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Archive for the ‘Civil Service’ Category

One quit, another walked out and a third just said he wanted some answers and a fourth presented a witness who seemed a little too well-coached and in the end, nothing was accomplished because the fifth, aka the chairman, had the look of a Cervidae enrapt in the vehicular illuminating devices (deer caught in the headlights).

Just another routine meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) on Thursday.

Well, maybe not so routine. There was the shouting match between members Jared J Caruso-Riecke (the “fourth” as referenced above) and Lloyd Grafton (the “one” above) with both men invoking words like “best face,” “integrity,” and “pontificate.” Oh, number four said “pontificate” a lot.

Meanwhile, the man around whom the entire controversy swirled, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson was off somewhere out of state collecting another award to go in his trophy case or schmoozing with Louisiana politicos at the Washington MARDI GRAS.

Caruso-Riecke, of Covington, brought Louisiana State Police (LSP) Human Resources Director Ginger Krieg before the commission to explain the smoke and mirrors concept of how the appointment of Jason Starnes to the role of retired Undersecretary of Management and Finance Jill Boudreaux (even though he possesses zero accounting experience) was accompanied by an immediate promotion to lieutenant colonel and a $25,000 per year pay increase without incurring any additional expense as promised by Edmonson.

The position was created last August when Edmonson asked for the creation of an unclassified position to oversee Management and Finance. At the time, he said there would be no addition expenses to LSP and that the position was not being necessarily for Starnes.

Krieg explained that Boudreaux had retired and her $100,000 per year position was never filled so the $25,000 pay increase for Starnes actually amounted to a savings to the state.

What Caruso-Riecke and Krieg failed to mention in their exchange (which seemed so well-rehearsed that one of them should receive an Oscar nomination) was that state statute says the governor “shall” appoint an Undersecretary of Management and Finance. So, if the law is followed and an undersecretary appointed….poof! There goes that savings.

Grafton reiterated what Edmonson had said in August and said Caruso-Riecke was just putting a “good face” on the duplicity of Edmonson, Starnes, and Edmonson’s supporters on the commission. Caruso-Riecke erupted, accusing Grafton of an “absolute falsehood.” He admonished Grafton to not “sit down there and say I’m trying to put a ‘best face’ on something when I’ve gone above and beyond in trying to get to the truth.”

Here is the video link to that EXCHANGE.

“What have you done other than pontificate for the press?” he asked, practically shouting.

Grafton, in a more subdued voice (relatively speaking), said, “I’ve tried to keep some integrity on this commission and there is none. You came on this board with an agenda and that agenda was fulfilled last month when (former Executive Director) Cathy Derbonne resigned from this commission because of the harassment and the crap she was having to put up with since (pointing to commission Chairman T.J. Doss, of Shreveport) a State Trooper was TDY’d (assigned temporary duty) to Baton Rouge to hang around her office every day and to find fault with her and (who) said at a public meeting that he was gonna get rid of Cathy Derbonne. He followed through with that (and) lived up to my low expectations of him and he managed to have this commission stuffed with people who want to endear themselves with State Police management who could care less about the civil service function of this board. The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) has absolutely helped destroy this commission.”

Grafton said the commission is supposed to investigate, among other things, claims of harassment brought by troopers but now those claims “go straight to management and that trooper doesn’t have a chance. That just destroys the civil service standing of this board.

“I have 55 years of law enforcement education experience. I know something about what is integrity and what is not. Wanting to go to a Christmas party is more important than holding management accountable and it’s going to come back to haunt you.

“The only salvation for this commission is for it to be dissolved and for the Civil Service Commission to take over the oversight of the State Police because right now we have no oversight whatsoever. The Colonel of the State Police (Edmonson) can do anything he wants to. He can lie, he can do anything and he does plenty of it and nobody holds him accountable.”

Caruso-Riecke interrupted Grafton, denying that Edmonson said there would be no pay raise for the new position. “Why don’t you listen to the tape instead of sitting up her pontificating (apparently he likes that word because he kept using it) for the press? For you to sit up here and act like you’re holier-than-thou and the only one with any integrity and character? That’s insulting to everyone else sitting here.”

“Anyone who joined in with that lynching of Cathy Derbonne has no character and I’ll stand by that,” Grafton replied.

“Last I checked, she resigned,” Caruso-Riecke shot back, conveniently forgetting that her fate had long been decided before her resignation.

But Grafton did not forget. “She resigned because she was told she was gonna be fired.”

