Today’s scheduled meeting of the State Police Commission to decide whether or not to conduct an official investigation into the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) has been cancelled because of an illness in one commissioner’s family and because of severe flooding in north Louisiana where some of the commissioners live.
The delay may have been convenient for three of the commission members in that the delay will give them time to formulate an explanation for their own actions.
The commission is charged with the responsibility of investigating individual state troopers accused of wrongdoing and to preside over appeals of punishment handed out to troopers.
The issue before commissioners is the controversy that arose after the LSTA funneled campaign contributions through the organization’s executive director to political candidates. State law prohibits individual state troopers from participating in political campaigns in any form, including endorsements and making campaign contributions.
Because the association’s funding comes largely from membership dues, the laundering of the contributions through the personal account of Executive Director David Young and the ensuing reimbursement of Young for “expenses” prompted outcries from LSTA membership.
Those protests were mostly voiced by retirees because active troopers are reluctant to openly criticize the association’s activities for fear of reprisals and LSTA, in a recent letter to members, seized on that lack protests from active members in an attempt to shift the blame on what it characterized as disgruntled retirees who had been mostly inactive until the issue flared up.
In more familiar parlance, that is known as shooting the messenger.
Among the more visible recipients in recent years, Bobby Jindal and Gov. John Bel Edwards each received in excess of $10,000 and the LSTA even set the precedent of endorsing Edwards in last November’s general election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter but stopped short of complying with a request from State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson for the association to write a letter of endorsement for Edmonson’s reappointment by Edwards.
Edwards did, in fact, re-appoint Edmonson but following the flap over the campaign contributions, returned the money he received from LSTA. Jindal did not return his contributions.
Retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet said on Wednesday that the commission appears to be “circling the wagons” in its own defense, given revelations that three of the commission member violated the same statutes against political involvement the LSTA members are being accused of violating. http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/b713f7b7dd3871ee86257b9b004f9321/85d048928ae51fa086256e9a004cc8e8?OpenDocument
Civil service employees and state troopers are prohibited from engaging in political activity, including making political contributions to candidates.
In the LSTA case, the Code of Governmental Ethics, Section VIII of R.S. 18:1505.2 (B) also lists the making of contributions or loans “through or in the name of another” as a prohibited practice. http://ethics.la.gov/Pub/Laws/cfdasum.pdf
LSTA legal counsel Floyd Falcon told the commission that he did not know why the checks to various political candidates were made in Young’s name.
Young, however, admitted the maneuver was an attempt by LSTA to attempt to circumvent civil service and commission rules when he told the commission he made the contributions as a non-state employee so “there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.” https://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/15/louisianavoice-exclusive-at-long-last-it-can-be-disclosed-that-the-reason-for-all-the-problems-at-state-police-is-us/
On Wednesday, an announcement was posted on the commission’s Web page by commission Chairman Franklin Kyle of Mandeville that said Thursday’s meeting was cancelled “due to the lack of a quorum.” http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/b713f7b7dd3871ee86257b9b004f9321/3723e021aee8206586256e9a004cf303?OpenDocument
But then Kyle went on to say, “I thought it proper to keep the public informed of the ongoing investigation into State Police Commission rules violations” requested by state police retirees.
Kyle said that on March 3, a rule to show cause was issued to the retirees “to produce the names of Louisiana State Troopers who allegedly violated State Police Commission rules in addition to any evidence they have that supports the allegations. Those gentlemen have until March 18, 2016, to do so, and additional subpoenas may be issued for any additional evidence that will assist the investigation. Upon receipt of sufficient evidence, a public hearing will be scheduled. There will be more information at the April meeting of the (commission), as well as subsequent meetings, until this investigation is completed.”
Kyle is putting the onus on two retired state troopers to come up with the names of LSTA members who may have initiated the contributions? Isn’t that the job of the commission as an investigative board? The retirees have sought records from LSTA and their efforts have been thwarted at every turn, yet they are expected to come up with the names?
Mr. Kyle, it is the commission which has subpoena power, not a couple of retirees. Do your job and issue the subpoenas. That’s how investigations are conducted.
But then again, perhaps Mr. Kyle and a couple of his cohorts have good reason to delay the investigative process. After all, they are under the same rules as state troopers and civil service employees.
Yet, LouisianaVoice has obtained campaign finance records which show that commission members Kyle, Freddie Pitcher, William Goldring, the wives of Kyle and Goldring and one of Goldring’s companies (Magnolia Marketing) have been quite active in making their own political contributions during their time of service on the commission.
In fact, Kyle was appointed to replace shipbuilder-banker Boysie Bollinger of Lockport because of Bollinger’s political activity.
Now that we know of their own participating in making campaign contributions during their tenure on the commission, it will be more than a little interesting to see how the investigation of LSTA will be handled. Will they recuse themselves, leaving the investigation to the four remaining board members?
Or will the commission saddle the retirees with the impossible task of coming up with names of troopers involved in the decision to make the contributions through Young and to reimburse him for his trouble?
Of, as often is the case, will the probe simply quietly go away with no action taken?
This is Louisiana, after all, and we do have a long-standing tradition to uphold.
Here are the links to the campaign contributions of the three members, their wives and Goldring’s business: