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U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, himself the victim of an unhinged would-be mass killer, says the Second Amendment means the rights to bear arms is “unlimited.”

I respectfully disagree. (Full disclosure: I own a lever-action .22 rifle I inherited from my grandfather and two handguns. I don’t hunt and I fervently hope I never have occasion to use those weapons. And I don’t harbor irrational fears that someone is coming to take them from me.)

Whenever there is a mass shooting like the one in Las Vegas, there are three things of which we can be certain:

  • There will be renewed calls to address the problem of the easy accessibility to guns, especially automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
  • There will be those members of Congress (and the occasional POTUS), the beneficiaries of large campaign contributions by the NRA who will say, “Now is not the time for that discussion.”
  • There will be those, mainly gun owners steeped in the indoctrination that people will be coming for their guns, who will pose the not-so-rhetorical question, “Why is it when a horrible incident like Las Vegas, certain people start hammering gun control?” (That was a question actually asked in the comment section of a recent LouisianaVoice post.)

Taking the reader’s question first, my response would be because that’s when the image of the carnage brought by these weapons is the freshest on our minds. It’s because politicians are obligated to regurgitate the cliche that they are “praying for the victims” (when most of them haven’t bother to pray in years, if ever, and, truth be known, won’t now) and we are obligated to sigh and shake our heads and ask why this keeps happening and why isn’t something done to keep guns away from these people before our attention is again diverted to LSU and Saints football.

As for that second certainty, I would pose my own question: When the hell is “the right time,” you imbecile? What is your idea of a “right time”—when the outrage has subsided and we return to our daily routines like so many sheep while you continue taking campaign cash from the NRA?

If that is what you consider the “right time,” then I suggest the “right time” has come for you to resign from Congress and enlist in the military so that you can deploy to some hot spot on the planet that you, as a member of Congress, have deemed important to U.S. interests so you can get your ass shot off defending some vague concept of Liberty and the American Way which I suspect is little more than protecting the financial well-being of war profiteers—big oil, weapons and military aircraft manufacturers, and those companies who move in afterwards to “rebuild” with their contract cost overruns of $100,000 a week like a certain Baton Rouge firm with a contract to help rebuild Iraq.

Speaking of defending America from aggression, has it occurred to anyone else that we didn’t really have much of a terrorist threat in this country until we started sticking our collective noses into the affairs of other countries? Have we, in our indignation of Russia’s interference in our election, ever tallied up the number of elections in other countries that we have interfered in? A hint: the number is more than 80, including places like Central America, South America, Africa, Iraq, Iran, France, Italy and even Israel. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-us-intervention-foreign-elections-20161213-story.html

Try defending America’s honor with statistics like that. Try coming to terms with those facts while popping a blood vessel over some jock kneeling during the National Anthem.

That’s why I was just a little astonished at Scalise’s erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment. But it is consistent with his political viewpoint and those of his constituents who, incidentally, are the same ones who once elected white supremacist David Duke to the Louisiana Legislature and who elected Bobby Jindal to Congress from the same First Congressional District that Scalise now represents.

Scalise was on Meet the Press Sunday morning when host Chuck Todd asked him about his view on gun laws after the Las Vegas shootings. Instead of answering Todd’s question, Scalise gave the usual B.S. political two-step, saying the focus should be on “the amount of people across the country who over the course of a day or week or month use guns to protect themselves against criminals.”

Huh? But…but, Congressman, did those people at that concert in Las Vegas have an opportunity to defend themselves against the assailant’s automatic weapons? A handgun wouldn’t have been much help in that situation, now would it?

Todd then asked, “Is the right to bear arms unlimited or is there a limit?”

“The Second Amendment really predates the Bill of Rights,” Scalise responded, as if that was an answer to the question. A do-si-do to go with the two-step.

Todd pressed on. “But is it unlimited?”

Incredulously, Scalise finally said, “It is.” (Click HERE to see the interview.)

Okay, I’ll give him that the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2008 in the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling that the Second Amendment “codified a pre-existing right” and that it “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with the service in a militia.”

