation file showing he was abusing prescription medication. When he was questioned in that case, Guillory denied violating LSP drug use policy only to admit it later. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/05/state-police-launch-internal-affairs-investigation-of-troop-d-commander-after-public-records-requests-by-louisianavoice/

More recently, LouisianaVoice has received an investigation file on a complaint against Guillory for refusing to accept a complaint from a citizen (Dwight Gerst). Gerst made numerous allegations against Guillory and former Trooper Jimmy Rogers who has resigned amid the Troop D investigations.

Gerst sent a complaint to LSP internal affairs alleging Guillory refused to accept a complaint from him in violation of LSP policy. Gerst and Guillory had two different stories on how the meeting transpired. LouisianaVoice also received an audio recording of Gerst attempting to file a complaint with Guillory making it easy to determine who was telling the truth and who was lying. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/08/17/state-police-headquarters-sat-on-complaint-against-troop-d-trooper-for-harassment-captain-for-turning-a-blind-eye-to-it/

Here is part of Gerst’s complaint:

I attempted to file a complaint at Troop D. I met with Capt. Guillory at Troop D. Lieutenant Cyprien was also present. Before I got the chance to tell Guillory that I wanted to file a complaint, he informed me that if I was there to file a complaint, he would not accept a complaint from me. He said he thought I had problems and he was not doing anything until there was a disposition on my case from the sheriff’s office. He further said that he had a problem with me personally and professionally and he would not accept any complaint I may have. Guillory said there was nothing for us to talk about until the investigation was complete. I told him my complaint was not based on what I did or did not do. Guillory asked if I was there to complain about Rogers and I said I yes. I went there to file a complaint and was undeniably refused. I suspect this is a violation of state police policy.

The audio recording showed Gerst’s version of the meeting was truthful. Guillory’s version, as reflected in LSP documents, conflicted greatly with the recording.

The following passage was taken directly from the LSP documents (emphasis ours):

Capt. Guillory said that Gerst arrived at Troop D and was upset, stating that TFC Rogers was spreading lies about him. According to Capt. Guillory, Gerst was asking him about information pertaining to the criminal investigation which was being conducted by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. Capt. Guillory stated that he informed Gerst that he could not get involved in an ongoing investigation being conducted by another agency. He stated that Gerst continued to press him for information regarding the matter and he informed Gerst that he would have to go to the sheriff’s office himself if he wanted to find out about the investigation. According to Capt. Guillory, Gerst stated that the sheriff’s office would not talk to him or provide him any information. Guillory claimed that he told Gerst that “he wanted to wait until the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office was done with their criminal investigation before he could tell him any information”. He said that Gerst continued to question him and ask him what TFC Rogers had told the sheriff’s office. Guillory told Gerst again that he could not give him information regarding an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the sheriff’s office. Guillory said that the interaction with him and Gerst went back and forth for a few minutes. Guillory stated that “he never refused” to take Gerst’s complaint. He said that he told Gerst to “let him see what the sheriff’s office said about the criminal investigation”, because according to the information he obtained, there were serious allegations against Gerst. Guillory stated that Gerst then left the Troop without filing a complaint there and filed one through the Internal Affairs Section. Investigators questioned Guillory again September 17, 2015 about Gerst’s allegation that he refused to accept his (Gerst’s) complaint. Guillory’s statement was consistent with his original statement. Although Capt. Guillory advised that he never refused to take Mr. Gerst’s complaint, he (Guillory) was aware that Gerst was complaining of TFC Rogers’ conduct. Guillory said that he told Gerst to wait and let him see what the sheriff’s office said, because according to the information he (Guillory) obtained, there were serious allegations against Gerst.

Hers is what Guillory said during the three minute meeting with Gerst:

Have a seat. We’re not going to talk long, Okay. Your case is being investigated by the sheriff’s office. I’ve talked with them and if you are here to file a complaint or you have a complaint, I’m not accepting your complaint because I think you got problems and I’m not going to do anything until (inaudible) disposition on your case… I personally have a problem with you. Based on what I am being told by the investigator at the sheriff’s office on what you are being investigated for, I personally and professionally have a problem with you and I am not going to accept any form of complaint you may have until the disposition of their investigation is over. Any part of that unclear to you?

Apparently unbeknownst to Guillory, Gerst recorded their exchange (It is not illegal in Louisiana to record a conversation as long as one of the participants consents.) If you would like to listen to that exchange, click here: https://youtu.be/zd-JV3rKjko

Guillory appears to have been was untruthful in his responses to internal affairs investigators on two separate occasions in which he denied that he refused to take a Gerst’s complaint. He apparently assumed it would be his word against Gerst’s and he could deceive investigators.

