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Archive for the ‘Public Records’ Category

If there’s anything dirtier than a rogue cop, it would have to be a rogue judge.

Put the two together and an epic miscarriage of justice is bound to occur.

The two are equally bad for different reasons. The bad cop has a badge and a gun. The judge exists for the sole purpose of seeing that justice prevails for society—that victims are protected and the guilty are punished. When one or both betray that trust, society is the loser.

Recent events up in Monroe have proved that Ronald Thomas and Larry Jefferson belong together—in the same jail cell.

It was bad enough that Thomas, a Louisiana State Police veteran of 18 years routinely went off the grid to go fishing or meeting up with his paramour—all while on the clock. But over a period of two years, Thomas, the evidence custodian for Troop F in Monroe, returned up to $1 million in confiscated drugs to the street by stealing packets of cocaine that he was charged with incinerating. The scheme enriched him by hundreds of thousands of dollars in dirty money. http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/14639945-75/state-police-evidence-scandal-ends-in-modest-prison-term-for-rogue-trooper

Thomas was enabled in carrying out his business venture because the evidence custodian position had few, if any, checks and balances.

In September 2012, for example, he removed two sealed boxes containing nearly 24 pounds of cocaine from the evidence vault. The evidence was scheduled for destruction and Thomas was to have taken it to an incinerator in Alexandria the next day. Hidden cameras in his office even recorded him stuffing cash into a sock and then secreting the money in his waistband before leaving work.

Thomas was charged after a year-long investigation and faced up to 20 years in prison. His attorney, Darrell Hickman said of his client at trial, “This is a man who is probably not going to be in trouble for the rest of his life. He lost his job, he lost his reputation, and he almost lost his family. That’s enough to bring any man back to reality.”

Really, Darrell? That’s your best defense? A real pity all accused felons couldn’t fall back on the “I’ll probably never get in trouble again” defense.

At least Thomas was a little more creative. He blamed his crimes in part on exposure to fumes from confiscated narcotics he handled for years after being removed from patrol to the evidence room.

Yeah, right. And I blame my poor grades in school to the foul odor of cabbage wafting up into my classroom from the school cafeteria.

So, what was his punishment? Did he get the full 20 years?

Nope.

One year in the lockup, plus a $15,000 fine (remember, he raked hundreds of thousands of dollars by forsaking his sworn oath to uphold the law), and 240 community service.

And that’s where Judge Jefferson becomes the topic of our story and picture is ugly, to say the least. Yes, Thomas was a bad cop, but this story is about a disgraceful judge, a judge whose ego knows no bounds and his respect for the law appears miniscule.

First, a little background. A city court judge first, he was removed from the bench by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Jan. 18, 2000 after being formally charged by the Judiciary Commission with four separate counts:

Charge I:  Judge Jefferson abused his authority as a judge with respect to the City Prosecutor for the Monroe City Court and the Clerk of Court for the Monroe City Court by exceeding his contempt power and/or abusing such contempt power, which demonstrates a lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor. These actions violated Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1), (2), (3) and 3B(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C in that the actions were willful misconduct relating to the judge’s official capacity and were persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.  

Charge II:  Judge Jefferson abused and exceeded his authority as a judge when he banned the City Prosecutor from his courtroom and subsequently dismissed 41 cases. His conduct violated Canons 1, 2, and 3A(1), (2), and (3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. Art. V, § 25C in that he engaged in willful misconduct relative to his office and engaged in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.

Charge III:  Judge Jefferson engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of La. R.S. 13:1952, Canons 1, 2, 3A(1) and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to his official duty and in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Charge IV:  That Judge Jefferson failed to comply with the order of May 28, 1998, issued by the Louisiana Supreme Court, pursuant to which he was relieved of all administrative duties at Monroe City Court.   This was in violation of Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1) and 3(B)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to this official duty and in persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

There’s more.

