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Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

One of the great paradoxes emerging from the devastating flood of 2016 is the manner in which a group of volunteers calling themselves The Cajun Navy, with no budget and no centralized organizational structure, can materialize and mobilize almost instantly in times of crisis to rescue thousands of victims from inundated homes while the inept and corrupt politicians of this state cannot or will not take the steps necessary to prevent or at least mitigate damages from the swollen waters of the Comite and Amite rivers.

The Cajun Navy continued to rescue victims trapped by the rising waters that seemed to come from nowhere, silently concealing streets and highways and soaking residents’ homes, autos, carpeting, furniture and appliances. Many of those rescued were the very young and the very old. Some were sick, others disabled by other maladies.

Members of the Navy who manned bass boats, ski boats and ordinary bateaus did so without pay and without benefit of the photo ops so tempting to presidential candidates who breeze through disaster relief center just long enough to be photographed handing out bottled water to evacuees to show they do, after all, care for the little people.

Steve Hardy and David J. Mitchell, writing for the Baton Rouge Advocate on Saturday (Aug. 20), did a stellar job outlining the sorry history of the never-to-be-built Darlington Reservoir and the Comite River Diversion Canal. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/article_fc9f928c-6592-11e6-bad5-d3944fe82f0e.html

The two Advocate writers wrote, correctly, that “no one has suggested that the proposed Comite River Diversion Canal or the Darlington Reservoir would have prevented the flood,” but the canal by itself could have spared up to 25 percent of those whose homes were flooded. Like the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi, the project was not designed as a flood control reservoir. But taken together, projects could have mitigated hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

A 1986 LSU study estimated that had the Darlington Reservoir existed during the historic 1983 flood, the Amite River would have crested at a level six feet lower than the 41.5 feet at Denham Springs. The river crested at 46 feet last Sunday (Aug. 14). Flood stage at Denham Springs is 39 feet.

In 1992 the U.S Army Corps of Engineers said that the $154 million cost of Darlington and $222 for the Diversion Canal were not cost efficient and the last year the Federal government appropriated funds for the Canal project was in 2006.

Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal and state legislators went about their primary objective as Louisiana public servants: soliciting campaign contributions even as damages from the 2016 flood far exceeded (by a factor of at least five or six) the cost of building the reservoir.

Now there will be the usual indignant finger pointing and official promises that action must be taken to protect life and property. Then, just as quietly as the murky waters of the Amite River rose and receded, it’ll all be forgotten—until the next flood.

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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.

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In continuing to examine the methods and motives of unknown individuals in the ongoing attempt to discredit and embarrass Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) member Calvin Braxton, Sr., several things are worth noting.

At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned that six of the seven members of the LSPC, including Braxton, may be serving on the commission illegally and others before them may not have been legitimate appointees, as well.

It’s not enough that LouisianaVoice was sent anonymous letters by someone with a bent for getting Braxton thrown off the commission, but it also appears from the timing of a report critical of Braxton’s behavior following his daughter’s DWI arrest that the report’s author may well have been coerced into filing the report.

There is also the question of how did the legal counsel for the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) wind up with an internal report? The LSTA is a private organization connected to the Louisiana State Police (LSP) only by virtue that its membership is comprised of active and retired state troopers. The LSTA has no input, or at least should have no involvement in LSP internal investigations other than disciplinary matters involving state troopers.

To recap briefly, Braxton’s daughter was arrested for DWI, speeding, improper lane usage and open container violation on Dec. 5, 2015. According to an official report filed by Troop E Commander, Capt. Jay D. Oliphant, Jr., Braxton subsequently demanded that Oliphant transfer the trooper, Jayson Linebaugh, to New Orleans for 60-90 days to “get his mind right.”

Oliphant explained the only reason a trooper would be assigned to New Orleans would be to supplement the New Orleans Police Department in an ongoing criminal enforcement detail. Assignment to New Orleans would be done only in such event, “certainly not as punishment for arresting his daughter,” the report said.