That was Scalise’s apparent reference to the right to bear arms predating the Bill of Rights. But Scalise did not quote the rest of that opinion, which said:

  • “The right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Bingo. Or should that be touché?

Let’s return to Scalise’s contention that the Second Amendment gives unlimited rights to bear arms.

First of all, I thought Scalise was a conservative but that’s a pretty damned liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment.

But let’s assume for a moment that he’s correct.

Carrying that logic to its natural conclusion, a most liberal interpretation would have to be applied to all the other amendments. Thus, we would have an “unlimited” right to say and write anything we want about anyone at any time simply because the First Amendment gives us unlimited rights to speech and press.

I could, for example, write that Scalise once had a romantic relationship with a nanny goat but had to break it off when his donkey got jealous. Now, is that true? Probably not. I don’t think he owns a donkey. But the by God First Amendment gives me unlimited rights to say and write that.

And if someone wanted to practice a religion that called for its adherents to slaughter all red-haired, left-handed men with big feet by beating them to death with a badminton racket, then the First Amendment gives me unlimited religious freedom so there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.

And if that same religious leader and all his followers wished to hold a parade through downtown Baton Rouge to display the racket-mutilated carcass, then hey, no parade permits need be obtained because the First Amendment gives them the unlimited right to free assembly.

No, Congressman, the Second Amendment does not give unlimited rights. But I know you, like most of your contemporaries in both the House and Senate long ago sold your souls to the NRA, so you are obligated to stick to the game plan despite your own tragic near-death experience with a deranged sociopath who happened to get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon.

And I understand your reluctance to talk about legislation making it more difficult for these people to obtain weapons.

Now is just not the time to discuss it.

 

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Former Director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Murphy Painter was acquitted of all the dubious charges brought against him by the Jindal administration after Painter refused to bend the rules for granting alcohol permits to a vendor for Tom Benson’s Champions’ Square in New Orleans. (See our original story HERE.)

But now, three years after his hard-fought battle to clear his name, events are only now coming to light that illustrate just how far the Jindal administration was willing to go in violating Painter’s Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure in order to build what it thought would be a slam dunk criminal case against him.

Instead, the state ended up having to pay Painter’s legal fees of $474,000.

Documents obtained by LouisianaVoice also show that investigators lied—or at least distorted the truth beyond recognition—about Painter and that the state tampered with and/or destroyed crucial evidence, much of it advantageous to Painter’s case.

Benson, after all, was a huge contributor to Jindal campaigns and the state’s agreeing to lease office space from Benson Towers at highly inflated rates apparently was not enough for the owner of the Saints; that liquor permit needed to be approved, rules notwithstanding, and when Painter insisted on playing by the book, he was called before the governor and summarily fired and federal charges of sexual harassment were doggedly pursued by an administration eager to put him away for good.

But he fooled them. He was acquitted, and he filed a civil lawsuit against his accuser, which he won at the trial court level but lost on appeal (See story HERE). He currently has another civil lawsuit pending against the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Now the state is dragging that litigation out in the hopes that with his limited finances and the state’s ability to draw on taxpayer funds indefinitely, he can be waited out until he no longer has the financial resources to seek the justice due him.

Briefs, motions, requests of production of documents, interrogatories, continuances—all designed to extend the fight and to keep the lawyers’ meters running and the court costs mounting—are the tactics of a defendant fearful of an adverse ruling. If that were not the case, it would be to the state’s advantage to try the case ASAP.

And never mind that every brief, every motion, every interrogatory, every request for production, and every continuance means the state’s defense attorneys are getting richer and richer—all at the expense of taxpayers who are the ones paying the state’s legal bills.

But all that aside, LouisianaVoice has come into possession of documents that clearly show the state was in violation of Painter’s constitutional rights and that an investigator for OIG simply colored the truth in the reports of the OIG “investigation” of complaints against him.

That investigator, who now works for the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner’s office, was inexplicably dismissed from Painter’s civil lawsuit against the state by the First Circuit Court of Appeal. Painter has taken writs on that decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court as that civil litigation rocks on in its sixth year of existence. I’ll get back to him momentarily.