In Charge I, the Commission charged Judge Jefferson with abusing his authority as a judge by exceeding his contempt power and abusing such contempt power with respect to the city prosecutor and the clerk of court for the Monroe City Court. The Commission found that such acts demonstrated Judge Jefferson’s lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor under the circumstances. Charge I included three incidents involving Judge Jefferson, the prosecutor, James Rodney Pierre, and the Clerk of Court, Ms. Powell-Lexing, in which the judge held these individuals in contempt of court. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-supreme-court/1212290.html

“The majority recommends that Judge Jefferson be removed from judicial office,” the January 2000 decision said. “However, this court has previously stated that “[t]he most severe discipline should be reserved for judges who use their office improperly for personal gain; judges who are consistently abusive and insensitive to parties, witnesses, jurors, and attorneys; judges who because of laziness or indifference fail to perform their judicial duties to the best of their ability; and judges who engage in felonious criminal conduct.   Moreover, the removal of a duly elected member of the judiciary is a serious undertaking which should only be borne with the utmost care so as not to unduly disrupt the public’s choice for service in the judiciary.”

Judge Jefferson’s conduct warrants a two year suspension, retroactive to his interim suspension dated October 13, 1998. Effectively, the two-year suspension was in reality a 10-month suspension—to Oct. 13, 2000.

In September 2000, Judge Jefferson was sued by newsman Ken Booth in an effort to prevent his return to the bench. The lawsuit was thrown out because Booth could not prove he was a qualified elector in Ouachita Parish and thus, had no legal standing with the court.

But the court took matters a step further by point out the Supreme Court has no authority set qualifications for seeking office. “Once an individual has been removed from judicial office, he no longer is a judge, and is no longer subject to judicial disciplinary actions,” the ruling by the State High Court said. Because Jefferson’s license to practice law was not revoked, he was therefore eligible to seek another judgeship. http://www.leagle.com/decision/20002014765So2d1249_11742/BOOTH%20v.%20JEFFERSON

http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2484:attorney-larry-d-jefferson-of-monroe-la-il-duce-wannabee-moron-&catid=150:louisiana-attorney-misfits&Itemid=100

Accordingly, in November 2007 he again won election to the Monroe City Court judgeship with 62 percent of the vote.

Then, in November 2014, he ran for judge of the 4th Judicial District Court (Ouachita and Morehouse parishes), capturing 61 percent of the vote.

And so it was in 2016 that a dirty cop came forward to receive justice from a tainted judge who handed down a disgraceful sentence.

Thousands of non-violent offenders occupy cells in state and parish prisons throughout Louisiana for minor transgressions—and they’re serving sentences considerably longer than the cop who ripped off $1 million in cocaine from the State Police evidence room.

And there are judges who will turn a blind eye to such crimes but will berate a city court prosecutor or a city clerk of court for the most minor of offenses.

There is a certain irony that the last names of Thomas and Jefferson would come together to spit in the face of honest cops and judicial integrity.

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Did the former director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control strong-arm New Orleans-area night club owners to contribute to the campaign of one of the candidates for governor in last fall’s elections?

A confidential source told LouisianaVoice that club owners and businesses in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were pressured during two separate meetings prior to the Oct. 24 primary election to contribute to the gubernatorial campaign of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.

There is no evidence that Angelle knew about or approved of the alleged coercion to contribute to his campaign.

Ten businesses or individuals subsequently contributed more than $30,500 to Angelle’s campaign, all of which was given prior to the primary election in which Angelle finished third to eventual winner John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

Why would club owners be asked to contribute to Angelle? One possible explanation might be that ATC Director Troy Hebert thought Angelle’s election represented his best chance for reappointment. Hebert resigned on Jan. 10, the day before John Bel Edwards became governor.

None of the 10 contributed to either of the other three candidates for governor though seven of them also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, campaign records show.

John Young’s brother, attorney Chris Young, represents numerous New Orleans clubs and bars in proceedings before the ATC. Chris Young also serves as a lobbyist for the Beer Industry League of Louisiana. Their sister, Judy Pontin, serves as ATC’s $71,000-per-year “executive management officer” in ATC’s New Orleans office.

The timing of Operation Trick or Treat, a joint sting operation conducted by ATC and Louisiana State Police, also raises the question of whether there may have been a pattern of selective investigations of French Quarter strip clubs, particularly in New Orleans, last September and October.

