Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

Former Lake Charles Police Department Deputy Chief Thomas Bell has been terminated from LCPD and is under indictment for malfeasance in office. Local media has reported he is suspected of allowing his secretary Janine Blaney to get paid for hours she did not work. Janine Blaney has been charged with public payroll fraud for claiming 45 hours of regular time and 54 hours of overtime she allegedly did not work.


This case has many similarities to allegations at Troop D except for one main difference. The amounts suspected by LSP are much greater. Sources have alleged Picou was allowed to work a small portion of his shift but get paid for the entire shift of 12 hours for the better part of a decade far outweighing the allegations against Blaney. Louisiana Voice submitted public records requests for numerous documents to determine if the allegations were accurate in August. The public records request apparently served as the motivation to initiate the largest known internal affairs investigation/inquisition in the history of the Louisiana State Police.

When LouisianaVoice made a second public records request (Sept. 6) for the State Police investigation file on Picou, we received the following response from LSP Attorney Supervisor Michele Giroir:

“…in response to your below public records request, I have been advised that the information that you seek is related to an ongoing administrative investigation.  Therefore, the records are not subject to release to you at this time pursuant to R.S. 40:2532 and Article 1 Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974.”

Some of the records requested were from three years ago. The investigation files on Trooper Ronald Picou from three years ago are now under investigation suggesting there are serious concerns those charged with stopping the reported allegations of payroll fraud failed to take action and allowed it to continue. Troop D Commander Captain Chris Guillory’s investigation into Picou’s conduct was reportedly only focused on finding the whistle blowers.

Trooper Picou was supervised by retired Lieutenant Jim Jacobsen who is now running for sheriff of Beauregard Parish. Picou remained on Jacobsen’s shift every year which troopers say is far outside the norm. Troopers normally rotate shifts every year. After Jacobsen’s retirement, Picou was allowed to remain on the same shift as LT Paul Brady, also of Beauregard Parish, who reportedly allowed Picou to continue his activities even over the objections of other supervisors. After the latest investigation started, Picou was removed from the supervision of LT Brady.


The photo above is reportedly from the retirement party for Jacobsen held at Picou’s home. From left to right, Captain Chris Guillory, LT Paul Brady, Trooper Ronald Picou, and Retired LT Jim Jacobsen. The two in dark shirts are unidentified and their faces have been blocked out.

Deputy Chief Bell is facing criminal charges for allegedly allowing an employee to claim a total of 99 hours. We have to be clear that Bell is not suspected of getting paid for hours he did not work. He is charged for allegedly allowing it to happen as a supervisor. Our records request for radio logs was an effort to confirm the allegations Jacobsen, Brady, and Guillory allowed Picou to commit payroll fraud. Louisiana Voice has spoken with state police officials who confirm the radio logs do support the allegations.

The troopers involved in the investigation have been issued gag orders and have not spoken to us. Through sources not under gag order, we have learned the internal affairs section at LSP is conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations against Picou and others. We will continue to monitor this situation and will continue to issue relevant requests for records until the truth is exposed.

Ironically, Jacobson is attacking the incumbent Beauregard Parish sheriff for mishandling taxpayer money and for intimidation of deputies. He also claims that all the troopers named in previous LouisianaVoice posts have been cleared and that the investigations are over. Not true. One state trooper in Troop D, Jimmy Rogers, recently resigned following a series of LouisianaVoice posts about allegations of harassment and domestic abuse by Rogers and the apparent reluctance of LSP to thoroughly investigate those claims.

As for Jacobson’s claim that “all the troopers” named in our reports have been cleared, we can only say that LSP officials have indicated to us that investigations are ongoing and that further disciplinary measures are under consideration.

It does appear, however, that LSP will not address these allegations before the election on November 21. Beauregard Parish voters have the right to know Jacobsen’s involvement before going to the polls. Jacobsen is not under a gag order, so here is our offer:

LouisianaVoice will publish any response Jacobsen offers explaining these allegations. Our email address is: louisianavoice@cox.net

We eagerly await that response.



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“It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

—State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), commenting on the “deliberative process” exemptions pushed through the legislature in his 2008 “ethics reform” package, as quoted by the Center on Public Integrity’s 2015 state rankings.

“Jindal’s ‘gold standard’ is riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

—The Center for Public Integrity, criticizing Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” of ethics, in its 2015 state rankings report.


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While Bobby Jindal is touting all the wonderful innovations, budget cuts, employee reductions, etc., that he has initiated in Louisiana, The Center for Public Integrity has a few items he may wish to soft peddle as he goes about trying to convince Iowans that he’s really serious about running for President and not the joke we in Louisiana know him to be.