The events leading up to Painter’s firing and subsequent federal indictment began innocently enough with a March 29, 2010, letter to Painter from then-Department of Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges. She was writing pursuant to a complaint lodged by ATC employee Kelli Suire who would later the catalyst in Painter’s firing. Bridges, however found no violations by Painter regarding the complaint of “unprofessional” behavior toward Suire, but said concerns about his management style would be left “to the proper authority to discuss with you at a later date.”

Then on Aug. 13, 2010, more than four months following Bridges’s letter, Baton Rouge television station WBRZ reported that Painter “resigned” and the OIG’s office simultaneously raided ATC offices, seizing Painter’s state desktop and laptop computers, three thumb drives, notes, affidavits, reports, maps, ATC documents, telephone reports, and a 2010 Dodge Charger assigned to Painter.

 

There was only one problem with the timing.

Bonnie Jackson, 19th Judicial District Judge, did not sign the search warrant authorizing the raid and search of Painter’s office until Monday, Aug. 16.

That would appear to have made the previous Friday’s raid—pulled off three days before a judge had signed the search warrant—illegal and a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment which says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (Emphasis added.)

The second violation, the destruction of evidence was not learned until three years later when Painter’s computer was finally returned and he found that some 4,000 files had been deleted. Much of that, of course, would have been routine state business related to ATC operations but there was other information contained in the files, Painter says, that could have helped exonerate him from the charges that were lodged against him by the Jindal administration. It is not only illegal to destroy evidence, but also to destroy state documents—even if they do not constitute evidence.

The third violation, this one by OIG, involved the apparent misrepresentation of testimony given in interviews by an attorney and his assistant who had experienced difficulty in obtaining a liquor license on the part of his client, a business with multiple out-of-state owners, a situation which made the licensure procedure more involved.

The attorney, Joseph Brantley, and Painter had exchanged emails whereupon Painter invited Brantley to come to the ATC offices so that the problem could be worked out. “Why don’t you come by here around 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 if that works for you tomorrow and we will go over ours versus yours,” Painter said in his email at 12:26 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008. Brantley responded three minutes later, asking, “Is it OK if I bring the lady that has been doing the primary work (on the file)?”

OIG investigator Shane Evans, who now works for the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner’s office as its chief investigator, then laid the groundwork for the sexual harassment charges to be brought against Murphy when he wrote in a report of his interview with Brantley on Oct. 13, 2010:

“Mr. Brantley advised that Toby Edwards was a former assistant (paralegal) of his, that she is an attractive woman, and that after the meeting in late 2008, Mr. Painter granted the permit immediately.”

In his report of his interview with Edwards, also on Oct. 13, 2010, Evans wrote:

“During the meeting with Mr. Painter, he told Ms. Edwards that he had run her driver’s license and looked at her photograph. He said that was the only reason that he had granted them the meeting. (That is blatantly false: Copies of the Dec. 14, 2008, email exchange between Painter and Brantley obtained by LouisianaVoice clearly show that Painter invited Brantley to a meeting before he ever knew of Edwards’s existence.) She took his statement as the only reason he decided to meet with them is because he thought she was attractive. Ms. Edwards said his statement and demeanor made her very uncomfortable. She said she was very glad Mr. Brantley was present.

“She also said that she found it unusual that the permit had been repeatedly turned down but once she met with Mr. Painter face-to-face, her client immediately received the permit.”

Another report by OIG, the result of a second interview with Edwards on Nov. 5, 2012, described both Brantley and Edwards as “uncomfortable” during the meeting with Painter.

A second interview of Brantley on Nov. 7, 2012 produced yet a fourth OIG report that said, in part, that Edwards wore a “professional,” semi-low-cut shirt. “Mr. Brantley noticed that Mr. Painter noticed and glanced at Ms. Edwards’s chest during the meeting.