According to the investigative report, Guillory sent the Troop Executive Officer Lieutenant Waylon Busby to the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s office to investigate Gerst’s stalking allegations against former Trooper Rogers. Instead, Busby started an unauthorized investigation into Gerst’s possessing a law enforcement license plate and seized his specialized plate. Guillory claimed to have no knowledge of that investigation. Busby was given a 32-hour suspension for his actions. The IA report indicated Busby performed an unauthorized investigation outside the normal scope of his duties and he facilitated the violation of Gerst’s constitutional rights from an illegal traffic stop.

State Police Sgt. Gary Smith said of taking the license plate that he “has never heard of that happening before and this was the first time he had ever seen it done.” Smith also denied Busby’s claims that he was told to pull him over for a traffic violation (window tint). DMV personnel also contradicted Busby’s statements about the investigation. Guillory denied any knowledge of the unauthorized action, unconstitutional traffic stop, and the revocation of the license plate.

All this revolves around Gerst’s picking up two children from school and giving them a ride. One of the children belonged to Former Trooper Rogers. Rogers became angry and tried very hard to get Gerst punished. The charges were thrown out of court at trial.

Rogers’ child was in the care of Gerst’s neighbor’s child. Gerst, with his own child in the car, gave the two children a ride 400 yards. LSP IA investigators vindicated Gerst in their report. IA interviewed the mother of the child who was given a ride by Gerst. Her statement indicated that Gerst did nothing wrong. Here is a passage about that incident taken directly from the report:

Investigators asked (redacted) if she had given Mr. Gerst permission to pick up her daughter while walking home from school. (Redacted) indicated that she did not tell Mr. Gerst on that particular day to give her daughter a ride home. However, she had previously given permission to Mr. Gerst in the past to do so, and she did not see anything wrong with him doing it on that day. Investigators asked if she felt any pressure from TFC Rogers to pursue charges against Mr. Gerst. (Redacted) indicated that she did not feel pressure or the need to file charges against Mr. Gerst. She stated that TFC Rogers told her that he felt as if there was “something there,” and for her to trust him. (Redacted) indicated that she felt as if she should trust TFC Rogers because she believed that he possibly had information about him (Gerst) that she did not have. (Redacted) related to investigators that she did not want to talk about the issue with Mr. Gerst and TFC Rogers anymore.

Gerst complained that Rogers and Guillory used their positions to push for charges against him. Guillory denied the allegations. Rogers admitted going to the district attorney’s office but denied he did it as a trooper but only as a father. He admitted he spoke to retired LSP Captain Russell Haman who works for the DA’s office. The statement provided by the child’s mother indicated that Rogers manipulated her into going along with his scheme in order to have Gerst prosecuted.

Gerst alleged in writing his attorney was told by the prosecution that the DA’s office was only pursuing charges because of pressure from LSP. IA asked prosecutor Dustan Abshire if he spoke to Gerst about the charges but failed to ask anything about state police influence in the report or what he told Gerst’s attorney.

All this just because Gerst had the temerity to file a complaint. This is one of the most frightening cases we have seen at LouisianaVoice. It is a naked display of abuse of power on the part of those in positions to harm innocent people.

This should serve as a message to anyone who considers filing a complaint against Captain Guillory or his clique: don’t!

 

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It was bad enough Friday when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that career politician and former national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council Noble Ellington as his legislative director.

But at the same time, he announced the appointment of Marketa Garner Walters as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) at $129,000 per year.

Ellington, besides serving as national chairman of ALEC, was twice named Legislator of the Year. He left the legislature to take a cozy $150,000-a-year job as Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Insurance in 2012 even though he had no background in the insurance industry.

And it was during his tenure as ALEC’s national chairman that Bobby Jindal was presented the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award (you may want to check with the descendants of Sally Heming on that freedom part). http://www.alec.org/press-release/hundreds-of-state-legislators/

It’s beginning to look a lot like business as usual for the new administration. Like pro football and major league baseball, Louisiana’s elected leaders seem to keep recycling the same old familiar faces in and out of various state offices. The problem is, they are the ones who helped create the problems. So what makes anyone think they have the solutions now?

Take Garner Walters, for example, who served as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Services within DSS (DCFS) from January 2004 until November 2008, when she went by the name Marketa Garner Gautreau.

“A national leader in the field of children and family services, Marketa Garner Walters has worked for more than 20 years to improve the lives of children,” the governor’s announcement said. “As a public servant, a national consultant, and an advocate with deep roots in her home state of Louisiana, Walters has been able to create meaningful change in the lives of family and children over the years.”

So what’s so wrong with that?

Well, not much. Unless one considers her explanation for an incident in which a 17-year-old mentally challenged boy raped a 12-year-old boy in a group home during the time she served as assistant secretary for the Office of Community Services.

“Retarded people have sex—it’s what they do,” she said, sounding more like a GEICO commercial than someone responsible for children’s welfare. That bit of wisdom was imparted during her testimony before the Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission in 2008.

The Office of Community Services is a sub-office of the Department of Children and Family Services, formerly the Department of Social Services (DSS).

