The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) has apparently declared war against LouisianaVoice and two of its own retirees who dared voice their objections to campaign contributions by the association that amounts to little more than money laundering.
On Saturday (Feb. 27) we received a copy of a LETTER TO LSTA MEMBERS which, among other things accuses me of “an abysmal lack of journalistic ethics. (I have redacted the names of the two retirees in order to prevent undue pressure on one in his current employment.) While it was not my intention to get into a verbal exchange with LSTA, I feel I must address certain issues raised in the letter.
First of all, and this is important: I did not choose to re-open the subject of training for Trooper Steven Vincent. Nor was it I who initially raised the issue, but a retired state trooper in a letter to Louisiana State Police (LSP) headquarters. I unwisely wrote about the letter but took down the post at the family’s request. Now it appears that LSTA wants to keep the issue alive which raises the question of just who is the insensitive party here. If LSTA wishes to continue the debate over that story, it will have to do so alone. Out of respect for the family’s wishes, I refuse to be drawn into any further discussion of the subject.
As for any “agenda” the LSTA claims I may have, I can only deduce the association is attempting to deflect attention away from its own actions via the time-worn ploy of going after the messenger. For the record, in 40 years of news reporting for several major daily newspapers, I have enjoyed a healthy and professional working relationship with Louisiana State Police—until July 2014. That seems to be when things started going south.
For those who may not remember, that was when Department of Public Safety (DPS) Deputy Secretary and State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, through his friend State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), attempted to sneak through an amendment to an otherwise benign bill on the last day of the legislative session that would have given Edmonson a retirement income boost of about $55,000, something no other state employee has been allowed to do (except for a lone state trooper in Houma who coincidentally fell under the same qualifications as Edmonson). The bill passed and Edmonson seemed well on his way to enhanced retirement riches despite his having made an “irrevocable” decision years earlier to enter into the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) which froze his retirement at his then-rank of captain.
But a sharp-eyed observer tipped off LouisianaVoice to the deception and we broke the story which was quickly picked up by state and national news publications. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/16/law-change-boosts-pension-for-state-police-leader/
The letter, most likely written at the direction of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, goes after two retired state troopers who had the audacity to request board minutes, checks, receipts, budgets and tax documents. Edmonson is not on the LSTA board but he nevertheless is closely involved in its activities through board members who work for him.
It is interesting to note that no one person signed off on the letter. It closes with “Respectfully, the LSTA Board of Directors.” So, presumably, every member of the board is a party to the letter which said the board respects the right of members “to question LSTA policies and practices.” At the same time, the letter admitted that the board “voted unanimously not to provide any further information” to the two.
It also said it has not seen a groundswell of support from LSTA membership for the two.
That should seem obvious to anyone who has not been in a coma for the past six months. There has been ample evidence on this blog that LSP administration, rather than addressing serious problems within its organization, has chosen to go after whistleblowers, even to the extent of conducting an audit of state-issued cell phones to determine who has been talking to LouisianaVoice. No active trooper in his right mind would lend vocal support to anyone who questioned activities of LSP or LSTA for fear of reprisals.
The biggest concern to the retirees who have challenged LSTA for its endorsement of John Bel Edwards for governor (the first such endorsement in LSTA’s history), Edmonson’s unsuccessful efforts to get LSTA to write a letter to Edwards after his election pushing for the Edmonson’s reappointment (Edwards did reappoint Edmonson to another term as superintendent, most likely at the urging of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association which endorsed him), and the funneling of more than $45,000 in political campaign contributions to several political candidates through LSTA Executive Director David T. Young, who wrote the checks for the contributions on his personal checking account and was later reimbursed by LSTA. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/
Of the more than $45,000 doled out to candidates, $10,500 went to Edwards in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Another $10,250 went to Bobby Jindal in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Edwards has since returned his contributions after his campaign deemed them inappropriate. Jindal has not returned his contributions.
And while the LSTA letter attempts to paint me as lacking in journalistic ethics and while I, as publisher of LouisianaVoice, did report on irregularities within LSP and LSTA, it is important to remember these points:
- I am not the one who tried to manipulate an illegal increase in my retirement income by having an obscure amendment tacked onto a bill in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session.
- I am not the one who secretly laundered campaign contributions through the LSTA executive director’s personal checking account only to “reimburse” him for expenses at a later date.
- I am not the one who denied an accounting of those activities to LSTA members.
- I am not the one who promoted a lieutenant to captain and commander of Troop F after that lieutenant sneaked an underage woman into a casino in Vicksburg and then tried to use his position as a state trooper to bargain his way out of trouble (it didn’t work; he was fined $600 by the Mississippi Gaming Commission).
- I am not the one who chose to mete out only token punishment to a state trooper who was found to have twice had sex with a woman while on duty—once in the rear seat of his patrol car.
- I am not the one who again handed out only a slap on the wrist and then promoted an LSP lieutenant to captain and named him commander of Troop D—after the lieutenant was found to be abusing prescription drugs while on duty and who admitted to flushing extra pills when he learned there was an active investigation into his addiction.
- I am not the one who lied about the Troop D commander’s refusal to take a complaint about one of his troopers from a citizen; I merely posted a recording of his denial after LSP Internal Affairs exonerated the commander following an intensive “investigation.”
- I am not the one who asked LSTA to write a letter of recommendation to Gov.-elect Edwards recommending that Edmonson be reappointed.
- I am not the future State Police superintendent who was disciplined for padding his overtime expenses during a visit to New Orleans by the Pope.
- I am not the one who refused to provide radio logs of a state trooper in LSP Troop D that revealed he was being paid for working when he was, in fact, asleep at home (I received the radio logs from an independent source but again, the records speak for themselves).
- I am not the one who took an early retirement buyout of about $59,000 only to return to work for LSP the very next day—with a promotion.
- Nor am I the one who ignored a directive from then-Commissioner of Administration Angéle Davis to repay the money, only to have the problem mysteriously go away when the daughter of Paul Rainwater, Davis’s successor, was given a job at LSP.
- I am not the one who is responsible for that same retire/rehire having her son-in-law on LSP payroll as an employee of the State Police Oil Spill Commission—at the very time he was working offshore for a private firm.
- I am not the one who hired Senate President John Alario’s wife who somehow manages to supervise LSP personnel in Baton Rouge—from her home in Westwego—at $56,300 per year.
- Nor am I the one who hired Alario’s son, John W. Alario, as director of the DPS Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission at $95,000 per year.
No, I am not the one responsible for any of these things; I merely reported them. But the LSTA board must possess sufficient intelligence to understand that each of these things is a matter of public record and that I could never have carried out any vendetta, perceived or otherwise, against LSP unless what I wrote was accurate.
LSTA, in its letter to its membership, accuses me of taking “uncorroborated information at face value, never question the motivation of the source, and offer it for public consumption without ever seeking to determine its truthfulness.” They know better.
I invite the LSTA board to cite a single instance of my reporting anything that was “uncorroborated” either by public records or by interviews with multiple sources.
I also invite the actual author if the LSTA letter to come forward and identify himself and not hide behind the anonymous sobriquet of “LSTA Board of Directors.”