Archive for the ‘Public Records’ Category

None of the $11 million earmarked to pay for state police pay raises through enhanced debt collection efforts by the Office of Motor Vehicles has been submitted to the state general fund, according to a spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Meanwhile, a confidential report prepared for legislators has been obtained by LouisianaVoice which indicates that despite State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s claim last January that the pay raise would not affect “upper echelon” personnel, 145 lieutenants, captains, and majors got pay raises totaling $5.3 million per year. Additionally, four deputy superintendents received raises averaging $26,170 (23 percent) each.

Seven pilots ($29,769, or 39 percent), 24 emergency services personnel ($31,247, or 45 percent), two polygraphists ($33,995, or 49 percent), and six support personnel ($25,309, or 31 percent) also received pay hikes.

The breakdown shows that 13 majors and 106 lieutenants received 46 percent pay hikes and 26 captains got bumps of 53 percent. The average salaries ranged from $108,571 for lieutenants to $136,333 for captains, the report indicates.

The largest individual salary increase was $57,252 and the largest single percentage increase was 74 percent, the report says.

State classified employees, when they receive merit increases, generally receive only 4 percent increases but those salaries have been frozen for nearly six years because of budgetary constraints.

Moreover, a separate national study released on Tuesday (Sept. 29) listed police departments from three Louisiana cities as among the worst paying in the nation, including one rated as the lowest.

Altogether, 945 state troopers, ranging from cadets to majors, accounted for more than $20 million in pay increases, thanks to two measures passed by legislators six months apart in 2015.

Unsaid in the report was the effect the pay raises will inevitably have on the unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of the Louisiana State Police Retirement system.

State senators, with minimal discussion, approved the $11 million pay increase during the waning days of the 2015 legislative session only six months after troopers received their first sizable increase. Together, the two raises boosted state trooper pay by 30 percent, according to calculations by the Legislative Fiscal Office.

The first state police pay adjustment was approved in June of 2014 but the money did not become available until the Jan. 19 increase took effect.

In the case of the second pay raise, however, the funds were committed before they were received and none of the anticipated $11 million from old tickets has been received by the state general fund, a situation that could leave the state another $11 million short if the money is not forthcoming by the end of the current fiscal year which closes next June 30.

Lines 42-47 on page 65 of House Bill 1, the Appropriations Bill, appropriates the $11 million “Payable out of state general fund by Statutory Dedications out of the Debt Recovery Fund to the Office of State Police for additional salary support for state troopers, in the event that House Bill No. 638 of the 2015 Regular Session of the Legislature is enacted into law.”

HB 638, by State Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge), which was enacted into law and signed by Bobby Jindal as Act 414, provides that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) collect certain fees “associated with the suspension of an operator’s license” which are related to auto liability insurance requirements. The fees become delinquent after 60 days and are referred to the Office of Debt Recovery.

The bill earmarks $25 million from the Debt Recovery Fund for use by the Office of State Police. Here is the legislative digest of HB 638 (ACT 414)

But with none of that money having been yet gone to the general fund, legislators are beginning to worry.

Additionally, the state police pay increases have not yet produced additional sergeants’ positions. The report said, “State Police leadership claimed in two meetings that the agency was experiencing difficulty attracting Master Troopers who were interested in applying for Sergeant Positions.” The number of Sergeants, however, has only increased by four, from 193 to 197, it said.

Moreover, there have been only 123 promotions within state police ranks and 44, or more than a third, were from cadet to trooper.

There has been one promotion from captain to major, five from lieutenant to captain and 11 from sergeant to lieutenant, the report indicates.


Coincidentally, even as the two pay increases combined to make state police the highest-paid law enforcement agency in the state, a national survey Tuesday (Sept. 29) listed three Louisiana cities as among the 30 with the lowest pay for police officers.

Alexandria had the lowest pay in the nation among major cities with an average salary of $31,370 per year for officers. Monroe, with an average salary of $34,000 was eighth lowest, while Lake Charles was 21st lowest in the state with an average salary of $35,320.