Donald Breaux of Lafayette asked Grafton to identify those who said she was going to be fired. He had not opened his mouth to that point and probably should not have then since the worst-kept secret in the room was that there were four solid votes, a majority, to fire Derbonne just as Doss had indicated he wanted done. Derbonne was even told that during a 30-minute break in the January proceedings. “You bring up a lot of stuff, Grafton, but you have nothing to back it up with,” said Breaux, a former sheriff.

“When you say Grafton doesn’t know what’s going on in the State Police, you have underestimated my ability to get information,” he said.

Grafton, the most senior member of the commission, subsequently announced that he was attending his final meeting. “I’m through,” he said. “This commission has become useless and the only way it can ever be fixed is for the governor to get involved. I resign.”

His rant was followed in short order by member Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches who said he was not resigning but would refuse to participate in an executive session on the agenda about which he had no prior notice.

“I’m a reasonably intelligent person and I don’t like being kept in the dark and I am being kept out of the loop on this commission. You’ve got an item on the agenda calling for an executive session to discuss a trooper’s appeal. I was told nothing about this and I refuse to be a part of it.”

Here is the link to his part of the discussion:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOMahyElYQ0&feature=youtu.be

Moments later, both he and Grafton were gone.

Then it was Eulis Simien, Jr.’s turn. The Baton Rouge attorney, who was appointed to the board last year, said like Grafton, it was his impression at the conclusion of Edmonson’s presentation last August that there would be no pay raise involved for the new position. “I said at a prior meeting that I would like for the person who said that to come to us and explain what he said,” he said. “Instead, we get the head of HR. That’s not who made the presentation to us last August. I asked for him to come before us and I want him to come before us.”

All the bantering, shouting and “pontification” of Thursday’s meeting comes on the heels of a 13-page report by the Louisiana Board of Ethics that investigated the practice by the LSTA of having its Executive Director David Young make political campaign contributions in his name to circumvent prohibitions against political involvement and then reimbursing Young for “expenses.”

It was LouisianaVoice’s initial story about the contributions more than a year ago that launched the investigation which resulted in three former LSPC members being forced to resign when it was learned that they, too, had contributed to campaigns.

The recent Ethics Board report only went back to 2014, so the $10,000 in contributions to former Gov. Bobby Jindal were not included in its investigation. It did, however reveal that LouisianaVoice‘s report that $10,000 was contributed to Gov. John Bel Edwards was considerably less than the $17,500 actually contributed to his campaign.

LSTA and Young got off extremely light with a fine of only $5,000, the document reveals. While state law allows an imposition of a penalty “equal to the amount of the contribution plus 10 percent ($35,000 plus $3,500 in this case), LSTA and Young were actually subject to fines of about $70,000, or twice amount of the total contributions, for “a knowing and willful violation.”

Young had admitted to the LSPC more than a year ago that the money was laundered through his personal account so as to allow the LSTA to get around the prohibition against such political activity. That constitutes “a knowing and willful violation.”

It was the embarrassment of the LSTA and Edmonson that forced the LSPC to conduct a sham investigation of the activity, an investigation that resulted in the recommendation that “no action be taken.” That recommendation was made by Natchitoches attorney and former State Sen. Taylor Townsend, a political supporter of Gov. Edwards who was paid $75,000 to issue an unwritten, “no action” recommendation.

And on Thursday, it culminated in the resignation of a conscientious commission member, the walkout of an honorable member, and further questions from another member who appears to want to do the right thing—if someone would just tell him what was said.

But there are four other votes on the commission and their interests obviously lie elsewhere.

Why else would the commission have as its chairman a State Trooper who conceivably could one day be called on to investigate his boss?

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One thing we’ve learned about the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), the independent lobbying organization for Louisiana State Police (LSP), is that despite a recent $5,000 fine for illegally making political contributions, the organization was far from through.

At the 2016 LSTA retreat in New Orleans held at the Omni Hotel Jan. 18-20, former Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), who was front and center on state police pay raise issues, was rewarded for his work on behalf of State Police while in office.

While retiring state troopers are usually given a watch, the LSTA board voted to purchase a handgun costing several hundred dollars for Kleckley.

Technically speaking, the presentation of a handgun by a grateful LSTA was not a “political” contribution, given the fact that term limited Kleckley had left office on Jan. 11, a whole week before he was given the gift.

It’s interesting to note that state ethics laws strictly prohibit the receipt of anything of value by state employees but do not apply to barely out of office legislators.