The center has just released its 2015 integrity grades for each state and it isn’t very pretty for Louisiana.

In fact, the state received a flat-out grade of F and ranked 41st out of the 50 states overall with a composite score of 59 out of a possible 100. Only seven states had lower composite scores—Pennsylvania and Oregon (58), Nevada (57), Delaware and South Dakota (56), and Michigan and Wyoming (51).

Mississippi (61) and Alabama (67), normally found competing for Louisiana on lists of all things bad, were well ahead of Louisiana with rankings of 33rd and 7th, respectively. Alaska had the highest score at 71, good enough for a C. Michigan was the worst with its 51.

Louisiana wasn’t alone in getting a failing grade of course; there were 10 others but in the other states we can only assume the governors are at least attempting to address their problems. Jindal isn’t. He capitulated long ago as he set out on his quest for the brass ring that continues—and will continue—to elude him. Though he has only two months to go in office, he in reality abandoned us three years and 10 months ago—right after he was inaugurated for his second term. Truth be told, he has been at best a distracted administrator (I still can’t bring myself to call him a governor) for his full eight years and at worst, guilty of malfeasance in his dereliction of duty.

Harsh words, to be sure, but then his record screams out his shortcomings (loud enough to be heard in Iowa, one would think) and his lack of a basic understanding of running a lemonade stand, much less a state.

States were graded on 13 criteria by the Center for Public Integrity:

  • Public Access to Information—F
  • Political Financing—D
  • Electoral Oversight—D+
  • Executive Accountability—F
  • Legislative Accountability—F
  • Judicial Accountability—F
  • State Budget Processes—D+
  • State Civil Service Management—F
  • Procurement—D+
  • Internal Auditing—C+
  • Lobbying Disclosure—D
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies—F
  • State Pension Fund Management—F


The scores given each of these, and their national ranking were even more revealing.

Public Access to Information, for example scored a dismal 30, ranking 46th in the country.

In the scoring for Internal Auditing, on the other hand, the state’s numerical score was 79, but was good enough for only a ranking of 32nd.

Likewise, the grading for Procurement (purchase of goods and contracts) had a numeric score of 69, good enough to rank the state 25th. But numeric score of 64 for Lobbying Disclosure while rating only a D, was still good enough to nudge the state into the upper half of the rankings at 24th.

One of the biggest areas of concern would have to be the state’s numeric grade of only 40 for Judicial Accountability, plunging the state to next to last at 49th. (This is an area that has flown under the radar but one the legislature and next governor should address.)

The lowest numeric score was 30 for Public Access to Information, fifth from the bottom at 46th. LouisianaVoice can certainly attest to the difficulty in obtaining public records, having found it necessary to file lawsuit against the state on three occasions in order to obtain what were clearly public records. Even after winning two of the three lawsuits, we still experience intolerable foot-dragging as agencies attempt to stall in the hopes we will give up.

We will not. If anything, the stalling only strengthens our resolve to fight for the public’s right to know.

To compare Louisiana to other states in each of the 13 criteria, go here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18822/how-does-your-state-rank-integrity

In the final days of the 2015 legislative session the state Senate approved a bill that removed the exemptions pushed through by Jindal in his first month in office in 2008 which kept most government records from disclosure. State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) was quoted in the report as saying, “It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

Jindal called his changes his “gold standard,” but the report said it is “riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

That looked like a promising reversal to the secrecy of the Jindal administration but then the legislature agreed to postpone implementation of the new law that abolished the abused “deliberative process” exception until after Jindal leaves office next January.

Jindal also managed to gut the state’s ethics laws early in his first year. Enforcement of ethics violations was removed from the State Ethics Board and transferred to judges selected by a Jindal appointee. That prompted long-time political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport to say that while the state’s ethics laws looked good on the surface, there was “no effective enforcement and that breeds more than just a system of corruption, but an acceptance of those practices,” the center’s report said.

The center reported that it is not Louisiana’s ethics laws that produced such a poor grade, but the day-to-day interpretations of the laws by various departmental legal advisors.

Since the center’s first survey of public integrity on a state-by-state basis, no fewer than 12 states have had legislators or cabinet-level officials charged, convicted or resign over ethics-related issues, the report said.