Eighteen clubs in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were subjected to the investigation. Seventeen of the 18 did not contribute to Angelle. Only Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club among those that contributed was among those clubs visited in Operation Trick or Treat, according to a list obtained from ATC by LouisianaVoice. No violations were found there.

In all, nine clubs were found in violation of infractions of underage alcohol sales, drug use and/or prostitution.

Were club owners who contributed to Angelle and/or Young deliberately passed over during the joint LSP-ATC operation? Or were they just lucky?

Did the undercover investigation just happen to coincide with the run-up to the 2015 election for governor and lieutenant governor? Were those clubs who had their liquor licenses pulled targeted for their failure to follow through with political contributions? And did the license revocations help eliminate French Quarter competition for favored clubs?

A source close to the events contacted LouisianaVoice by email several weeks ago. Writing under an assumed name, the source said that prior to the Oct. 24 primary election, Hebert held private meetings with several club owners “to shake down the businesses” for contributions to Angelle’s campaign fund. She said the meetings were held “on top of Oceana Restaurant on Conti and in Metairie on Veterans Highway at Cajun Canyons Restaurant” (Cajun Cannon), run by former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert (no relation to Troy Hebert). It wasn’t immediately clear if she meant the rooftop of the Oceana or on the top floor of the restaurant.

Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon Restaurant & Bar is located at 4101 Veterans Memorial Blvd., but nowhere in the Secretary of State’s corporate records is Hebert listed as an officer of that or any other corporate entity in Orleans or Jefferson Parish.

Instead, the trade name Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon is listed at 5828 Marcia Ave. in New Orleans—the same address as several other corporations.

Oceana Restaurant is located at 739 Conti Street, the same address as Oceana Enterprises, LLC. Wassek N. Badr is listed as both the registered agent and the only officer of Oceana Enterprises.

And this is where it gets really confusing.

The name Badr, or Bader, crops up in several other corporate filings in New Orleans, all with the same 5828 Marcia Ave. address as Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon nightclub.

Others with Wassek Badr’s name listed as officer include Cajun Estates of 5828 Marcia, Cajun Conti, LLC, and Cajun Cuisine, LLC, both of 739 Conti (same address as Oceana Restaurant), and MRW Orleans, LLC (Mohamad Wassek Bader and Rami Wassek Badr), 5828 Marcia.

Moe Wassek Badr is listed as the agent and only officer of Cajun Maple, LLC, of 5828 Marcia while Mohamad “Moe” Badr is given as agent and only officer of Olde Creole Palace, LLC. And Rami Badr is listed as agent and only officer of Cajun Broad, LLC, both located at 5828 Marcia.

Additionally, Morton Bader is named as agent for Cajun Estates.

Amer Bader is listed in corporate records as a member of Wasek Badr, LLC, and it is Amer Bader who has said that he exchanged text messages with Hebert in which he accused Hebert of extorting sexual favors from a woman experiencing licensing problems with ATC. http://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/26/fbi-said-investigating-troy-hebert-for-using-office-to-extort-sex-from-woman-in-exchange-for-fixing-licensing-problems/

Campaign finance reports filed by Angelle would seem to indicate the meetings at Oceana and Cajun Cannon were likely held on or around Sept. 16 and Oct. 12, 2015, since all the contributions to Angelle were on those two dates.

Two contributions of $5,000 each were made on Sept. 16 by Hospitality Consultants and Magnolia Enterprises, records show, and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply gave $500 on that same date.

On Oct. 12, Quarter Holdings and ITMC Enterprises contributed $5,000 each to Angelle’s campaign, Bourbon Heat and Promenade Entertainment gave $2,500 each, and HDV No. 1, SB Entertainment, and CATS 701 each gave $1,666.66.

