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: firstname.lastname@example.org
We eagerly await that response.