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Complaints and protests had no effect on the decision by Louisiana Tech David Vitter to restrict access to Thursday night’s gubernatorial debate on the Ruston campus, so LouisianaVoice has submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request under Louisiana’s Public Records Law (R.S. 44:1 et seq.) for any documentation revealing Vitter’s thumbprints on the unprecedented decision to bar access to the debate to students, the public and the media.

It is as obvious as that great big elephant in the room that Vitter is Bobby Jindal reincarnated as far as his unwillingness to take unscripted questions or questions not approved in advance. His propensity for appearing only in tightly controlled venues is doing little to blot out the ugly memory of eight years of Jindal’s avoidance of unpleasant questions.

All politicians, of course, would prefer to appear at events that evidence overwhelming support and if a politician is willing to take the risk, he will encounter hostile crowds or, at least an enterprising journalist who isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. Vitter, however, has taken his aversion to such risks to a level at which even Jindal would be envious.

His reasons are quite obvious. He refuses to entertain, let along answer, the BIG question: “Senator, did you break the law?”

Ask Edwin Edwards that and he would likely say, “Sure, but you’re going to have find out for yourself which one it was.”

Ask Paul Newman in his lead role in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean that, and he would simply tear that page out of the law book and say, “That’s a bad law. I just repealed it.”

Ask Jindal that and he’d probably hire Jimmy Faircloth to file suit against the law.

But you just can’t ask Vitter that. Plain and simple, he’s not going to put himself in that position, which presents a conundrum of sorts or, as the late Johnny Carson might say, “A sticky wicket.” The problem I have with that is this man is asking us to place our trust in him and to elect him Governor when he is not willing to accept questions about his moral character.

Moral character. An interesting term and one might justifiably ask what that has to do with his ability to govern. After all, Woodrow Wilson, LBJ, JFK, FDR, Bill Clinton, Warren Harding, and 14 other presidents are rumored to have carried on affairs in the White House—some with male partners.

For the answer, I will only point to the fact that Vitter ran as a family values candidate and in 1998 Vitter opined that Clinton “should resign…and move beyond this (Monica Lewinski) mess.” http://cenlamar.com/2010/08/21/can-we-be-honest-about-david-vitter/

But now, after being linked to prostitutes in Washington and New Orleans, doesn’t have so much to say on the subject of infidelity. As a candidate for Louisiana’s chief executive officer, he has instituted his very on “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

And he’s making damn sure no one gets to ask that. Hence, the controlled venues, including barring the media and the public from a “public debate” in a public facility on the campus of Louisiana Tech University Thursday night.

Which must beg the question in the minds of any citizen of Louisiana who can get past the latest exploits of those wild and crazy Kardashians: what else might he refuse to share with the electorate of this state? Will he, like Jindal, shut off the governor’s office from all outside inquiries, including those about legitimate state business? Will he invoke the “deliberative process” as did Jindal for eight long years?

He was uncomfortable enough at Thursday night’s debate when the question of his attack ads against fellow Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle arose. Of course, he denied his hand in the attacks, saying that he didn’t buy the ads; that The Fund for Louisiana’s Future did.

Well, The Fund for Louisiana’s Future just happens to be his very own Super PAC and while federal law dictates that candidates not involved themselves in the decision-making process of plotting strategy and ad buys with Super PACs, never doubt for a nano-second that it was his hand stirring the pot. After all, Vitter gave a quarter-million dollars of his own money to The Fund for Louisiana’s Future.

So, in a sufficient state of outrage over Vitter’s exclusion of the very public he is asking to elect him, I, Tom Aswell, on behalf of LouisianaVoice has submitted the following public records request of Louisiana Tech President Les Guice:

Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully request the following information:

Please allow me to review all communications, including text messages, twitter messages, emails and any other written correspondence between any representative of Louisiana Tech University (including any member of the university’s administration and/or the university public information office from U.S. Sen. David Vitter and/or any member of his Senate and/or campaign staff or representative/spokesperson for David Vitter, including aides, public relations firms, advertising agencies, Fund for Louisiana’s Future, or anyone else serving in a capacity to promote his gubernatorial campaign. Such request is limited to any and all discussions of the gubernatorial debate of Thursday, October 15, 2015 at Louisiana Tech University, including, but not limited to any and all parameters, restrictions, and/or criteria of said debate, including any advance questions submitted or to be submitted to such spokespersons and/or David Vitter, any demands, suggestions and/or stipulations as to who may or may not be allowed to attend said debate and any reasons and/or justification given to support such demands, suggestions and/or stipulations.