Here are those contributors to Angelle and the dates of their contributions:

  • Hospitality Consultants: $5,000 on Sept. 16, 2015;
  • Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $5,000 on Sept. 16;
  • Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.: $500 on Sept. 16;
  • Quarter Holdings: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
  • JTMC Enterprises: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
  • Bourbon Heat: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
  • Promenade Entertainment, LLC: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
  • HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
  • SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
  • CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.66 on Oct. 12

Here are the seven who also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, according to campaign reports obtained from the State Board of Ethics:

  • Quarter Holdings, LLC: $5,000 on Dec. 29, 2014;
  • Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $3,000 on Feb. 26, 2015 and $1,000 on April 29, 2015;
  • SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Aug. 21;
  • CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.67 on Aug. 24;
  • HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.66 on Aug. 24;
  • JTMC Enterprises, LLC: $834 on Aug. 24;
  • Bourbon Heat, LLC: $2,500 on Aug. 28, 2014 and $2,500 on Aug. 26, 2015.

Besides those businesses, also conspicuously absent from the list of clubs investigated by the joint ATC/LSP sting operation was Rick’s Cabaret. Rick’s bills itself on its web site as “New Orleans’ finest gentlemen’s experience.” Located at 315 Bourbon Street, it is within three blocks of all nine strip clubs which had their licenses suspended. Because of its proximity to the other clubs, it would stand to gain financially from business lost by the penalized establishments because of their inability to sell alcoholic beverages.

Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret, is said to be friends with both Troy Hebert and State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

The corporate records on the businesses are equally confusing.

Magnolia Enterprises and Quarter Holdings, LLC, share the same agent, Marcus Giusti, and at least one officer, Kishore V. Motwani. Additionally, Aaron K. Motwani is an officer in Magnolia Enterprises. Kishore Motwani also is an officer for Quarter Holdings, Inc. All three share the same Canal Street mailing address.

Neither CATS 701 Bourbon, which runs Cat’s Meow Club at that address, nor HDV No. 1, which operates Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, list any officers on the Secretary of State’s corporate web site, but they list the same Reno, Nevada address as their domicile. Along with SB Entertainment, they give Durand, Michigan, as their mailing address and SB Entertainment lists two corporate officers, both in Reno.

Bourbon Heat, LLC lists Huey Farrell as its agent and Angelo and Regina Farrell as officers while Jude Marullo is both agent and officer for Promenade Entertainment, LLC. Likewise, Warren Reuther, Jr., is agent and the only officer listed for Hospitality Consultants.

Pat O’Brien is listed as manager of Pat O’Brien Developments, LLC while only agents and no officers are given for JTMC Enterprises, LLC and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.

Attempts to reach spokesmen for the businesses who contributed to Angelle to determine if they were pressured to give to his campaign were unsuccessful.

 

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When Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) legal counsel Floyd Falcon defended political contributions in the 2015 gubernatorial campaign by LSTA, he cited a 1992 legal precedent which he said permitted the activity.

Apparently he had not counted on being outmaneuvered by a retired state trooper who was perfectly able to do his own legal research to counter Falcon’s argument at last week’s hearing before the State Police Commission.

Several retired state troopers, represented by spokesman Scott Perry, a retired captain with 26 years’ experience with LSP, appeared before the commission on Thursday (Jan. 14) to voice objections to the funneling of LSTA funds through its executive director David Young.

Perry was joined by retired Lt. Leon Millet who said more than $45,000 in political contributions were made without the knowledge or consent of the LSTA membership and that the action appeared to be a violation of the state constitution and State Police Commission regulations.

Perry, on Friday, followed his Thursday verbal request for an investigation with a written request. “Please accept this correspondence as a formal request pursuant to State Police Commission Rule ‘Chapter 16, Investigations,’” he wrote. Perry asked that the commission “investigate the allegation of Prohibited Political Active, 14.2 (A) (1), 14.2 (A) (4), 14.2 (A) (8), in regards to political endorsements and contributions.

“This request is made specifically against classified members of the Office of State Police acting in their capacity as elected officers of the Louisiana State Troopers Association.”

Following Perry’s address to the commission on Thursday, Falcon told the commission it had no authority to investigate LSTA because it is a private organization not subject to oversight by the commission.

