Like the proverbial farmer who hit his mule in the head with a two-by-four to get his attention, Leon “Bucky” Millet got the attention of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) at its monthly meeting on Thursday (Aug. 11).
Millet, a retired State Police lieutenant, didn’t use a club; his weapon of choice was a tersely-worded, three-paragraph statement he read into the record in the meeting’s opening moments—a statement that called into question the very constitutionality of the board itself and the legality of any actions it has taken in recent months.
State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson also appeared before the commission to seek a promotion for Maj. Jason Starnes in order to legitimize Edmonson’s earlier appointment of Starnes as Interim Undersecretary, Custodian of Records of the Office of Management and Finance.
In another sticky matter, the board once again voted to kick the can down the road on the issue of the proposed 3 percent longevity raise for state police officers. That can was kicked down the road 30 days at the LSPC’s July meeting but this time they delayed action for 60 days.
That’s so they can continue to lobby Gov. John Bel Edwards to affix his signature to a revision to General Circular 180 of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Uniform Pay and Classification Plan.
Bobby Jindal attempted to lock state troopers into an automatic longevity pay plan on his way out the door last November as part of his exit strategy but never signed the new plan as required by law.
But on June 1, Cathy Derbonne, LSPC Executive Director, published TRANSMITTAL SHEET NO. 58 on the LSPC Web page that pointed out that Article X, Section 48(C) of the Louisiana Constitution mandates that “any rule determination affecting wages or hours shall have the effect of law and become effective only after approval by the governor and subject to appropriation of sufficient funds by the Legislature (emphasis Derbonne’s).
“As of June 1, 2016, an approval by the Governor has not been received and there is currently insufficient funding to implement the revisions,” she wrote.
“The Revision of State Police Commission Rule Chapter 6 Uniform Pay and Classification Plan is hereby rescinded in its entirety,” she wrote (emphasis Derbonne’s). The pay plan approved by the LSPC last November is contained in GENERAL CIRCULAR 180
The proposed longevity pay plan would have given troopers raises of 3 percent per year for the last two years, or slightly more than 6 percent.
LSP currently has 18 majors and lieutenant colonels making at least $140,000 per year, or about $2.5 million. That $140,000 was up from $93,000 before the last pay raise of July 2015.
LSP payroll is currently more than $80 million. An across the board 6 percent pay raise would cost about an additional $5 million, plus retirement, medical and related benefits
at a time when state civil service employees are in their sixth year of no pay raises and at a time the state is anticipating yet another budgetary shortfall. Here is a copy of the State Police Pay Grid.
Millet’s statement that he read, which was in the form of a formal complaint, read:
Please accept this correspondence as a formal request pursuant to State Police Commission Rule Chapter 16, Investigations. I am asking for an investigation regarding the violation of the Louisiana State Constitution, Title 10, Section 43.
Apparently the commission members, with the exception of one, were appointed in violation of the intent as well as the letter of the law in Title 10, Section 43.
This would bring into question, what constitutional authority does this commission have to act in any official capacity, including any official acts taken at the July 14 (2016) commission meeting?
In his complaint, Millet was reference Article X, Part IV, Section 43(C) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 which stipulates the following:
- The presidents of Centenary College at Shreveport, Dillard University at New Orleans, Louisiana College at Pineville, Loyola University at New Orleans, Tulane University of Louisiana at New Orleans, and Xavier University at New Orleans, after giving consideration to representation of all groups, each shall nominate three persons. The governor shall appoint one member of the commission from the three persons nominated by each president. One member of the commission shall be elected by the classified state police officers of the state from their number as provided by law. A vacancy for any cause shall be filled by appointment or election in accordance with the procedure or law governing the original appointment or election, and from the same source. Within thirty days after a vacancy occurs, the president concerned shall submit the required nominations. Within thirty days thereafter, the governor shall make his appointment. If the governor fails to appoint within thirty days, the nominee whose name is first on the list of nominees automatically shall become a member of the commission. If any nominating authority fails to submit nominees in the time required, or if one of the named institutions ceases to exist, the governor shall make the appointment to the commission.
LouisianaVoice had earlier made a public records requests for any such letters of nominations from the university presidents. Only a single letter from Centenary College President Kenneth Schwab to then-Gov. Mike Foster dated Jan. 15, 2003, was provided.
Upon hearing Millet read his complaint, Taylor Townsend, the Natchitoches attorney and former State Senator under contract to the commission to conduct the investigation into the LSTA funneling campaign money through its executive director to several political candidates in violation of state law, said, “We need to go into executive session.”
Commission member Jared J Caruso-Riecke immediately the motion and the commission voted unanimously to go into closed session. At that point, I asked the reason for the executive session.
“We don’t have to give a reason,” replied Townsend.
“Yes, you do, it’s the law,” I said, referencing Louisiana Revised Statute 42:16 which says, in part: “…the reason for holding such an executive session shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting.”
Townsend hesitated for a moment and then said, “It’s to discuss personnel matters.”
That seemed rather odd in that the only “personnel matters” to have come before the board was Millet’s complaint about the legality of the board itself. Apparently, they went behind closed doors to talk about themselves.
Edmonson’s appearance before the commission was to correct his promotion of Starnes to Interim Undersecretary in violation of state police regulations. As a classified employee, Starnes was ineligible for promotion to a non-state police service position. By promoting him to lieutenant colonel, he moves into an unclassified position where he will be in direct supervision of his ex-wife, Tammy, an Audit Manager for LSP.
Starnes, who has no degree and who has no experience in accounting, will sign off on all expenditures in Management and Finance and was promoted into that position over Deputy Undersecretary Erin Bielkiewicz who is a CPA.
He succeeds Jill Boudreaux to the position. Boudreaux retired (again) in February after her faux-retirement-rehire in April 2010 in order to take advantage of a retirement buyout incentive offered by the state. She was able to pocket about $59,000 and return to work two days after her first “retirement.” She was ordered to repay the money, but never did. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/
By putting Starnes into the position over the more qualified Bielkiewicz, Edmonson further shores up his fiefdom by placing his most trusted personnel in key positions within the State Police hierarchy.
Just another routine day for LouisianaVoice while sniffing around LSP headquarters.