“…According to Mr. Brantley, Mr. Painter ‘clearly looked at’ Ms. Edwards’s chest,” the report says. Mr. Brantley even told Ms. Edwards that Mr. Painter was attracted to women, maybe more ‘than the average guy.’ Although Ms. Edwards would have attended the meeting anyway, Mr. Brantley took her to the meeting ‘for effect.’ He thinks that the meeting was more successful than it would have been otherwise if Ms. Edwards had not attended.

Pretty damning stuff, right?

Well, it would be except for affidavits signed and sworn to by Brantley and Edwards (now Pierce), which provide quite a contrasting version of events.

Brantley, after reviewing the OIG reports, flatly denied ever telling Evans or any other OIG investigator that Edwards took part in the meeting with Painter because Painter was fond of females.

“I brought her because she had more knowledge about the file than did I and she was more capable of answering any questions that may have arisen.”

Edwards pointedly noted that the meeting took place in a room “with all glass windows and doors.” She said she also learned at the meeting that Painter was a long-time acquaintance of her father, a former deputy sheriff in East Feliciana Parish and joked to her that he didn’t know her dad “had a daughter that was so pretty.” She said he then excused himself for a few minutes and later returned with a license for Brantley’s client.

Here are both of those affidavits:

 

So, with a little tweaking of the facts, a man’s career was ruined, his occupation stripped from him and his finances gutted—all because he insisted that a major campaign contributor submit the proper forms before obtaining a liquor license for his Sunday parties outside the New Orleans Superdome.

This is Louisiana at its worst, folks, and it’s a clear example of how the political establishment can crush you if you don’t have the right contacts and sufficient financial resources to match those of the state’s taxpayers.

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Before Louisiana voters trek to the polls in record low numbers on Oct. 14, there are a few things to consider about State Sen. Neil Riser, one of four candidates for the job of state treasurer, who, besides failing to help landowners being fenced out of their hunting lands, actually took campaign cash from a family member of the one erecting the fences.

Riser, author of that infamous bill amendment in the waning minutes of the 2014 legislative session that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an additional $100,000 or so per year in retirement benefits, has received some other interesting contributions as well.

The Louisiana Safety Association of Timbermen gave $2,500 to his senate re-election campaign in March 2014 and only 18 months later filed for BANKRUPTCY on behalf of its self-insurance worker’s compensation fund, leaving quite a few policy holders in the lurch.

Several nursing homes have contributed $2,500 each to his treasurer campaign. The nursing home industry, heavily reliant on state payments on the basis of bed occupancy, consistently benefited from favorable legislation by the Louisiana Legislature over the past decade that discouraged home care for the elderly.

But by far the biggest beneficiary of Riser’s legislative efforts is Vantage Health Plan, Inc., of Monroe which contributed $1,000 in 2015 to his Senate re-election campaign and another $1,000 to his treasurer campaign in March of this year.

Vantage has received six state contracts totaling nearly $242 million during the time Riser has served in the State Senate.

But it was Riser, along with Sens. Mike Walsworth of West Monroe, Rick Gallot of Ruston and Francis Thompson of Delhi, who pushed Senate Bill 216 of 2013 through the Legislature which cleared the way for the state to bypass the necessity of accepting bids for the purchase of the state-owned former Virginia Hotel and an adjoining building and parking lot. That was done expressly for the purpose of allowing Vantage to purchase the property for $881,000 despite there being a second buyer interested in purchasing the property from the state, most likely for a higher price.

By law, if a legislative act is passed, the state may legally skip the public bid process to accommodate a buyer. This was done even though a Monroe couple, who had earlier purchased the nearby Penn Hotel, wanted to buy the Virginia and convert it into a boutique hotel. Thanks to Riser and the other three legislators, they were never given the opportunity.

And Vantage, from all appearances, really got a bargain. The building was constructed in 1925 at a cost of $1.6 million and underwent extensive renovations in 1969 and again in 1984, according to documents provided LouisianaVoice, all of which should have made the property worth considerably more than $881,000. Read the entire story HERE.

Internal documents revealed concerns by Vantage that if the building were to be offered through regular channels (public bids), “developers using federal tax credits could outbid Vantage.”