Commission members agreed but pointed out that it is empowered to investigate illegal or questionable activity by individual state troopers. The commission is the equivalent of the Louisiana Civil Service Commission which serves the dual purpose of protecting the rights of state employees and investigating illegal or improper activities by state employees.

Falcon cited the 1992 case of Cannatella vs. the New Orleans Department of Civil Service. In that case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal overturned a 30-day suspension handed down to police Sgt. Ronald Cannatella for violation of a city civil service rule prohibiting political activity. http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=718580336782666189&q=cannatella+v.+department+of+civil+service&hl=en&as_sdt=8000006&as_vis=1

Cannatella was president of the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) in January 1990 when PANO decided to endorse a candidate for mayor. PANO had polled its membership beforehand and Cannatella subsequently appeared at a public forum to announce the endorsement. The appellate court noted that Cannatella believed he was acting “pursuant to what he believed was a function of his position as the president of PANO.”

The court said that while the prohibition against political activity is “exclusively limited to commissioners and classified civil service employees and officers,” the prohibition “does not extend to a labor organization such as PANO, or its spokesperson, merely because its members are classified civil service employees.”

No sooner was Falcon finished citing the Cannatella case than Perry, who now works as an investigator for the Office of Inspector General, was on his feet. Perry presented a copy of a 2001 ruling by a three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. The ruling he held, while not a legal precedent, nevertheless differed significantly with the Cannatella case and was identical to the circumstances of the LSTA action.

In the case of Kenner Police Department vs. Kenner Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board, five officers who signed off on a contribution check in their capacity as members of the executive board of the city police association were fired.

In the opinion written by Judge Clarence McManus, the Fifth Circuit said that while Cannatella held that members of PANO had the right to endorse a candidate without exposing the members to penalties under the civil service laws, “…Cannatella is not controlling or binding on this court, as counsel for appellants seems to suggest.”

It said Cannatella is distinguishable because it involved a different statute governed by a different provision of the constitution. “In this case the appellants are indeed classified civil service employees. Therefore, the prohibition against political activity clearly applies to them,” the decision said. But, the court noted, the officers claimed they did not individually make any campaign contributions, but rather PACK did. (PACK is an acronym for Police Association for the City of Kenner.)

The court said the appellants’ assertion that the contribution and endorsement were actions taken by PACK and not the fire appellants individually “is simply untenable. As for the contention that being members of a labor union exempts them from any and all responsibility under the civil service laws, we find this argument unpersuasive. To allow the appellants to do indirectly through the union or an association that which they cannot do directly as classified civil service employees will permit them to circumvent the statute’s prohibition.” (Emphasis ours)

The civil service board held that the campaign contribution check “was personal action taken by the officers individually, and not an action of the association,” said the appellate court in upholding their termination.  http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-court-of-appeal/1285153.html

LouisianaVoice broke the story of the LSTA contributions on December 9. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/

In the LSTA case, Young acknowledged that he made the contributions in his name and was subsequently reimbursed by the organization.

In a statement that would seem to conflict with LSTA’s own legal counsel’s argument, Young said there were questions about the ability of state employees making political contributions. “So in order to avoid any of that,” he told the Advocate, “if I make a contribution as a non-state employee, there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.”

Except there now are questions. Commission Vice Chairman W. Lloyd Grafton of Ruston observed that it “almost makes me think there was something suspect here because of the check writing. Why wouldn’t the association have made the contribution? It looks like someone was trying to circumvent something.”

Prior to that date, on Dec. 4, LouisianaVoice broke another story that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson attempted to prevail upon the LSTA board to write a letter to then Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards endorsing Edmonson for reappointment to lead state police for another four years.

On Nov. 30, the board voted unanimously not to write the letter. Edwards subsequently reappointed Edmonson anyway, largely on the strength of the endorsement of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana Police Chiefs’ Association.

Edmonson twice denied that he had requested the LSTA board’s endorsement but LSTA Interim President Stephen LaFargue confirmed to LouisianaVoice, also on two separate occasions, that Edmonson asked him about the prospects of LSTA sending a letter to Edwards asking that Edmonson be reappointed.

