Seriously, Gov. Edwards, it’s time you pulled your head out of the sand and took a long, hard look at the Department of Public Safety (DPS), notably the Louisiana State Police (LSP), beginning at the top.
The longer you wait to take action to rein in this runaway agency, the more certain it becomes you are going to be embarrassed at some point in the future.
Take tomorrow’s (Aug. 11) meeting AGENDA, for example.
Even as Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne was warning earlier this week that we can expect another budgetary shortfall, Item 5 on tomorrow’s commission agenda is to rescind a general circular relative to the revision of the Uniform Pay and Classification Plan. This is so that state police, already the recipients of two major pay increases totaling 50 about percent last year, may get yet another raise. It’s worth noting that state classified employees have gone without pay raises of any description for six years now.
Then there is Item 7 which calls for the creation of an additional unclassified position of Lieutenant Colonel as Deputy Superintendent, Chief Administrative Officer especially to accommodate Maj. Jason Starnes—the same Jason Starnes who briefly was allowed to live rent-free in the State Police Training Academy barracks when he separated from his wife.
That would bring to something around one and one-half Lieutenant Colonel positions but more significantly, this is a thinly-veiled attempt by State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to consolidate his power at LSP.
This is a move to circumvent a complaint filed in May over Edmonson’s promotion of Starnes as Interim Undersecretary of Management and Finance, even going so far as to post his “new” position on the State Police Web page.
Starnes, a classified member of LSP, was transferred by Edmonson to the unclassified non-state police service position. That move, the complaint said, was in violation of Rule 14.3(G), which says:
- No classified member of the State Police shall be appointed, promoted, transferred or any way employed in or to any position that is not within the State Police Service.
The proposed creation of the new unclassified position will place Starnes in direct supervision of his estranged wife, Tammy, Audit Manager for LSP.
We first announced the proposed appointment of Starnes by Edmonson in May https://louisianavoice.com/2016/05/16/mike-edmonsons-appointment-not-official-yet-senate-committee-set-to-consider-his-confirmation-on-tuesday/ and in June we announced that Edmonson had pulled the promotion following filing of the complaint. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/
LouisianaVoice was first to report two years ago that Edmonson had orchestrated an attempt to tack an amendment onto a House bill on the final day of the 2014 legislative session which would have given him an additional $55,000 per year in retirement pay in contravention of an irrevocable option he had exercised years before that froze his retirement at a lower level. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/11/generous-retirement-benefit-boost-slipped-into-bill-for-state-police-col-mike-edmonson-on-last-day-of-legislative-session/
More recently, the executive director of the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) was found to have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to political campaigns on behalf of LSTA. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/
While individual state troopers, like their civil service counterparts in state government, are prohibited from taking part in political campaigns, including making campaign contributions, LSTA Executive Director David Young made the contributions in his name and was reimbursed by the association. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/
An attorney and former state legislator, Taylor Townsend of Natchitoches, was given a $75,000 contract to conduct an investigation of the money laundering scheme. But true to form for ethics investigations in Louisiana (an ethics complaint against LSP has been pending for months with no indication of a ruling forthcoming any time in the foreseeable future), Taylor made a 10-minute presentation at last month’s meeting in which he recommended that no action be taken. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/14/expectations-of-state-police-commission-report-on-lsta-campaign-contribution-probe-dies-with-a-pitiful-whimper/
A recording of the Troop I Chapter of LSTA was made available to Townsend but he has refused to release a copy of that recording in which it was admitted that the LSTA was in violation of state law in making the contributions. Taylor’s refusal to release the recording was based on his assertion that the tape “was never entered into evidence,” an explanation that makes no sense whatsoever in terms of conducting a thorough investigation.
Moreover, Townsend, in additional attempts to prevent his “findings” from being made public, did not prepare a written report to the board on which to base his recommendation of no action.
Which brings up a little problem regarding Commission Rule 16:18 regarding LSPC investigations. That rule says the following:
- “The Commission shall, upon concluding its public hearing and investigation, render a decision in writing, which shall contain its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and pertinent orders and instructions; and shall file same with the Director. The decision shall be final on the day it is filed. The Director shall furnish copies to all respondents and other interested parties.”(emphasis added.) http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/c4b8169248104d4286256ead0069b9bd/e3b8c6726b53168886256ea000683760?OpenDocument
So for $75,000, we have a so-called “investigation,” but no written report, no written decision, nothing apparently submitted into evidence, and a recommendation of no action.
Really? I could have done that for $10,000 and given the commission change back.
There is only one person in the entire state who could have neutered that investigation in such a manner.
And we thought Bobby Jindal was underhanded and secretive.
John Bel Edwards is a man who confided in me of his intentions to run before he officially announced for governor. For whatever reason, he wanted my feedback. He then ran on the West Point Honor Code. He even told me he had no intentions one way or another as to the reappointment of Edmonson. Obviously, he was being less than truthful.
Now, it seems, he cares little for others’ opinions—unless they are members of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. His West Point Honor Code has somehow morphed into a code of political expediency, expedience dictated by the sheriffs’ association.
Edwards needs to turn his attention from the sheriffs’ association’s whispers in his ear and direct his focus more on appointees who are working surreptitiously to build an impenetrable wall around their fiefdoms designed to enhance their own power bases.
Beginning with that abortive pension increase amendment and continuing through the personnel debacles in Lake Charles, to administering little or no discipline in cases of troopers having sex in their patrol cars while on duty, to sneaking underage women into a casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to allowing the LSTA to make campaign contributions (do you really think the LSTA would do something like that without his blessings?), Edmonson has brought a succession of embarrassments down upon the LSP.
The question now becomes: How much more is Edwards willing to tolerate?