Another document said, “VHP (Vantage Health Plan) fears that public bidding would allow a developer utilizing various incentive programs to pay an above-market price that VHP would find hard to match.”

Finally, there was a handwritten note which described a meeting on Nov. 1, 2012. Beside the notation that “Sen. Riser supports,” (emphasis added) there was this: “Problem is option of auction—if auction comes there is possibility of tax credits allowing a bidder to out-bid.”

All of which raises the obvious question of why did the Jindal administration turn its back on the potential of a higher sale price through bidding, especially considering the financial condition of the state during his entire term of office? We will probably never know the answer to that.

One might think that that kind of effort on its behalf would be worth more than a couple of thousand in campaign cash to Vantage. Vantage could have at least shown the same gratitude as the relative of the owner of 55,000 of fenced hunting property in Riser’s district.

When landowners in Winn, Caldwell and LaSalle parishes felt they were being fenced out of their hunting rights back in 2013, they did what any citizen might do: they went to their legislator for help–in this case, Riser, who paid the obligatory lip service of expressing concern for landowners Wyndel Gough, Gary Hatten, and Michael Gough but who, in the end, did nothing to assist them.

Instead, as so often happens today in politics, he sold out to the highest bidder.

One the $5,000 contributors to Riser’s campaign is none other than Hunter Farms & Timber, LLC, of Lafayette. An officer in that firm is Billy Busbice, Jr., of Jackson, Wyoming.

William Busbice Sr., one-time chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, and Junior’s father, is a partner in Six C Rentals Limited Partnership of Youngsville, LA. Which purchased and proceeded to fence in some 55,000 acres of prime hunting land a few years back.

The original LouisianaVoice story on that dispute can be read HERE.

All of which only serves to underscore the long-held perception that we in Louisiana, by continually electing the type of public officials who are interested only in the next big deal, get the kind of representation we deserve.

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After viewing WVUE-TV Lee Zurik’s report on the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), several things are abundantly clear:

  • If a State Police report is accurate, commission member Calvin Braxton must go but it has to be a package deal with fellow member Jared Caruso-Riecke also being shown the door.
  • The commission, embroiled in tawdry political theatrics, is no longer functional if, indeed, it really ever was. It is incapable of autonomy and must be abandoned and Louisiana State Police (LSP) brought back under the management of the Louisiana Civil Service Commission.
  • In the alternative, if it is to remain intact, there must be put in place a prohibition against a state trooper’s serving as chairman.

LouisianaVoice has been upfront in its past support of Braxton, primarily because he is something of a maverick who refused to take his marching orders from former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. He often bucked the rest of the board and he asked probing questions that made some other members more than a little uncomfortable. The commission needed such a member.

Our 180-flip, based in large part on Zurik’s excellent REPORT Monday night, isn’t because Braxton had a couple of tickets fixed—or that he apparently imposed on then-LSPC Executive Director Cathy Derbonne to write letters on his behalf in efforts to put the fix in.

Who among us has never had a ticket taken care of by friends in the right places? In the spirit of full disclosure, I have on a couple of occasions. My first was as a 21-year-old and was issued as the result of an accident that I still maintain, after 52 years, was not my fault. Not knowing any better, I showed up in court in Farmerville in Union Parish only to have District Attorney Ragan Madden (he represented the 3rd Judicial District, which includes Union and Lincoln, my home parish) meet me at the back of the courtroom. “What’re you doing here? I dismissed your ticket. Go home.”

Wow. And I didn’t even ask. Guess he felt the accident wasn’t my fault either.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I also paid a few tickets along the way, even though in two cases, I was offered the fix, but politely declined. Also in the interest of full disclosure, none of the tickets were for anything major (other than the accident)—a rolling stop and a couple of speeding offenses but only about 15 mph over the limit.

When fellow blogger and occasional LouisianaVoice contributor Robert Burns suggested the ticket-fixing would force Gov. John Bel Edwards to remove Braxton from the commission, my first rhetorical question was: How many tickets do you suppose the governor’s brother, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, may have fixed over the years?