“Col. Edmonson attended the board meeting and he told me he was going to apply for reappointment,” LaFargue said. “He then asked about the possibility of the LSTA board writing a letter of endorsement. I told him I didn’t know, that it would have to be taken up by the board.” Because of questions raised by LouisianaVoice, the board subsequently agreed unanimously not to write the letter to Edwards.

A meeting summary of a Troop I (Lafayette) affiliate meeting noted that LaFargue also “took responsibility” for the LSTA’s endorsement of Edwards in the Nov. 21 runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Edwards defeated Vitter by a 60-40 percentage point margin.

Edwards also was one of several candidates who received contributions from LTSA. Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo told the Baton Rouge Advocate last Thursday that the governor had no knowledge that Young was reimbursed by LSTA and that Edwards would return the $8,000 received from LSTA through Young “if the contributions were made improperly.” http://theadvocate.com/news/14574305-124/head-of-state-police-group-says-nothing-wrong-with-his-political-donations-gov-edwards-said-he-will

Louisiana State Police Commission Chapter 14 to which Perry referred specifically says that no member of State Police shall:

  • Participate or engage in political activity, including, but not limited to, any effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office or support or oppose a particular political party in an election;
  • Make or solicit contributions for any political purpose, party, faction, or candidate;
  • Directly or indirectly, pay or promise to pay any assessment, subscription, or contribution for any political party, faction or candidate, nor solicit or take part in soliciting any such assessment, subscription or contribution, and no person shall solicit any such assessment, subscription or contribution of any classified employee in the State Police Service.

http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/c4b8169248104d4286256ead0069b9bd/582526be4d41dca786256ea000667ce2?OpenDocument

So in the end, we have:

  • State police officers who comprise the LSTA board making a political endorsement in direct contravention of rules and regulations.
  • The Superintendent of State Police leaning on the LSTA board in an effort to get the board to send the new governor a letter endorsing him for reappointment.
  • The executive board of the LSTA, comprised of state police officers under the jurisdiction of the State Police Commission making the decision to make more than $45,000 in political contributions—contributions that were laundered through its non-state employee executive director—by the director’s own admission, and without bothering to poll its membership for approval.

All three of which were in violation of State Police Commission regulations.

Any questions?

 

 

 

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The legal counsel for the Louisiana State Troopers Association was true to the time-honored tradition of blaming the messenger for bad news during Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission.

According to lawyer Floyd Falcon, yours truly is the bad guy in all the flap about the LSTA’s contributions to political campaigns during the recent election cycle.

Never mind that active troopers as well as retirees who are members of LSTA have openly voiced their objections to the decision of the LSTA board to launder more than $45,000 in contributions through executive director David Young.

As publisher of LouisianaVoice, I apparently am the problem. I am a “common complainant,” according to Falcon, who said he would refused to respond to any questions put to him by me.

I guess we’re just supposed to sit still and shut up and not ask questions about how our public officials comport themselves. Perhaps Mr. Falcon spent so much time watching the legislature do just that during the eight years of the Bobby Jindal administration that he truly believes that’s how it should be.

Well, Mr. Falcon, my grandfather always taught me to question motives and to never accept things at face value. “Never listen to what a politician says,” he told me over and over. “Listen to what they don’t say.”

And at Thursday’s commission meeting, there was plenty that wasn’t said.

Never mind that the contributions were fronted by Young who was then repaid from a slush fund handed by LSTA: I am the one who writes “convoluted stories,” according to Falcon.

Never mind that Falcon, when asked point-blank, said he did not know why the checks to various political candidates, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, were made in Young’s name.

Never mind that Young said he made the contributions as a non-state employee so “there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution,” which is against state civil service rules.

But the fact is, the state employees, in this case, state troopers, did make the contributions since the LSTA is supported in large part by membership dues from troopers and retired troopers.

When retired state trooper Scott Perry of Opelousas, complained that he was refused copies of checks and receipts after making a public records request, Falcon said those records were available for the asking.

