Mike Edmonson got his way but Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) Executive Director Cathy Derbonne did not give him the satisfaction of having his puppet commission fire her.
She quit. But she said she did so under duress.
The commission plowed through the first three items on the agenda before Chairman T.J. Doss, the state police representative on the board, abruptly announced there would be a 30-minute recess in proceedings.
There was probably a good reason for the recess. During almost the entirety of testimony of retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet, who is one of the commission’s harshest critics, Doss was busy texting someone (we suspect it may have been Edmonson)
He continued texting during part of the recess but different commissioners kept caucusing in corners, offices and around the coffee pot but were careful to keep their meetings down to three members or fewer. If four had met anywhere in the room, there would have been a quorum and LouisianaVoice would have politely asked to sit in. Instead, whenever a fourth entered the discussion, someone else would leave.
Just to be on the safe side, LouisianaVoice submitted a formal, written public records request for the content of all of Doss’s texts sent and received during Thursday’s meeting. On the outside chance he was texting commission attorney Lenore Feeney, we are prepared to demand proof of that by having LSPC provide us with the “To” and “From” portions of the texts with the actual messages redacted. All other messages are to be provided intact.
Millet did get Doss’s undivided attention at one point when he alluded to a report that Doss had addressed a meeting of the Louisiana State Troopers Association at which he was quoted as saying his goal was to be elected chairman of the commission and to “get rid of the executive director.” Doss, of course, denied saying that.
Upon re-convening, contract attorney Taylor Townsend read Derbonne’s resignation letter and the commission then voted on whether or not to accept the resignation (I always thought when one quit, it was his or her decision). Member Calvin Braxton and Jared J Caruso-Riecke voted no on accepting her resignation letter.
Voting to accept were members Doss, Monica Manzella, Eulis Simien, Jr., and Donald Breaux.
Caruso-Riecke, it should be noted, contributed $3,500 to John Bel Edwards and $2,000 to his brother, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards. Daniel Edwards is a member of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association which endorsed John Bel Edwards for governor and once elected, John Bel Edwards re-appointed Edmonson as State Police Superintendent as a condition of the sheriffs’ association’s endorsement, proving that life—political life, at least—is indeed a circle.
LouisianaVoice attempted to ask Caruso-Riecke why he voted not to accept Derbonne’s resignation and he refused to comment, choosing instead to take the opportunity to chastise LouisianaVoice for yesterday’s post that said Edmonson OWNED HIM.
Well, quite frankly, we didn’t see anything during Thursday’s meeting that would change our mind.
Why is that?
Simply because LouisianaVoice happened to learn it was Doss and Caruso-Riecke who placed the two items on the LSPC agenda that were to have dealt with Derbonne’s “professional competence” and whether she would be continued or terminated.
So, basically, Caruso-Riecke, aware that the four votes needed to end Derbonne’s eight years as executive director were locked in, he could vote “no” and come off as the nice guy by taking the high road, confident that it was a done deal.
Now if he just hadn’t been one of those who prepared the agenda and handed it to Derbonne for her signature….
The obvious question is what trigger was the commission going to pull to terminate Derbonne? Conspicuously displayed behind commissioners was a screen with a paused video of proceedings of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget at which Derbonne testified last year. The video was never shown because Derbonne resigned but what it would have shown was legislators asking her who approved the LSPA’s budget and she inadvertently replied, “The Commission.” The commission budget is actually approved by the commission before being sent to the legislature for final approval and it was that gaffe members were going to use to hang her.
Well, that brings up an obvious question: Back around October, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson appeared before the commission to ask that a new position of lieutenant colonel be created to oversee finances for State Police. He assured commission members that (a) the position was not to be created for any specific individual and that there would be no additional expenses for the position. Before anyone could say cut and dried, Jason Starnes was promoted into the position and promptly given a $25,000 raise.
Edmonson lied and he did so deliberately. Will he be fired as well?
Edmonson, back in 2014, engineered the insertion of an AMENDMENT to an otherwise benign bill in the closing minutes of the legislature that would have given him an additional $55,000 per year in retirement income—illegally, because Edmonson had locked his retirement in years before when he entered the state’s DROP Program, which froze retirement income at his rank at that time. A lawsuit by State Sen. Dan Claitor killed the raise. Was he fired for that? Check that box No.