But the timing of the report, as well as all three anonymous “tips” about the matter received by LouisianaVoice, is terribly suspect.

In February, Braxton objected to the adoption of the commissions January meeting minutes as written because the proposed minutes did not fully summarize key points raised in the January meeting about campaign contributions made by LSTA through its director, David Young.

In a matter of weeks, the “tips” began arriving in the email box as well as the post office box of LouisianaVoice. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/26/determined-effort-to-discredit-lspc-members-reveals-self-righteous-hypocrisy-vindictiveness-of-state-police-association/

Then, on July 15, the commission chose active trooper Thomas J. “TJ” Doss, the LSP representative on the commission as its President. Braxton, however, nominated then-Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston and subsequently cast the only vote for Grafton. Grafton refused to vote for himself and cast his vote for Doss, who did not reciprocate the courtesy when he voted for himself.

All of which evokes the question of timing in the glut of anonymous “tips” as well as a not-so-anonymous letter by LSTA legal counsel Floyd Falcon to Gov. John Bel Edwards requesting Braxton’s removal from LSPC.

That letter was dated July 11, just three days before the LSPC’s July 14 meeting. Falcon’s letter also asked Edwards to bar Braxton from participating in or voting on commission matters.

Not only is the timing of Falcon’s letter, as well as his very possession of Oliphant’s report, more than a little suspicious, but the date of Oliphant’s report, as well, raises eyebrows.

And that should be key issue.

Oliphant, like Braxton, is from Natchitoches and he is said to be on friendly terms with both Braxton and Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Victor Jones. Oliphant’s report quoted Braxton as claiming that Sheriff Jones had experienced problems with Trooper Linebaugh and also wanted the trooper removed from Natchitoches Parish after Linebaugh had also arrested Jones’s son for DWI in August 2015. Jones, Oliphant said in his report, denied having any problems with Linebaugh.

Oliphant’s report was DATED JUNE 2, 2016. All contact between Oliphant and Braxton occurred between the Dec. 5, 2015, date of his daughter’s arrest and Dec. 14, 2015—more than six months after the arrest of Braxton’s daughter and nearly six months after the last communication between Oliphant and Braxton.

So why the six-month wait before writing a report?

There are several questions that should be asked of everyone concerned:

  • Was Oliphant coerced to write the report about his friend?
  • Was he deliberately placed in a precarious position between friends Braxton and Sheriff Jones?

Most important of all, however, is this:

  • Why the six-month wait before writing a report?
  • Why is there no report from Linebaugh himself?
  • How is that Falcon came to be in possession of the June 2 report in so short a time as to be able to pen his letter (with the report attached) only nine days later? (Perhaps he has the same “anonymous” sources as LouisianaVoice.)

If any public official attempts to bring pressure on a law enforcement official in retribution for the arrest of a family member, that should be reported immediately—as in the same day, not six months down the road when memories may begin to cloud about details. And there should be a report from the trooper directly involved in the incident.

By everything LouisianaVoice has been able to learn about Oliphant, he is a super straight cop who goes strictly by the book. One former law enforcement official who knows both Oliphant and Sheriff Jones said Oliphant was “honest and completely above-board, a poster child for what law enforcement should be. If he wrote and signed the report, it most likely happened just the way he said.”

But even the strongest can be subjected to pressure when it’s applied in the right place (like a subtle, even unspoken threat to job security or promotions) by the right people in the right position of authority.

That in turn raises these questions:

  • Who is in a position to apply such pressure?
  • And who would have the most to lose from a rogue commission member who refused to go along to protect wrongdoing?

For the time being, those questions will be left to conjecture. But the answer can most probably be found in a very small cadre of players.

Meanwhile, there is another minor controversy brewing over the legitimacy of six of the seven board members (Doss, we assume, is elected by a vote of classified state police officers, according to the Louisiana State Constitution).

The remaining six members, one from each Congressional District, are appointed by the governor.

Article X, Part IV, Sec. 43(c) of the 1974 Louisiana State Constitution says of nominations for APPOINTMENT TO LSPC:

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.