A former employee of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ), then the Office of Youth Development, witnessed Gautreau’s testimony.

“In late 2008, DSS and OJJ were called before the Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission about a situation at a Baton Rouge group home housing both OJJ and DSS youth (and) where a 17-year-old mentally challenged boy raped a 12-year-old boy,” the former OJJ employee said.

“OJJ removed our youth from the group home at once and put a moratorium on placement there. DSS, the licensing agency for group homes, left their kids there,” she said.

When questioned by JJIC members, including (then) Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and (then) Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Kitty Kimball, Garner Gautreau offered a bizarre explanation. She said it was really not rape because the youths were of similar mental capacity.

When asked why there was not better staff security to keep the children from roaming around and molesting others, she replied, “Retarded people have sex. It’s what they do.”

The former OJJ employee was aghast. “I told my colleagues I’d wring their necks if they ever made statements like that in public hearings.

“We figured that (Gautreau’s testimony) was a career-limiting speech and we were not surprised when Ms. Garner Gautreau was shortly looking for another job,” the former OJJ employee said.

She added that OJJ stopped placing children in the same facilities as DCFS children.

There was “a consistent pattern of DSS failing to properly monitor and supervise group home operations and looking the other way when deficiencies were noted,” the former OJJ employee said. “Group homes were even re-licensed when still deficient and corrective actions plans were not being followed.

“The DSS review committee was a joke – the agency’s monitors looked the other way and ignored problems at the group homes, even when OJJ removed kids and notified DSS of deficiencies,” she said.

The intent is for private group homes to provide a safe, homelike setting for abused and neglected children who have been removed from their families. But the safety factor appears to have come up far short. Four rapes were reported over a 15-month period at two Baton Rouge group homes.

The Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization, released a 41-page REPORT ON GROUP HOMES in early 2008 that described filthy conditions and neglect of children’s education and medical needs at many facilities. Additionally, a 2007 report by the legislative auditor found that 90 percent of the group homes had deficiencies when their licenses were renewed.

Garner Gautreau, however, told the Baton Rouge Advocate that she had “a high level of comfort” in the knowledge that 80 percent of homes scored at an acceptable level.

Its report included problems that staff members observed themselves but also cited violations found in previous inspection reports filed by the state from 2004 to August 2007. Those include failure to assure proper medical care at 53 percent of the facilities and failure to assure proper physical environment in 69 percent of homes.

State inspectors cited 18 facilities for failing to have sufficient staff and found cases where homes failed to provide criminal background checks and in some cases knowingly hired people with criminal records, the Advocacy Center report noted.

“In some cases, we found evidence that the Bureau of Licensing had identified the same problems and cited the same facility over and over again. However, nothing changed,” said Stephanie Patrick, who oversees visits to homes for the Advocacy Center.

“I started following DSS failures when our staff consistently documented problems that DSS ignored,” the former OJJ employee said.

“Louisiana’s licensing statute for these facilities fails to provide an adequate framework for assuring the health, safety, and welfare of children in these facilities,” the Advocate Center report said.

What?!!

The state doesn’t assure the safety and welfare of children it is charged with protecting?

Among the deficiencies of the statute, the report said were:

  • That it grants final authority over residential facility licensing regulations and standards to two committees, none of whose members is required to be an expert in child residential care and treatment, and many of whose members are providers.
  • That it allows the issuance of licenses without full regulatory compliance.
  • That it requires the Department to seek the approval of the relevant committee before denying or revoking a facility’s license, and gives the committee veto power over such action.
  • That it does not permit DSS to assess civil fines and penalties when facilities violate minimum standards.

The Advocacy Center requested DSS’s Bureau of Licensing reports for the years 2004-2006 and up to August 2007. “A review of these reports shows that a shocking number of the facilities had serious violations of minimum licensing standards, including:

  • 38% of the facilities had violations relating to staff criminal background checks;
  • 62% of the facilities were found to violate minimum standards regarding children’s medications;
  • 53% of the facilities failed to assure that children received proper medical and/or dental care;
  • 33% of the facilities were cited for not following proper procedures or violating procedures pertaining to abuse/neglect;
  • 62% of the facilities were cited for not assuring their staff received all required annual training;
  • 69% of the facilities were cited for not assuring that children were living in a proper physical environment;
  • 36% of the facilities were cited for not having appropriate treatment plans or for inappropriate execution of children’s treatment plans;
  • 33% of the facilities were cited for not assuring that sufficient qualified direct service staff was present with the children as necessary to ensure the health, safety and well- being of children.

“Many facilities were found to be in violation of minimum standards on inspection after inspection,” the report added.

LouisianaVoice has been receiving unsettling reports of inadequate inspections of foster homes by unqualified DCFS employees. Those reports are currently being investigated by us and will be reported in future posts should they be substantiated.

Meanwhile, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Marketa Garner Walters nee Gautreau will be watching out for the children as the new secretary of DCFS.

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