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.
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.
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.”
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.
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