Just so there are no misunderstandings about what information I am entitled to, below are some major requirements of the Louisiana Public Records Act (R.S. 44:1, et seq.) and remedies that are available to us for non-compliance with the law:



To be “public,” the record must have been used, prepared, possessed, or retained for use in connection with a function performed under authority of the Louisiana Constitution, a state law, or an ordinance, regulation, mandate, or order of a public body. This definition covers virtually every kind of record kept by a state or local governmental body. La. R.S. 44:1(A)(1). In Louisiana, a “public record” includes books, records, writings, letters, memos, microfilm, and photographs, including copies and other reproductions.


In Louisiana, any person at least 18 years of age may inspect, copy, reproduce or obtain a copy of any public record. La. R.S. 44:32. The purpose for the document request is immaterial, and an agency or record custodian may not inquire as to the reason, except to justify a fee waiver.


A request to review or copy a public record is made to the custodian of the records. The custodian is the public official or head of any public body having custody or control of the public record, or a representative authorized to respond to requests to inspect public records.

You may also make an oral request in person to inspect a public record. At that time, the public record must be immediately presented to you, unless the record is not immediately available or is being actively used at the time. If the public record is not immediately available, the custodian must promptly notify you in writing of the reason why the record is not immediately available and fix a day and hour within three days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) when the records will be made available.

Enforcing The Public Records Law

A custodian who determines a record is not public, must provide written reasons, including the legal basis, within three working days. If a requester is denied a public record by a custodian or if five business days have passed since the initial request and the custodian has not responded, the requester may file a civil suit to enforce his right to access. The custodian bears the burden of proving that the record is not subject to disclosure because of either privacy rights or a specific exemption. The law requires the courts to act expeditiously in such suits and to render a decision “as soon as practicable.” If the requester prevails in the suit, the court will award reasonable attorney’s fees and other costs. If the requester partially prevails, the court may, at its discretion, award reasonable attorney’s fees or an appropriate portion thereof. (The custodian and the public body may each be held liable for the payment of the requester’s attorney’s fees and other costs of litigation; however, the custodian cannot be held personally liable for these fees and costs if he acted on advice from a lawyer representing the public body.) The court may also award the requester civil penalties of up to $100 for each day the custodian arbitrarily failed to give a written explanation of the reasons for denying the request. In addition, if the court finds that the custodian arbitrarily or capriciously withheld a public record, it may award actual damages proven by the requester to have resulted from the custodian’s action. (The custodian may be held personally liable for the actual damages unless his denial of the request was based on advice from a lawyer representing the public body.)

In addition to civil remedies, the law also provides criminal penalties. Anyone with custody or control of a public record who violates the law or hinders the inspection of a public record will be fined $100 to $1,000, or imprisoned for one to six months upon first conviction. For a subsequent conviction, the penalty is a fine of $250 to $2,000 or imprisonment from two to six months, or both.

We amended this request about five minutes after we sent it after we received additional suggestions from a reader. The amended requests reads thus:

Any and all documents related to the Louisiana gubernatorial debate held on the Louisiana Tech campus on October 15, 2015.

Requesting specifically any and all e-mails, documents, audio files, digital files, and printed matters related to the debate rules, venue choice, reasons for not allowing an audience and press to be able to watch the event.

Requesting specifically any and all e-mails, documents, audio files, digital files, and printed matters from or to David Vitter, his office, his staff, including Luke Bolar, and others to any employee or volunteer at LA Tech since April 15, 2015. Requesting specifically any and all e-mails, documents, audio files, digital files, and printed matters from or to President Les Guice with the words “debate,” Vitter, “Edwards,” “Angelle,” “Dardenne,” “Senator,” “Governor,” or “Sen.”

Requesting a written rationale for not allowing students, staff, faculty, or the community to view the debate in person on campus.

Requesting a written rationale for the decision to allow certain radio and television stations to broadcast the event. and not allowing others.

Requesting a list of names, titles, and e-mail addresses for all persons involved in any way with planning, promoting, facilitating or decision-making related to the debate.

(Disclaimer: Not that it matters, but I am a 1970 graduate of Louisiana Tech.)

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The hammer has fallen on Troop D.

LouisianaVoice has learned of a meeting in Lake Charles on Tuesday at which time state police were informed that they could consider the entirety of Troop D to be under investigation by State Police Internal Affairs.

We’re not certain of the reason for the latest IA scrutiny but we feel confident that it may be a not-so-thinly veiled message to troopers to cease talking to LouisianaVoice.

That’s what generally happens when events begin to make the guys at the top a little uncomfortable and the necessity to quell rumblings in the ranks becomes a top priority. The natural thing to do is to go after the messenger. Administration just doesn’t like whistleblowers.