The State Police Retirement System (STPOL) had the smallest UAL of four state retirement systems which combined for an UAL balance of $18.588 million in 2013. The breakdown for the individual systems shows that the Teachers Retirement System (TRSL) had the largest UAL of $11.13 million, followed by the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System (LASERS) at $6.25 million, the Louisiana School Employees Retirement System (LSERS) at $863.7 million and STPOL at $305.4 million (up from the $166.5 UAL of 2006).

STPOL receives revenues from the state and from taxes on insurance premiums but the funding levels from the state have decreased steadily since the high of 73.1 percent of 2007 to 59.1 percent of 2013.


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

Specifically, her letter of Aug. 18 said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“No former elected official, including a legislator, no former member of a board or commission, nor agency head for two years shall assist another person for compensation in connection with a transaction, or render service on a contractual basis for or be employed/ appointed to any position involving the agency by which he or she was formerly employed or in which he/she formerly held office.” (LA Rev Stat § 42:1121)

“…Kristy Nichols is leaving the public sector to become Ochsner Health System’s vice president of government and corporate affairs, the Jindal administration announced today.” (Baton Rouge Business Report, Sept. 15, 2015)

So Nichols will be going to work for Ochsner as a lobbyist. And while state law precludes her lobbying the legislative or executive branches for two years, there appears to be no prohibition to her lobbying local governments (parishes and municipalities) on the part of Ochsner.

Kristy, anticipating the end of her boss’s rocky tenure in January, found her own golden parachute at Ochsner. We don’t know her salary at Ochsner, but we’re guessing it’ll be six figures. Taken at face value, that would normally be the end of the story.

But with this gang, there’s always more than meets the eye. And thanks to our friend C.B. Forgotston who helped us connect the dots, we’re able to shed a little more light into how she parlayed three years of repeated budget crises into such a high-profile private sector job.

Remember the great state hospital privatization fiasco and the contract with 50 blank pages? http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130602/INFO/306029998

The contract obligated the state to long-term spending obligations that will extend decades beyond the Jindal years. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to approve the deal. Instead, let’s explore the Nichols-Ochsner connection.

It was two years ago that the LSU Board of Supervisors signed off on that contract to hand over operation of state-owned hospitals in Lake Charles, Houma, Shreveport and Monroe. The blank pages were supposed to have contained lease terms. Instead, the LSU board left those minor details to the Jindal administration (read: Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols).

Eventually details about the contracts emerged, including that of the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma. And, thanks to the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council, that is where we’re able to bring the picture into focus.

Leonard Chabert Medical Center was opened in 1978 as a 96-bed facility with 802 employees but by the time it was privatized, it was down to 63 beds.

In 2008, a hospital-based accredited Internal Medicine residency program was begun. In 2011, the hospital’s revenue was 47 percent uncompensated care for the uninsured, 29.5 percent Medicaid, 13 percent Medicare, 5.5 percent state general fund and 6 percent interagency transfer from other departments with only 1 percent being self-generated.

When the Jindal administration moved to unload state hospitals, Chabert was partnered with Southern Regional Medical Corp., a nonprofit entity whose only member is Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC).

TGMC was slated to manage Chabert with assistance with a company affiliated with (drum roll)…..Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest private not-for-profit health system with eight hospitals and 40 health centers statewide.

So what were the terms of the agreement? Five years with an automatic renewal after the first year in one-year increments to create a rolling five-year term.

Though Southern Regional is not required to pay rent under terms of the agreement, the Terrebonne Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 is required to make annual intergovernmental transfers of $17.6 million to the Medicaid program for Southern Regional and its affiliates. Here are the TERMS OF THE OCHSNER DEAL AT LEONARD CHABERT MEDICAL CENTER

Here’s the kicker: the cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) calls for supplemental payments of $31 million to Ochsner. It’s no wonder the Houma Daily Courier described the deal as “a valuable asset to Ochsner’s network of hospitals” and that the deal “expands Ochsner’s business profile.”