Of course we made the requisite public records request of LSPC to learn if such nominations were received. The request was for such nominations dating back to January 2003. But the LSPC RESPONSE went even further, back to Aug. 7, 2002 with its letter seeking three nominations from Dr. Kenneth Schwab, President of Centenary College in Shreveport.

Schwab responded on Jan. 15, 2003, with only one nomination, that of Joseph Cage, Jr.

There were other four other letters to Dr. Scott Cowen, President of Tulane University in New Orleans, on June 4, 2003; to Dr. Norman Francis, President of Xavier University in New Orleans on June 8, 2004 and again on Oct. 6, 2005, and to Dr. Joe Aguillard, President of Louisiana College in Pineville, also on Oct. 6, 2005, but none after that date. There were no responses to those letters.

So, at least for the past 13 years, only one of the six university presidents has made even a single nomination for one vacancy on the commission.

Members serve staggered terms of six years per term but are prohibited from serving more than two and one-half terms, or 15 years.

With at least four governors, including Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco, Bobby Jindal and now John Bel Edwards never having received the constitutionally-required three nominees for each vacancy—and the LSPC has experienced considerable turnover in membership during that period—none of the present membership with the exception of Doss is legally serving.

The question now is what can—or will—be done about it? Does this quirk make all actions of the commission, including the hiring of special legal counsel Taylor Townsend, null and void? What about all the trooper appeals of disciplinary matters that have come before the commission down through the years? Some of those who were disciplined and appealed a decade or more ago have probably retired by now. What about per diem paid all those illegitimate commission members for attending meetings over at least the past 13 years?

That requirement of the State Constitution was put in there for a reason and should have been followed to the letter.

Obviously, that was not the case.

 

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Somebody wants a piece of Calvin Braxton and they’re willing to go to great lengths to extract their pound of flesh—even to the point of sending anonymous emails and letters to LouisianaVoice in an effort to use this medium as a vehicle on which to ride him out of town.

There also is a seven-page letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards from a Baton Rouge attorney “respectfully” requesting that charges be brought against Braxton and that he be removed from office.

Braxton is President of Natchitoches Ford-Lincoln as well having interests in several other automobile dealerships and businesses in the Natchitoches, Leesville and Marksville areas.

http://natchitochesford.com/

https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearchDetails.aspx?CharterID=342154_7Q83

He also is a member of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) which hears appeals of disciplinary action taken against Louisiana State Troopers and which recently conducted a sham investigation of political activity by the board of directors of the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA, not to be confused with LSPC) that one commission member said appeared to be “something suspect.”

And that, apparently is the crux of the vendetta against Braxton.

Commission regulations, like State Civil Service regulations governing state employee activity, prohibit state troopers from participating in political campaigns by endorsing, campaigning for, or making contributions to candidates. Those regulations were put into effect as a trade-off to protect state employees from being pressured into supporting a particular candidate or incumbent at the risk of losing state employment should the wrong candidate win.

But members of the association Board of Directors, as evidenced by an audio recording of one of the association’s affiliate members—a copy of which LouisianaVoice has experienced considerable resistance in obtaining—made the decision to funnel its campaign contributions through association Executive Director David Young. Young wrote more than $45,000 in personal checks to various candidates, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Gov. Edwards, over a period of several years and was “reimbursed” by the association for his “expenses” on behalf of LSTA.

https://www.latroopers.org/about

Young told the commission in February that the contributions were structured in that manner because there were “questions regarding the ability of a state employee to make a contribution. So in order to avoid any of that, if I make a contribution as a non-state employee, there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.”

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_ffd5d5d3-e12a-575a-8b44-d4079c73bb30.html

The only problem with that circular logic is that the money eventually still came from the individual troopers in the form of membership dues and that was what raised the objections by several retired members of LSTA in the first place.

Braxton has been something of a thorn in the side of the LSTA as well as other members of the LSPC. In that same February meeting, Braxton objected to the approval of the January minutes because the minutes as proposed did not adequately or accurately summarize some of the key points raised about the contributions in January.