It’s a time-tested formula that is pockmarked with successes and failures of varying degrees—but mostly, in the final analysis, abject failure. We’re seeing it with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and with Edward Snowden for blowing the cover off illegal surveillance on the part of the U.S. government. We’re seeing with Hillary Clinton’s email debacle. We saw it with Nixon’s plumbers in the Watergate scandal. We saw it with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski.

It’s been an ongoing crusade of the Jindal administration for five years now, including placing state offices off-limits to LouisianaVoice and singling out and ostracizing the wrong state employees as sources for some of our stories. In the end, it only made Team Jindal out to be even bigger fools.

Such tactics usually do blow up in the collective faces of the perpetrators, those with the most to hide. It has been our experience that the more the Jindal administration tries to keep the lid on unsavory activity, the more determined state employees become to serve as anonymous sources to expose unscrupulous officials and questionable activities. LouisianaVoice is getting more solid leads to stories these days than ever before. Another reason for that is that where Jindal has only contempt for state employees, we maintain that no one should have his dignity undermined by a superior or an elected official with an agenda.

Take the long-simmering situation over at Louisiana State Police Troop D in Lake Charles. Events that occurred five years ago are just now coming to light and the glare of that light should concern each of us about the leadership in the vanguard of the state’s top law enforcement agency.

The reason we’re only now learning of these events? Failure on the part of top administration to take decisive action in the first place but instead to attack those coming forward with information of inappropriate and even illegal activity within Troop D.

It would seem enough that State Police Commander Col. Mike Edmonson condoned but then denied his part in an effort last year to sneak a bill amendment through the legislature that would’ve added about $50,000 per year to his retirement. It was only through an anonymous tip that LouisianaVoice was able to break that story and Edmonson’s furtive financial windfall was subsequently aborted.

Perhaps it is the mesmerizing effect of too many photo-ops with the governor that has given him delusions of celebrity status. But now, as more and more sordid details are leaking out of Lake Charles, the long shadow of doubt is being cast over Edmonson’s qualifications—and ability—to continue to lead and command respect from Louisiana’s state troopers.

The matter of Capt. Harlan Chris Guillory is an excellent example. Edmonson, instead of suspending Guillory for violating State Police regulations on reporting the use of prescription medication, went after those who prompted the investigation of Guillory’s drug use, imposing much stricter penalties on the messengers than on the offender.

Guillory, in fact, was promoted in rank and made commander of Troop D following an Internal Affairs investigation of allegations of prescription drug abuse—allegations that ultimately were proved accurate.

Capt. Barry Branton, a supervisor with an unblemished record who approved a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) on Guillory was placed on administrative leave for several months and demoted in rank to lieutenant on July 20, 2010. The findings against him included making false statements to Internal Affairs investigators, failure to report suspected violations by a fellow officer, failure to conform to laws, improper dissemination of information, unsatisfactory performance, providing false information on departmental records and for conduct unbecoming an officer.

Branton appealed and ultimately reached a settlement with State Police. He agreed to accept a demotion to lieutenant but won a major concession by having his suspension expunged from his record and by receiving full back pay.

Lt. Chris Ivey, who first suspected a prescription drug problem on the part of Guillory and who initiated the PMP, was cited for unsatisfactory performance and for providing false information on departmental records.

Edmonson tagged Ivey with a 48-hour suspension without pay but he appealed and the State Police Commission overturned Edmonson’s penalty but did not award Ivey attorney’s fees. The story didn’t end there, however. Edmonson, determined to extract his pound of flesh, appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeal through the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Instead of reversing the State Police Commission, however, the First Circuit not only upheld Ivey’s reinstatement but also awarded him $1,306 in legal fees.


So while Internal Affairs investigators Kevin Ducote and Kelly Dupuy (wife of Edmonson Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy—which raises a whole new set of questions about impartiality and fairness of the investigation itself) prepared a 10-page report on Guillory’s use of prescription drugs, believed to be OxyContin, while on duty, a series of interviews produced an 80-page report highly critical of Branton and Ivey.

It was that 80-page report that sent a clear message to Branton and Ivey, whose concerns about Guillory were, in the end, validated. They were punished and demoted while Guillory was promoted from lieutenant to captain—and to Commander of Troop D.

And that same message went out to the rest of Troop D on Tuesday: Don’t rock the boat.

But don’t take our word for it. Here is that 80-page LSP BRANTON REPORT (It’s long and takes awhile to load, so be patient.)

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