The fallout from the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association’s (LTSA) endorsement of John Bel Edwards for governor continues with two late-breaking developments, LouisianaVoice has learned.
An undetermined number of troopers from Troop I have reportedly demanded the resignation of LTSA president Jay O’Quinn and David Young, the organization’s executive director, over the endorsement.
“It’s not that I don’t support Edwards, because I do,” said one state trooper following last week’s endorsement shortly before the general election that pitted Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter against Democrat State Rep. John Bel Edwards. “I’ve never seen the state police turned into such a political machine,” he added.
Troop I, headquartered in Lafayette, encompasses 5,686 square miles and 8,586 highway miles in eight parishes: Lafayette, Evangeline, St. Landry, Acadia, St. Martin, Vermilion, Iberia and St. Mary.
Edwards easily defeated Vitter by a 56-44 percentage point vote and will be inaugurated governor on Jan. 11.
Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association is also supporting Edmonson’s reappointment as head of state police.
O’Quinn only recently was elevated to the LSTA presidency after past president Frank Besson was promoted to captain’s rank. No one with any rank above lieutenant may serve as president of the association.
As executive director of the organization, Young essentially serves a paid lobbyist for state police, a perk not afforded state civil service employees. He called the endorsement of Edwards “rare” for the organization, but others are calling it a precedent.
As evidence of the LSTA’s morphing into a “political machine,” LouisianaVoice has obtained an email from O’Quinn to select state troopers in which he asked the membership to vote on a proposal that the LSTA write a letter to Edwards requesting that State Police Commander Mike Edmonson be retained in the new administration.
Such a letter would clearly fall under the description of lobbying, something state civil service employees are strictly forbidden from doing.
A separate source said that Young had nothing to do with the email and in fact was opposed to and advised against the earlier endorsement of Edwards.
And while state police are not civil service employees in the strictest sense of the term, there is a well-defined list of activities in which they are prohibited from participating. These include:
- Soliciting votes or contributions for any political candidate, organization or cause.
- Making political contributions.
- Making a public political statement or address.
- Wearing a campaign badge, ribbon, or insignia.
- Distributing political campaign cards, posters or buttons.
- Attending a social function which is designed as a fund raiser where a contribution or ticket is required, even if a ticket is offered to the employee free of charge.
- Becoming a candidate for office, serving as a member of any political committee or taking part in the management of a political party or organization.
- Publicly displaying political literature, placards, bumper stickers or signs in or on any personal property (except by non-civil service employed spouse on community property).
- Actively participating in an effort to recall from office an elected official (other than by signing a recall petition).
- Becoming a candidate for any state, parish, municipal or other political office (other than position of classified employee serving on state civil service commission).
O’Quinn, in his email to the membership, wrote:
As we move forward, I would like your input on a potential issue. We have a board meeting next week, and this topic may be on the table since it has been discussed before. Please reply via email and let me know how you vote. Also, please spread the word to other affiliate members so they can vote if they choose. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I will take votes until next Sunday, December 6. I will then let you know the results and vote accordingly if this issue arises.
Here is the question. Are you in favor or opposed to the LSTA writing a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards asking Governor Edwards to retain Colonel Edmonson in his current position? Put another way for clarification: Do you want the LSTA to write a letter to the Governor asking that we retain our current Colonel?
I prefer email because it’s easier to keep track, but I won’t disclose how any single individual voted, nor are you required to vote at all. Please respond. Thanks.
“I am hearing that 85 percent of the troopers do not want Edmonson to stay,” our source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “I am also hearing (that) Edmonson asked for the LSTA to send the letter,” he added. (Edmonson recently was reported to have said those who speak to or comment on LouisianaVoice anonymously were “cowards,” but with several examples of reprisals already being reported, anonymity is understandable.)
The second source said the email, which was sent mostly to members of Troop L in Mandeville, was not composed by O’Quinn but that it originated with Edmonson and came down through the chain of command to be sent out over his name.
Edmonson, for his part, denied that he had anything to do with the LSTA endorsement of Edwards or that he initiated the effort to send the letter. He also said he had never called anyone a coward. “It’s no secret that I would like another four years at my job,” he said, “but I would never ask someone to write a letter like that or to do anything on my behalf. This has to be the governor’s decision and I would never attempt to influence him in such a way.”
“As for O’Quinn saying he won’t disclose how anyone votes, that’s a joke and it’s precisely the reason that very few troopers will even respond,” the first source said. “They know full well if they vote ‘no,’ it will come back to bite them.
“I hope Edwards won’t buckle to pressure in his decision on a state police commander,” he added. “Politics does not need to be a consideration in this process and this letter solicitation is blatant politics at its very worst.”