He became a marked man from that point on and it didn’t help when at the July meeting, he nominated member Lloyd Grafton of Ruston as the new commission chairman. He cast the lone vote for Grafton as Thomas J. “T.J.” Doss, the State Police representative on the commission, was elected.

http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/b713f7b7dd3871ee86257b9b004f9321/85d048928ae51fa086256e9a004cc8e8?OpenDocument

Now Doss, a state trooper, must preside over appeals by fellow state troopers and could conceivably be called upon to investigate or rule on disciplinary matters involving his superiors which could cause a serious conflict of interests.

But the effort to oust Braxton, or to at least make him uncomfortable, started long before his nomination of Grafton. In fact, it started just about the same time he questioned the minutes of the January meeting back in that February meeting.

It began with an email to LouisianaVoice in which it was claimed—without any documentation—that Braxton had threatened a state trooper over the trooper’s arrest of Braxton’s daughter for driving while intoxicated.

That was followed by an anonymous letter postmarked July 5 in which the writer, in longhand, began by extolling the efforts of LouisianaVoice “to expose the corruption and dishonesty that permeates some of our Louisiana agencies—most notably La. State Police.” The writer at least gets credit for a smooth diversionary tactic.

After blowing smoke up our toga, the writer went on to describe how he/she likes to eat out often but “It’s amazing (and shocking) what one can overhear in a restaurant while waiting for companions to arrive. More amazing is that people are stupid enough to bandy about sensitive matters (and names) in public places.”

The writer, who signed the letter “Citizen Chicken” because of not feeling “comfortable enough to sign my name,” went on to say in the two-page letter how he/she “recently heard snatches of a conversation that…made me suspect State Police was the topic.”

Apparently hearing with amazing clarity in a crowded restaurant, the writer described the discussion as touching “on some official who was throwing his weight and position around and threatening folks. Seems this official’s daughter wad been picked up for DWI. ‘Braxton’ contacted the troop and reportedly told them that they had better hope they never came before him on disciplinary charges.”

The conversation, the writer said, conveniently “quieted then” and no more was heard.

“I believe what I heard was clearly a report of intimidation by someone who (I later discovered) was a commissioner of LSP.”

Wow! That’s really a thorough summation of an incident about which the writer could only pick up “snatches.” It would appear the writer might have a rewarding career as an investigator for the Attorney General or the Office of Inspector General or perhaps even some federal agency.

The really weird part is while Braxton is from Natchitoches, the letter’s envelope was postmarked Baton Rouge.

Before I go any further, it should be pointed out that if Braxton did indeed try to browbeat or intimidate a state trooper over doing his job, he should be called on the carpet for that. There’s no excuse for that type of behavior, which would appear to be documented by more official documents than an anonymous letter which I’ll get to momentarily.

I attempted to talk to Braxton about this at the July commission meeting but members had been already instructed in an executive session earlier in that meeting not to talk to the media and Braxton complied with that, even to the point of walking away from me.

But even as the commission as a body—and the LSTA legal counsel—choose to ignore or even justify the attempted circumvention of rules regarding the campaign contributions, it’s interesting to see the determined backdoor effort to bring down Braxton for his alleged lapse in judgment and abuse of his position—if, of course, that is in fact what happened.

On the heels of that anonymous letter, LouisianaVoice received another anonymous, unmarked envelope containing a five-page official State Police Incident Report.

That report, submitted by Troop E Commander Capt. Jay Oliphant, Jr., described the Dec. 5, 2015, early morning stop of a Ford truck on LA. 494 and the DWI arrest of Braxton’s daughter. She subsequently submitted a breath sample which showed a blood alcohol concentration of .139%. A reading of .08 percent is considered intoxicated under state law and the driver was arrested for first offense DWI, for speeding 68 mph in a 55 mph zone, improper lane usage and an open container violation.