Between 2009 and 2013, Ochsner’s revenue doubled from $900 million to $1.8 billion and the deal only means more revenue for Ochsner, the Daily Courier said. http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140325/articles/140329692?p=3&tc=pg

We’re certain it’s just coincidence that the LSU Board signed off on a blank contract that the Jindal administration would fill in after the fact.

And it’s just by chance that Kristy Nichols, as Commissioner of Administration, was responsible for that task.

And of course it was just happenstance that Ochsner received that $31 million payment and a mere two years later, just as her reign at DOA was ending, saw the need to bring Kristy aboard as vice president of government and corporate affairs.

So there you have it. All you have to do is follow the money.

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For political junkies and political reporters out there, this is just the ticket and it’s coming out party is tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8, just in time for Louisiana’s fall elections.

Freagle, a free political social network designed to connect voters and candidates to engage the way our founders intended, will debut in Louisiana on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

LouisianaVoice anticipates it will make regular use of the site in order to keep its readers updated on political candidates.

Freagle.com will provide a personalized political platform on which voters can customize their issue and election preferences in order to cut through the noise and spin of our current political dialogue to learn who is on their ballot and where those candidates stand on the particular issues they care about.

“Freagle is designed to connect voters to the candidates on their ballot and provide a simple mechanism for learning about where they stand and what they will do if elected,” Freagle founder and CEO Niki Papazoglakis said. “It also allows candidates to easily engage with voters on the topics they care about individually without expensive micro-targeting and polling.”

Freagle is currently operating at: http://www.freagle.com/ . The full site will be live on Tuesday.

Citizens who use Freagle can easily determine who is on their ballot, in their specific precincts. The site will use the voter’s address to automatically connect them to the races on their ballots, but voters also have the ability to manually follow races in other districts. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

“I hope that by making it easy and convenient for voters to be informed and engaged on elections and amendments, more people will turn out to the polls this fall and feel confident that the votes they cast are for the people and topics that best reflect their personal views,” Papazoglakis said. “Ultimately, I hope that Freagle is a catalyst to re-engage voters in this representative democracy and get us back to a citizen-led government.”

Freagle’s other features will include:

  • Simple means of comparing candidates. Election forums will allow voters to conduct side-by-side comparisons of the candidates in each race on their ballot and on individual issues.
  • On-Demand candidates’ debates. Voters can pose questions to all candidates in a race who subscribe to Freagle from the Election Forum wall rather than individually through other venues like websites, Facebook or Twitter and without having to be selected or have timed responses in live forums.
  • My Ballot tool. Voters can research and make voting decisions throughout the election cycle and print their choices before going to the polls.
  • Verification. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

Papazoglakis said Freagle would also be a valuable tool for the news media. “The media will have a simple place to track all of the elections from a single location including who has qualified in each race, where the candidates stand on the issues, and how they are engaging with voters, “ she said. “In addition, comprehensive campaign finance reports are easily accessed from each candidate’s profile.”

Freagle will feature a custom report from the state Ethics Commission that will have significantly more information than the standard download from the Ethics website, Papazoglakis said, adding that the site will also include all campaign contributions for each candidate.

News media outlets wanting more information about Freagle should contact Papazoglakis at (225) 615-4570 or niki@freagle.com.

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Even as grieving friends, relatives and fellow state troopers were gathering to say goodbye to slain Troop D State Trooper Steven Vincent in Lake Charles last weekend, a State Police Internal Affairs investigation was well underway into alleged payroll irregularities on the part of Troop D Commander Capt. Chris Guillory.

One report received by LouisianaVoice indicates that Guillory reassigned a supervisor to administrative duties after he and his subordinates declined to participate in what they felt was payroll fraud stemming from travel to Baton Rouge for new firearms qualification.