When I asked him to confirm that, and he responded in the affirmative, I then asked why the checks and receipts for reimbursement to Young were not made available, Falcon bristled. “Mr. Aswell is not a member of LSTA. He is a common complainant and I decline to answer his questions,” he said.

If exposing questionable activities of governmental agencies and officials defines me as a “complainant,” it is a mantle I wear with considerable pride, Mr. Falcon’s intended insult notwithstanding. No less a statesman than Thomas Jefferson said, if given a choice of government without a free press or a free press without government, “I would not hesitate to choose the latter.”

Mr. Falcon may not like it, but I am every bit as qualified as a member of the Fourth Estate as any reporter for any medium. I hold a degree in journalism and I spent more than 25 years as a reporter and editor of several Louisiana newspapers and even owned and ran my own news service in the State Capital for a number of years, providing coverage of state government for about 30 newspapers across the state. Along the way I’ve managed to pick up a few awards for feature writing, breaking news coverage, and investigative reporting.

I will put my credentials as a reporter alongside Mr. Falcon’s credentials as an attorney any day of the week. And I damn sure don’t mind being labeled a “complainant.”

At least I didn’t go before the commission to argue that there was nothing for it to investigate as did Mr. Falcon. LSTA, he huffed, is a private entity and not subject to public records requests and not subject to any investigation by the State Police Commission. Well, that certainly makes everything hunky dory. LSTA, he said, is no different than a teachers union or other union of public employees. Well there is one slight difference, Mr. Falcon. The teachers unions and other public employee unions, when political contributions are made, they are done in the name of the union and not through some straw donor. And the union membership generally knows about the endorsements and contributions—or at least knows there will be endorsements and contributions to someone.

One retired member of LSTA, when informed of the contributions said, “Holy s—t! We had no idea this was going on.” Another said LSTA’s membership had never been told of the contributions. “They knew nothing about it,” he said. “We’re not supposed to get involved in politics.” http://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/

Tanny Devillier, a retired state police deputy commander, said he was “one of two members still alive” who founded LSTA in 1969. “LSTA was not created for political contributions,” he said. “It was created to provide support for troopers who suffered misfortune.”

“It almost makes me think there was something suspect here because of the check writing,” said commission Vice Chairman Lloyd Grafton. “Why wouldn’t the association have made the contribution? It looks like someone was trying to circumvent something.”

Perry, who now works as an investigator for the Office of Inspector General, cited Louisiana revised statute 18:1505.2 which says, “No person shall give, furnish, or contribute monies, materials, supplies, or make loans to or in support of a candidate or to any political committee, through or in the name of another, directly or indirectly. This prohibition shall not apply to dues or membership fees of any membership organization or corporation made by its members or stockholders, if such membership organization or corporation is not organized primarily for the purpose of supporting, opposing, or otherwise influencing the nomination for election, or election of any person to public office.”

He said if LSTA establishes a precedent of making campaign contributions, it will encourage candidates for every office “to come to LSTA with their hands out and that’s not what LSTA is for.”

Leon Millet, a retired lieutenant who served more than 20 years with LSP, reiterated the payments were made without the knowledge or consent of the membership. At the same time, he said members who are still active troopers refuse to come forward out of fear of reprisals.

State Police Commission Chairman Franklin M. Kyle III said the commission lacks jurisdiction over private groups such as LSTA but that the commission and LSTA have a “common denominator,” which he described as the shared membership of state troopers. He requested that LSTA provide more documentation on its finances and issued an invitation to the unhappy retired troopers present to reappear at a future meeting.

A spokesman for Gov. Edwards, Richard Carbo, told the Baton Rouge Advocate that if it is determined that the contributions were made improperly, the LSTA contribution to the Edwards campaign ($8,000) would be returned. http://theadvocate.com/news/14574305-124/head-of-state-police-group-says-nothing-wrong-with-his-political-donations-gov-edwards-said-he-will.

Meanwhile, Mr. Falcon, I will happily continue being the “common complainant” whenever I see things that don’t appear in the best interest of the citizens of Louisiana.

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JINDAL MEMENTOES

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Did Bobby Jindal take one last opportunity to defy a state law on his way out the door this week?