Oliphant said in his report that he contacted Braxton later on Dec. 5 “as a courtesy” and advised him of the arrest and that Braxton accused the trooper, Jayson Linebaugh, of targeting “a select group of individuals, maybe even him or his family,” according to the report.

The report also claimed that Braxton said “he might not help Trooper Linebaugh if he gets in a bind on the job, which requires him to appear before the Louisiana State Police Commission” and that he “was not through” with the matter.

A week later, on Dec. 12, Oliphant’s report said, Braxton called him and demanded that Trooper Linebaugh be reassigned to New Orleans for 60 to 90 days to “get his mind right.” Oliphant said he advised the only way a trooper would be assigned to New Orleans would be to supplement the New Orleans Police Department in an ongoing criminal enforcement detail, but “not as punishment for arresting his daughter.”

As it turns out, that anonymously sent copy was not the only copy of Oliphant’s report that LouisianaVoice received.

A routine public records request was made of Gov. Edwards’ office for any correspondence from LSTA attorney Floyd Falcon pertaining to Calvin Braxton and the governor’s office promptly emailed a copy of that report prefaced with a two-page letter from Falcon addressed to Edwards and dated July 11, 2016. That was just three days prior to LSPC’s most recent meeting at which the “investigation” of the campaign contributions was conveniently swept under the rug with the recommendation by LSPC special counsel Taylor Townsend that no further action be taken on the matter.

Townsend, who holds two state contracts through LSPC totaling $75,000, received taxpayer funding to conduct an “investigation” for which there is no final written report. There are those, including Commission members, who would like to see what they got for their money.

Townsend, it should be noted, also has contributed $10,000 to Edwards’ campaigns.

Falcon, in his letter, itemized ways in which he said Braxton “abused his position,” and ended by requesting that Edwards “immediately have specifications of charges prepared and served on Calvin W. Braxton, Sr. and that after a public hearing that he be removed from office for cause. We suggest he not be allowed to participate or vote on Commission matters until these charges are resolved.”

While LouisianaVoice in no way condones Braxton’s actions if events did come down as described in Oliphant’s report. His actions, if true, are inexcusable. But Falcon’s letter is itself a pretty bold position from a legal representative of LSTA which certainly abused state regulations against participating in political activity, the pitiful excuse for a thorough “investigation” notwithstanding. There can be no defense of that “investigation”—the conclusion of which left one commission member wondering “if someone could start an association of state employees, appoint himself as executive director, collect membership dues and make political contributions in his name and then be reimbursed with members’ dues.” Civil Service regulations, like those of the LSPC strictly prohibit such political activity but, of course, a silly little matter like a state law didn’t deter LSTA.

You can read Falcon’s letter and Oliphant’s accompanying report in their entirety HERE

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Call it the summer doldrums or whatever you wish. The truth is there hasn’t been much political blog activity—from any of us.

It’s not that there is a dearth of news to report; between killings by cops, killings of cops, terrorist attacks, political accusations, political promises that border on fantasy, e-mail scandals and plagiarized speeches, there’s more than enough to go around. But somehow, we’ve become inured, victims of a malady we can only identify as scandal fatigue for lack of a better term.

But LouisianaVoice, with the help of a couple of volunteer researchers, is working on a project that should generate considerable readership interest—unless, of course, readers are also victims of the summertime lethargy that seems to be at least somewhat contagious.

But we’d be less than honest if we didn’t admit we get pretty discouraged when we expose wrongdoing—some of it even criminal in nature—on the part of elected and appointed officials and nothing is done about it.

What more needs to be done, for example, than to point out the illegal use of campaign funds for such personal use as season tickets to sporting events, luxury car leases and even paying ethics violation fines and personal federal income taxes from campaign funds? Yet, nothing is done.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/05/17/improper-spending-of-campaign-funds-appears-to-be-the-rule-rather-than-the-exception-in-louisiana-random-check-reveals/

What more needs to be done than to publish official investigative reports of a state trooper having sex in his patrol car while on duty to bring severe disciplinary action down on that officer?

