It’s no wonder the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) decided to give the boot to Leon “Bucky” Millet and three other retired members of LSTA. It seems that the retirees, particularly Millet, have been asking questions that are making the LSTA and the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) members extremely uncomfortable.
And their questions are a helluva lot more intelligent than the answers the commission has offered.
Oddly enough, all the questions Millet has peppered the commission with over the past several months seem to leave LSPC legal counsel Taylor Townsend especially oblivious—even as the meter keeps ticking on his legal fees for attending meetings while contributing nothing of substance.
But one commission member, Lloyd Grafton of Ruston, has zeroed in on the problem even if his colleagues have not and in doing so, broached a subject the others would apparently rather not discuss—apparent misleading testimony at last August’s meeting from State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.
LouisianaVoice, meanwhile, has come in possession of a recording of a meeting of an affiliate troop meeting at which LSTA Executive Director David Young received a much tougher grilling than he did from commission members. Throughout the 16-minute recording, Young is questioned as to how the checks were written and who authorized the budgeting of money for contributions before anyone even knew who the candidates would be in any given race. At one point, Young was advised to have an audit conducted of LSTA expenditures. The questioning of Young, it appeared from the tone of the voices on the recording, was anything but friendly.
Millet, of Lake Arthur, has regularly appeared at monthly meetings of the commission to challenge the association’s political contributions and the commission for its failure, on advice of Townsend, to act on the contributions.
Millet has repeatedly said the contributions, decided on by the LSTA board, each of whom are state troopers, are a violation of commission rules prohibiting political activity by troopers.
The commission—and Townsend—just as consistently, has responded by saying LSTA is a private entity and David Young is not a state trooper, meaning the commission has no jurisdiction over the association.
Never mind that the contributions were made by Young with checks drawn from Young’s personal account and he in turn would be reimbursed by the association for “expenses.”
And never mind that the decisions of who to support and to whom checks would be contributed were made by LSTA board members, each of whom is a state trooper.
Millet again raised that issue at the commission’s November meeting. “This commission allowed mike Edmonson and command staff to get out of control,” he said. “The citizens of Louisiana deserve better. The agency I was so proud of has deteriorated to such a point that the LSTA has voted to excommunicate four members (retirees), including yours truly. There is no criteria for termination of membership. Most members who voted weren’t born when I retired from LSP.”
Commission Chairman T.J. Doss interrupted Millet to say, “There’s nothing pending before the commission that we can address. If you think something, please let us know.”
That’s when Grafton waded into the fray.
“We have no authority over LSTA but we do have authority over individual troopers who are being paid by the State of Louisiana. Troopers are prohibited from political activity. I know what our counsel said about LSTA. State troopers are not supposed to be giving political contributions to politicians.
“What I see in this whole process is a corrupting policy that is going on and is guaranteed that this association of state troopers is going to become more corrupt as time goes on as they invest money and continue to wallow in politics. That’s why we have a civil service for state troopers.”
Doss again attempted to interrupt. “Correct me if I’m wrong; we not discussing political contributions….”
“Let me finish,” Grafton shot back. “Any time you give money to politicians, you allow yourself to become corrupt. You cannot have protection of civil service and give money to politicians because you have given up that protection at that point in time. That’s why civil service was created. In Louisiana, we want to have it both ways: ‘Oh, I’m protected by civil service. I get equal protection under law.’ But you can’t because you’ve already made a choice. That is corruption and that’s where we are today.
“People who come to us, and I’m talking about the top administration of state police and they say, ‘Approve this lieutenant colonel position. It won’t cost you a dime more.’ Then I turn around and (the new lieutenant colonel slot) has gone from $125,000 to $150,000. Somebody is not being honest. This commission is a stepchild. That’s not our role. Our role is oversight, not undersight. We are to look and decide if something is fair or not. When it’s not, we say it’s not.
Commission member Jared J. Caruso-Riecke said, “My colleague’s rant notwithstanding, we have two lawyers here and another (Monica J. Manzella) who sits on this commission, but she’s new so I won’t put any pressure on her (apparently forgetting that commission member Eulis Simien, Jr. also is an attorney), so tell me, do we have jurisdiction over LSTA?
When told the commission did not, he then tried to compare LSTA to the Knights of Columbus. “If we’re being asked to go after the Knights of Columbus, I’m not gonna do it. I’m not gonna open up this commission to a civil lawsuit.”
Millet reminded Caruso-Riecke that while both the Knights of Columbus and LSTA are tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, the Knights of Columbus membership is made up of a cross section of the population while the LSTA membership is comprised exclusively of state troopers and retired troopers. Nor did Caruso-Riecke acknowledge that the LSTA board of directors is made up of only state troopers who made the decision to make the political contributions.
The bureaucratic shuffle was a perfect example of officials talking circle logic in an effort to avoid confronting the real issue. Except they weren’t very good at it, thanks to the anemic efforts of Chairman Doss.
“If what has happened doesn’t alarm you as commissioners, I don’t know what will,” Millet said.
Grafton then asked, “Do we have any authority over salaries? Did I hear Col. Edmonson say (in August) if we approve this new position (the promotion of Maj. Jason Starnes to lieutenant colonel and bestowing the title of deputy superintendent and chief accounting officer upon him), it won’t cost any more money? I understood him to say it won’t cost any more money. That means no raise. Yet my understanding is, he got a $25,000 raise. We did not approve any raise. It looks to me as if the administration doing as it pleases and we’ll get the word in some point in time. What part am I saying that is absolutely wrong? Did he say he wouldn’t get a raise? I don’t see a board member here who heard that.”
Simeon said, “That’s not an accurate reflection of what was said.”
“I know what I heard,” Grafton said.
At that point, members around the table suggested pulling up the recording of that August meeting and if what Grafton said was accurate, to get Edmonson back before the commission to explain the pay increase.
Commission Executive Director Cathy Derbonne told commissioners that Edmonson did indeed testify that the newly-created position would not cost State Police any additional funds.
In an effort to recover the high ground, Doss said, “We govern classified positions and we create unclassified positions but don’t govern them.
Derbonne said, “We create and we can take away. How can we create an unclassified position and not have control?”
“We have no authority over unclassified positions.”
Derbonne said, “We have jurisdiction only over classified positions that fall within pay grid. We cannot pay someone outside pay grid unless they come before the commission for approval.”
When LouisianaVoice reviewed a recording of that August, the revelations were damning to Doss and other supporters of Edmonson and showed that at least one commissioner, Grafton, was paying attention and not simply going through the motions.
In his appearance before the commission to request creation of the new position, Edmonson quite plainly said that he proposed moving Starnes into the position formerly held by JILL BOUDREAUX, but in a newly-created unclassified position. “We’re not creating any additional funding issues, no additional money,” Edmonson said. “He will be the CAO. No new funds will be needed. It is not my intention to even ask for that.”
It doesn’t get much plainer than that, campers.
At least Grafton was listening when it mattered.
Now let’s see how long he’s allowed to remain on the commission.