No, it wasn’t the attempt to get tickets fixed that concerned me. It was Zurik’s revelation that Braxton had apparently attempted to have the state trooper who arrested his daughter for DUI transferred and that he implied that as a member of LSPC, he might be disinclined to help the trooper should he ever find himself before the commission for disciplinary action.

Those allegations were contained in a lengthy report by Troop E Commander Captain J.D. Oliphant to the Region 3 Command Inspector that was brandished by Zurik.

Such behavior on the part of a member of the commission that oversees the actions of Louisiana State Troopers in unacceptable. Period.

Granted, Zurik blindsided Braxton at the LSPC meeting last Thursday. Some call it “ambush journalism,” but Braxton has exhibited a reluctance to talk to anyone in the media, LouisianaVoice included, and the direct approach was apparently the only one available to Zurik.

And Braxton’s sudden memory loss concerning his communications with Derbonne was clumsy and was certainly less than convincing.

So why would I insist that Caruso-Riecke be removed from the commission along with Braxton?

Not because he has been a divisive force since his appointment by Gov. Edwards, though he has certainly been that.

My contention is that while Braxton has been issued tickets and then tried to get them fixed, Caruso-Riecke has made it a point of considerable pride that he avoids tickets because…

He cheats. He openly violates the law and even boasts about it on his internet Web page.

You can hear it in his own words HERE and about his wager with Team Texas HERE.

You see, Riecke, who is worth an estimated $70 million, has a lot of time on his hands to pursue his hobby as a star in a TV reality show in which he uses his modified Mercedes in cross-country rally competition, tearing down the nation’s highways at speeds of up to 140 mph.

His vehicle is equipped with two in-dash police scanners with more than 1,000 channels—concealed by a fake dashboard, a handheld scanner and several cellphones, all used to evade law enforcement on public highways.

But here’s the real clincher: his car has 10 separate license plates to help evade law enforcement.

That raises the obvious question of how one gets 10 separate license plates issued to the same vehicle. Or does he pull plates from other cars to use to escape police?

Well, he is a licensed auto dealer, so perhaps he has access to plates from other vehicles. Or maybe he registered the vehicle in multiple states—sort of like Donald Trump’s claim of multiple-state voter registration fraud.

But no one appears to be concerned about that. When Floyd Falcon, attorney for the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), fired off a LETTER to Gov. Edwards on July 11, 2016, asking that Braxton be removed from the commission, he included a laundry list of 20 specific complaints and also included a four-page State Police Incident Report by Oliphant and submitted to Region 3 Command Inspector Kevin Reeves (since named as Edmonson’s successor as Superintendent of State Police with Oliphant promoted to Major and moved to Reeves’ former post as Region 3 Command Inspector) which detailed Braxton’s alleged threats against the State Trooper who arrested his daughter.

Falcon has been strangely quiet about Caruso-Riecke’s somewhat cavalier attitude about speeding, eluding law enforcement by illegally switching license plates (and yes, it is definitely illegal). But there seems to be no indignation over his thumbing his nose at the law.

But Riecke won’t be removed by Edwards.

Why? A little thing called campaign contributions. Riecke is a close friend of Sheriff Daniel Edwards and between the sheriff and his brother, Riecke has contributed $10,000 in campaign cash. He ain’t going anywhere.

Which brings me to my final point. T.J. Doss is a state trooper. He is a mostly ineffective chairman of the LSPC but as such, is in position to control investigations (or non-investigations in the case of those illegal campaign contributions by the LSTA) of trooper misconduct.

But not once did he attempt to investigate the actions of his former boss, Mike Edmonson. Not once was that infamous San Diego trip raised before the commission. But who in his right mind would want the dubious task of investigating one’s boss?

Which is precisely why there should be a prohibition against a State Trooper serving as chairman of the LSPC. It’s too much of a hot seat—or should be—for a State Trooper. Yes, the LSTA should be represented on the commission, which hears appeals of disciplinary action by troopers. But chairman? No indeed.

 

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There’s an ongoing hatchet job that is remarkable only in the clumsy, amateurish manner in which it is being carried out.