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/10/04/you-couldnt-time-an-egg-with-this-guy-state-police-lt-has-sex-twice-on-duty-once-in-back-seat-of-patrol-car-still-on-job/

It took LouisianaVoice weeks and many stories before official action was finally taken against a state trooper who went home to sleep during his shift so that he could work his second job the next day before he was finally fired. And even though we revealed that his supervisor allowed this practice to go on for years, the supervisor was simply transferred—even after we published audio recordings of that same supervisor refusing to accept a citizen’s complaint after he had denied refusing the complaint.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/11/gift-cards-for-tickets-payroll-chicanery-quotas-short-shifts-the-norm-in-troop-d-troopers-express-dismay-at-problems/

After we ran a story about a legislator, who made thousands of dollars by purchasing stock in a company he knew was going to be approved for a major program with the Department of Education, that legislator was re-elected.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/27/senate-education-chairman-appel-purchases-discovery-stock-week-before-company-enters-into-state-techbook-agreement/

When we outed Frederick Tombar III, the $260,000 per year director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation, over his sexually explicit emails sent to two female employees, he promptly resigned only to turn up at Cornerstone Government Affairs, a consulting company headed by former Louisiana Commissioners of Administration Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater.

https://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/page/9/

When we ran the story of a clerk in Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe with ties to powerful attorney and banking interests who was failing to show up for work, both the Louisiana Attorney General the Office of Inspector General punted on their investigations.

When a north Louisiana contractor sued the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development over attempts by DOTD employees to extort payoff money from him, he won more than $20 million. Instead of paying up as it should, however, the state simply said it doesn’t have the money to pay the contractor who was forced into bankruptcy by the department’s criminal activity. Yet, no one at DOTD was fired, much less prosecuted.

http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/local/2015/12/04/contractor-wins-20m-suit-against-dotd/76813444/

Department of Public Safety Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux twerked the system by taking an incentive buyout for early retirement that netted her an extra $59,000. She promptly promoted herself and came back to work the next day at a salary bump. Ordered to repay the $59,000 by then Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, she 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/

But a caseworker for the understaffed and overworked Office of Children and Family Services was arrested with all the appropriate posturing and chest-thumping by law enforcement officials—including State Police—for payroll fraud after allegedly falsifying reports on monthly in-home visits with children in foster care.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/13/dcfs-funding-slashed-necessitating-driveway-visits-but-overworked-caseworker-is-arrested-for-falsifying-records/

The lesson here is obvious: if you’re politically connected, you can scarf off $59,000 with no repercussions but if you’re a lowly civil servant striving to meet impossible work demands brought about by budgetary cuts, you’re SOL. It’s not that we condone the payroll falsification, but justice should that should be administered evenly and blindly—but somehow never is.

The stories we have written about the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry and what the board does to dentists to destroy their practices and their very lives are horrific. Some of the investigative tactics and the retributions against defenseless dentists are sadistic at best and criminal at worst. Yet the board is allowed to continue its practices unchecked.

And as recently as May 2, we have the announcement from Gov. John Bel Edwards of the appointment of TERRENCE LOCKETT of Baton Rouge to the Louisiana Auctioneers Licensing Board. His appointment was made despite his being ordered in 2013 to pay $600 in penalties for his failure to file lobbying expenditure reports from March-December 2011 and his second-offense DWI in April 2014, which was reduced to a first-offense DWI.

http://gov.louisiana.gov/news/gov-edwards-announces-boards-and-commissions-appointments-5-2

By now, you’ve probably detected a trend.

It’s more than a little frustrating to see these transgressions reported, to know they are seen by those in a position to do something, and yet see these same ones in charge do nothing—or do so little as to make any discipline meaningless.

LouisianaVoice over the next few days will examine ethics fines that have gone uncollected for years, critical legislative audits of state agencies about which nothing seems to get done, and campaign contributions and lobbying activity that fortify the positions of special interests while diminishing to virtual insignificance the influence and interests of Louisiana’s citizens.

And nothing gets done.

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