The second and third members of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) resigned Thursday in the wake of earlier reports by LouisianaVoice that they had contributed to political campaigns in violation of the Louisiana State Constitution.
Their resignations of William Goldring and commission Chairman Franklin Kyle came on the heels of a nine-page report prepared by Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend. Taylor was contracted by commission Executive Director Cathy Derbonne after LouisianaVoice and the Baton Rouge Advocate revealed that they and a third member, retired appellate court judge Freddie Pitcher, faced removal from the commission because of their political campaign contributions while sitting as commission members. http://theadvocate.com/news/15297801-173/three-members-of-louisiana-state-police-commission-may-be-ousted-over-campaign-contribution-issue
Pitcher resigned several weeks ago prior to Taylor’s being contracted to prepare the report.
The violations of the prohibition against political activity was an even more volatile issue because the commission was debating whether or not to initiate an investigation of the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) over its laundering association money through its own executive director David Young. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/10/state-police-commission-members-probing-lsta-appear-to-have-committed-similar-campaign-contribution-violations/
In his report to Derbonne, Townsend noted that statements contained in his report were supported by public records maintained by the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program, the Louisiana Secretary of State, State Police Commission oaths, and the Federal Elections Commission—the same sources cited by LouisianaVoice.
Quoting from the Louisiana State Constitution, Townsend said, “Members of the State Police Commission and state police officers are expressly prohibited from engaging in political activity. More specifically, Section 47 provides that ‘No member of the commission and no state police officer in the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity…make or solicit contributions for any political party, faction, or candidate…except to exercise his right as a citizen to express his opinion privately…and to cast his vote as he desires.’”
Willful violation of the relative provisions, he said, “is a crime, a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both,” Townsend said.
“The integrity of the State Police Service requires your immediate action and attention,” he said in his conclusion. “The law, specifically the Louisiana Constitution…and State Police Commission Rule 14.2, are both clear: ‘Members of the State Police Commission are expressly prohibited from participating in political activity.’ The findings of fact outlined (in his report) clearly show evidence of multiple violations of the applicable law by Mr. Kyle and Mr. Goldring. As you know, the authority to remove members of the commission is invested in the Governor. Barring voluntary resignation by these members, I see no alternative but to ask the Governor to call a public hearing.”
At Thursday’s meeting it was learned that Kyle had submitted his resignation letter prior to the 9 a.m. meeting after reviewing an advance copy of the report. Goldring said through the brief meeting but submitted his resignation letter later on Thursday.
In his letter, which was sent by email, Kyle said, “I was provided a copy of the report by Mr. Townsend last night regarding commissioners that (sic) have broken LSPC rules…
“Given this information, I think it proper to tender my resignation. Attached, please find a letter to the governor regarding such.”
Goldring wrote, “After reading Mr. Townsend’s legal interpretation of the rules and regulations for Louisiana State Police Commissioners, I respectfully have no issues with his interpretation. The work of the commission is extremely important and should not be distracted and, therefore, I believe it is in everyone’s best interest for me to resign immediately.”
Pitcher resigned by letter dated March 29. “Now that I am fully aware of the prohibition, I feel that I must step down as a commission member…” he wrote.
With the resignations, the commission is far from finished with its work regarding the LSTA’s funneling nearly more than $45,000, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Gov. John Bel Edwards through Young to political candidates last year. Even though the LSTA is a private organization as opposed to a public entity, its membership is comprised of state troopers who, like the LSPC members, are prohibited from political activity.
Even with the resignations, the commission still has a quorum but will probably delay initiation of an investigation. Young and the LSTA are beyond the commission’s purview but it does have authority to conduct a probe of which members of the association made the decisions to reimburse Young for his contributions as well as the decision to endorse Edwards in last November’s runoff election between Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Those responsible for the decisions would apparently be in violation of the constitution.