But the thing that is really notable, considering the stumbling, bumbling effort is that it apparently is being executed (if you can call it that) by either the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) or the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA)—or both.

Several weeks ago, LouisianaVoice received an anonymous letter critical of our coverage of the LSPC’s lack of credibility and integrity in the manner in which it punted on an investigation of illegal political contributions by LSTA.

First of all, there is nothing illegal per se in an association making political contributions except in this particular case, the decision was made to do so by officers of the association who are by virtue of their very membership in LSTA, state troopers. State troopers are, like their state civil service cousins, prohibited from political activity, including making campaign contributions.

To conceal their action, they simply had the LSTA Director David Young make the contributions through his personal checking account and he was then reimbursed for his “expenses.” Former LSPC member Lloyd Grafton of Ruston labeled that practice “money laundering.”

Then came the dust-up with LSPC Director Cathy Derbonne who, in performing her duties as she saw them, attempted to hold the commission members’ feet to the fire on commission regulations.

The commission, led by its president, Trooper T.J. Doss, mounted an effort to make Derbonne pay for her imagined insubordination. After all, no good deed goes unpunished. A majority of the commission quickly convened a kangaroo court to fire her but, told she didn’t have the votes to survive the coup, she resigned under duress.

She has since filed a lawsuit to be reinstated with back pay and damages but the LSPC simply turned up the heat first when two members of the commission paid a private detective to follow her in order to learn who she was talking to and meeting with. LouisianaVoice has been told that the private detective was paid for by the two commission members and not with state funds.

That anonymous letter to LouisianaVoice also accused Derbonne of having sexual relationships with a state trooper, a claim she has vehemently denied.

In some quarters, that would be called character assassination and it does tend to follow a pattern of behavior that has emerged over the past two years with certain commission members, the LSTA, and even the State Police command. Just in the past year, five commission members, the commission director, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson has resigned, his second in command reassigned and 18 members of LSTA were subpoenaed by the FBI.

Now, New Orleans TV investigative reporter Lee Zurik has apparently been contacted to drive the stake through Derbonne’s heart, i.e. completely discredit her in order to destroy her pending litigation.

Zurik was scheduled to air a piece at 10 p.m. today (Monday) that is speculated to include descriptions of Derbonne’s attempts to fix a ticket for commission member Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches, one of the remaining members friendly to Derbonne. From all accounts, Braxton is the thrust of Zurik’s story with Derbonne being collateral damage—convenient for Doss, et al.

We have no idea what Zurik’s story will say, but he requested—and received—a lengthy list of email correspondence between Derbonne and Braxton, the contents or which are not clear but which Zurik is expected to elaborate on tonight.

The odd thing about that is Derbonne’s successor, Jason Hannaman, told the commission during its meeting last Thursday that the commission server had crashed and that all emails and all other documents were lost permanently.

If that’s the case, how were Derbonne’s email exchanges with Braxton recovered so easily and quickly for Zurik?

As if all that were not enough to keep one’s mind reeling, there is also this:

When Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend was hired at a price of $75,000 to investigate the LSTA campaign contributions, his contract specifically required that he file a report on his findings. Instead, he came back with a verbal recommendation that “no action be taken.”

That might have been the end of the story had it not been for retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur who kept pounding the drum at each monthly meeting, insisting that Townsend was required to file a written report. Millet, moreover, was victorious in his assertion that all information, materials, and items produced by Townsend’s investigation were property of the state and must be submitted to the commission.

That would include a tape recording of an LSTA meeting in which it was allegedly admitted that the association had violated the law in making the contributions. Townsend has that recording and it should be among the materials submitted to the commission—provided the recording didn’t also “crash,” with its contents destroyed.

So, in summation, we have a sham of an investigation of the LSTA, the orchestrated ouster of the LSPC director who was the only one knowledgeable about commission members’ activities, the hiring of a private detective to follow her, an anonymous letter intended to tarnish her reputation with one of the only news outlets that would tell her story, the forced resignation of the State Police Commander, and now the recruitment of a New Orleans TV reporter to abet the commission in taking down Braxton and further smearing Derbonne.

What could be more Louisiana?

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