Meanwhile, a potential confrontation between Guillory and the man who filed a complaint against him was averted when a sheriff’s deputy escorted Dwight Gerst from a visitation for Vincent at the Rosa Hart Theater at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Friday, Aug. 28.

Gerst, who was friends with and who was trained by Vincent, attended the wake but said he was cursed by Guillory while he was standing in line and a sheriff’s deputy subsequently escorted him from the visitation. “I was there to honor and pay my respects to a friend,” Gerst said.

LouisianaVoice published a story on Aug. 17 about Guillory’s refusal to accept a formal complaint about threats Gerst said Trooper Jimmy Rogers made against him. Gerst then took his complaint to State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge but it was never followed up by Baton Rouge, he said.

But now, Internal Affairs is conducting what appears to be a full-blown investigation into a number of allegations involving Guillory, including but not limited to the payroll irregularities and prescription drug abuse.

One of the payroll issue stems from a trip Troop D troopers made to Baton Rouge earlier this year to qualify with new weapons issued the troopers. LouisianaVoice has learned that troopers were instructed to charge extra hours for the round trip and time spent qualifying.

Guillory is said to have reassigned one supervisor to administrative duties after he and his subordinates declined to participate in padding their time sheets.

LouisianaVoice in late July made a public records request of State Police for an opportunity to review all time sheets for the pay period that Troop D personnel traveled to Baton Rouge to fire the newly issued weapons.

On Aug. 18, State Police Attorney Supervisor Michele Giroir notified us by letter that the time sheets, along with numerous other requested public records had become the subject of an ongoing investigation being conducted by Louisiana State Police. “Therefore, these records are not subject to release at this time,” Giroir wrote.

It appears the request by LouisianaVoice for the records sparked the investigations into the suspected payroll irregularities. Reporting sources indicated they had not wanted to take information to LouisianaVoice but did so after reporting the problems internally only to see the investigation focus more on discovering the source of the reporting than in identifying and stopping misconduct.

Giroir did, however, release a 10-page investigative report of an investigation of the possible abuse of prescription drugs by Guillory. “…Guillory may have taken, or is currently taking, a prescribed controlled dangerous substance, which is required to be reported as per LSP Policy and Procedure…,” the report said.

The report alluded to instances of Guillory’s being observed driving erratically in his patrol vehicle. One state police official reported that Guillory was at a restaurant and had to be driven back to Troop D to sleep on a cot until returning to normal. Guillory denied to investigators that he slept on the cot. It was also reported he experienced difficulty manipulating utensils at a restaurant while eating in a restaurant with other troopers.

The 10-page investigative report was heavily redacted, but it was evident that Guillory first told investigators he was in compliance with LSP drug use policy but later admitted he was not. He told investigators he was obtaining prescriptions from three different doctors and that he had accumulated “maybe a hundred” pills at his home. He admitted to investigators that he occasionally doubled up on his dosage but that it was not an everyday thing.

The type pills prescribed to Guillory was redacted, but LouisianaVoice has learned that they were believed to be OxyContin which is normally prescribed for only 15 days because of addiction risks and is intended for use by terminal cancer patients and chronic pain sufferers.

State police investigators described the drugs as a “the cocktail.” According to law enforcement experts, the cocktail is a combination of pain killers, muscle relaxers, and anti-depressants.

Guillory reported that he flushed the medications after being interviewed by Internal Affairs. Shortly after the investigation was concluded, he was reprimanded for violating the State Police drug use policy. He was promoted to the rank of captain and became commander of Troop D subsequent to the investigation but later received a letter of reprimand for violation of prescription medication notification regulations from State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

Here is the 10-page redacted report, along with the letter informing the Region II Command Inspector of the investigation, followed at the very bottom by a link to Edmonson’s letter of reprimand to Guillory—after he was promoted to captain. (CLICK ON EACH IMAGE TO ENLARGE):



Here is the GUILLORY REPRIMAND letter of Sept. 28, 2010.

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