JOHN BEL EDWARDS, a state representative at the time, said he would seek a “full investigation” of the furtive attempt to approve the raise. Instead, he reappointed Edmonson to head Louisiana State Police (LSP).
When a Troop D State Trooper was found to be doctor-shopping in order to stockpile prescription narcotics, which he was taking while on duty, Edmonson’s solution was to first promote him to Troop D Commander and later, when the incident became public, to make a LATERAL TRANSFER.
When a State Trooper was found to have had sex with a woman in his patrol unit, he was SUSPENDED for 36 hours and reduced in pay for 18 pay periods but was allowed to work overtime to make up the reduction in pay.
When a married State Trooper escorted an underage woman into a Vicksburg, Mississippi CASINO floor to play slot machines and blackjack, he was busted and attempted unsuccessfully to use his position as a trooper to negotiate his way out of a fine. Edmonson promoted him to Troop F Commander.
When Department of Public Safety (DPS) Deputy Undersecretary JILL BOUDREAUX was allowed to take an early retirement buyout incentive and cash in her leave time and then return to work the next day—with a promotion to Undersecretary, Edmonson allowed her to keep $59,000 in buyout and annual leave payments—and her job—despite instructions from the Division of Administration for her to repay the money.
Edmonson sat on a HARASSMENT complaint on a Troop D State Trooper for more than a year.
Louisiana State Troopers’ Association Executive Director David Young kept his job after it was revealed that he laundered state troopers’ funds through his personal bank account in order to make substantial—and illegal—campaign donations, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Edwards. A political crony of Gov. Edwards was hired to torpedo the investigation—and did just that.
And when a handful of retirees, members of LSTA, complained about the contributions, they were politely booted out of the association. You don’t cross Edmonson’s boys and not pay a price.
Through all these disruptive incidents, Edmonson sailed right along, never receiving any disciplinary action. He will say he has no control over the LSTA, but that organization’s members don’t go to the bathroom without a hall pass from Edmonson.
He skates when he lies about how the promotion of Jason Starnes would cost no additional money but Derbonne is offered up for sacrifice when she inadvertently says the commission approves her budget.
Capping off the bizarre events on Thursday, reporters attempted in vain to get any member or either of the two commission attorneys—Taylor Townsend and Lenore Feeney—to say something, anything, about the meeting and Derbonne’s resignation. Each one, Doss, Braxton, Caruso-Riecke, Breaux, Manzella, Simien, Townsend and Feeney, seemed to have somewhere to go in one helluva hurry. Everyone was scurrying around like a bunch of rats in a burning meth lab.
Townsend, all but sprinting from the room, was pursued by a reporter who asked, “What did you guys talk about during the break?”
Townsend’s RESPONSE, made over his right shoulder as he exited the room was, “You don’t want to get into that.”
Well….yeah, we do.
The most humorous—and frustrating—exchange took place when reporters followed Doss as he entered a private room with Maj. Durell Williams, who is over Louisiana State Police Internal Affairs.
Doss, just before entering the room, turned and faced reporters who asked for a more detailed explanation of events. He referred reporters to Feeney, “the attorney in the red jacket,” saying that she could address their questions.
But when FEENEY was confronted, she rushed past reporters, saying, “I’m not been authorized to make a comment.” It was a classic game of bureaucratic ping pong with reporters serving as the little plastic ball.
So there you have it, folks. The wagons have been circled; Starnes, with no accounting experience, has been put in charge of LSP finances; Edmonson has consolidated his base by eliminating another potential critic and gaining complete control of the LSPC; the Sheriffs’ Association is happy as a pig in the sunshine, and Derbonne has been sacrificed at the Altar of Deniability.
And to think, Edmonson gets away with all the above—and more—mismanagement but when I, as a five-year-old, threw a candy wrapper out of my grandfather’s truck window, I felt a pop on the back of my head and I could see Jesus at the end of a long tunnel, waving me to the light.
But not to worry. Edmonson is off to Rome with his latest benefactor, Gov. John Bel Edwards, to meet with the Pope on the issue of child sex trafficking so all is right with the world.
(But we can’t help but wonder if he will get into trouble like he did when another Pope came to Louisiana.)