Technically, he may have.

Consider the wording of Senate Bill 190 by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge):

The legislature recognizes that it is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner, and that the citizens be advised of and be aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into making public policy. Toward this end, the provisions of this Section, as well as the rest of this Chapter, shall be construed liberally so as to facilitate, rather than hinder, access to public records.

SB 190 was signed into law by Bobby Jindal as Act 145. The bill was designed to lift the veil of secrecy on documents originated by Louisiana’s governors. The new law applies to all documents generated by the governor, his chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and his executive counsel. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=959869

Records of the office of the governor relative to fiscal or budgetary matters, Including, but not limited to records of communications between the legislative auditor’s office and the office of the governor relative to fiscal or budgetary matters, shall be public records.

It exempts for eight years intra-office communications by the governor’s staff.

Record(s) of the office of the governor relating to intra-office communications of the governor and his internal staff may be privileged from disclosure.

But after eight years, even those intra-office communications between staff members shall become public, according to the act.

Any exemption granted by this Section shall lapse eight years after the creation of the record to which the exemption is applicable. After the lapse of eight years, the records of the office of the governor, as maintained by the state archivist and deposited with the state archives program pursuant to R.S. 44:417, shall be public record.

Most important of all, the bill, which became law effective at 12:00 noon on Monday, requires that the governor and his staff preserve all records generated and originated within the executive branch and to transfer all records to the archives division of the secretary of state.

The governor and his internal staff shall preserve all records to which this Section is applicable and at the conclusion of his term of office, the governor shall transfer all such records to the custody of the archives division of the secretary of state. For purposes of this Section, “internal staff” of the governor includes the governor’s chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, executive counsel, and director of policy, but shall not include any employee of any other agency, department, or office.

All this sound well and good. Others had tried and failed to shed the light of public disclosure on the governor’s office. Similar bills had either died a quiet death in committee or, if passed, were vetoed by Jindal.

So how did Claitor’s bill manage to obtain Jindal’s signature enacting it into law?

Well, for starters, it was passed as Jindal’s term was winding down. But even then, word is that Jindal said he would veto Claitor’s bill if it were to take effect while he still occupied the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

So in effect, what Jindal was saying was transparency was a grand and wonderful thing so long as it did not apply to him. It was fine and dandy for his successor to be held accountable but he was determined to veto the bill if it took effect while he was still in office.

No problem, he was assured. The bill would go into effect at precisely 12:00 noon on Monday, January 11, 2016. Jindal was scheduled to leave office exactly one minute later.

The only problem was, the program ran a little late on inauguration day and John Bel Edwards did not actually take the oath of office until 12:25 p.m.

Meanwhile, throughout the weekend leading up to this week’s inauguration ceremonies, Jindal’s minions were frantically deleting thousands of emails in the governor’s office at across the street at Division of Administration.

Obviously, Jindal felt he would no longer be in office when the bill became law and thus exempt from its provisions.

But technically, he remained in office for nearly a half-hour after the new law took effect. Therefore, he was bound by the dictates of the new statute and by deleting those thousands of emails, he was in flagrant violation of the very bill that he signed into law a scant six months earlier.

The provisions of this Act shall be given prospective application only. Any record having been used, being in use, possessed, or retained for use by the governor in the usual course of the duties and business of his office prior to the effective date of this Act shall be subject to the provisions of (the law) as it existed prior to the effective date of this Act.

Granted, many of the emails may well have been mundane in nature. Who cares, after all, what the office staff will order up to the fourth floor of the State Capitol for lunch? But others were certainly germane to the administration of state government and by deleting them, it can only make the job of Jindal’s successor more difficult.

Claitor, contacted about the procedural violation, said he was not surprised. “The administration’s pages on the state website were disappearing, too,” he said.

“In my mind,” he said, “his actions certainly violate the spirit, if not the letter of the law.”

It seems somehow ironic that Jindal’s devious, scheming tactics would in the end expose him to potential prosecution for the illegal dumping of eight years worth of emails.

The term poetic justice also comes to mind.

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