LSTA New Orleans / January 20, 2016

Meeting with Command Staff

Col. Edmondson, Major Jason Starnes and Col. Dupuy addressed the board of directors. Command Staff covered LSP issues, Legislative issues and LSTA issues.

A Motion was made by Mr. Rodney Hyatt for the LSTA to purchase a handgun for Mr. Chuck Kleckley, seconded by Mr. Badeaux with no objections, the motion passed.

Here is the State Board of Ethics agenda item dealing with the LSTA contributions:

Louisiana State Board of Ethics Agenda

Friday, January 20, 2017
Docket No. 15-1385

Assigned Attorney: Jennifer Land
Re: Consent opinion regarding the Louisiana State Troopers Association making campaign contributions in the name of its executive director and then later reimbursing him for those contributions.
Law: La. R.S. 18:1505.2A(1) provides that no person shall give, furnish, or contribute monies, materials, supplies, or make loans to or in support of a candidate or to any political committee, through or in the name of another, directly or indirectly.
Facts:The Louisiana State Troopers Association and its executive director, David Young, signed a consent opinion for violating La. R.S. 18:1505.2A(1) and paid a civil penalty of $5,000.

 *(Source: Louisiana Ethics Commission’s Internet web page)

It is well-documented here as it has been elsewhere that when Bobby Jindal refashioned the Louisiana Board of Ethics in 2008, ethics laws for public officials were effectively gutted and the Ethics Board rendered all but impotent. His ethics “reform” prompted mass resignation of ethics board members who were the only ones at the time to understand the significance of what he had done. Besides usurping the board’s enforcement powers, the move effectively dismissed outstanding ethics violations charges against several of Jindal’s legislative allies.

But even the Ethics Board in its weakened condition was able to do what attorney Taylor Townsend, hired to investigate the LSTA’s campaign contributions, could not. Townsend, hired to investigate what appeared to be a money laundering type of scam to conceal illegal political campaign contributions by Louisiana state troopers could find no reason to even file a written report, let alone take any definitive action against troopers involved in the decision to make the contributions.

So, perhaps Mr. Townsend, in light of the Ethics Board’s actions on Docket No. 15-1385 cited above, can tell us just what he did to earn that $75,000 stipulated in his contract. He certainly doesn’t appear to have investigated anything.

While Townsend may not have been able to find any reason for punishing those responsible for the decision to funnel Louisiana State Troopers’ Association’s (LSTA) funds through its Executive Director David Young in an obvious attempt to circumvent civil service or in this case, Louisiana State Police Commission rules, retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet isn’t giving up so easily.

Millet has filed a formal complaint with both State Police Internal Affairs and with the Louisiana Office of Inspector General.

In an apparent effort to held Inspector General Stephen Street prove that his office is something more than expensive window dressing and to assist him in any investigation his office may choose to pursue, Millet also included a 2001 decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal. That decision upheld a lower court ruling that the City of Kenner was justified in firing members of the executive board of the Kenner police association for making political contributions.

Rather than read the entire ruling, the key passage in the court’s decision is highlighted in yellow on pages 1, 3, and 4.

Of course no good deed goes unpunished. When Millet and three other retired state troopers voiced their objections to the political contributions (which included $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards over a period of two election cycles), they became marked men by their brothers in blue—at least by those on the LSTA board.

With only two “no” votes (by Troop Presidents Chris Brown of Troop B and Larry Badeaux of Troop C), the four retirees were unceremoniously kicked out of the LSTA, their combined memberships of half a century revoked—with no reason given other than that it could. So much for backing the blue from within. So much for any pretense of inviting, or even allowing differing opinions. Get caught laundering money and punish the whistleblowers. It’s the classic “shoot the messenger” type of action that LSP is supposed to be above.

Unfortunately, LSTA has shown it is run by petty, vindictive people unwilling to accept responsibility for their own actions.

Here is the portion of the minutes to the Nov. 2, 2016, LSTA Board meeting in which the votes were taken to expel the four retirees:

Louisiana State Troopers Association

November 2, 2016 Meeting Minutes

Meeting Title: Louisiana State Troopers Association Board Meeting

Date of Meeting: November 2, 2016

Where: LSTA Office, 8120 Jefferson Highway Baton Rouge, LA 70809

Start Time:          9:00 AM

The meeting was called to order by President Jay O’Quinn. The meeting opened with the pledge of allegiance led by Jay O’Quinn followed by a prayer by David Young.

Jay O’Quinn called roll as follows:

Derek Sentino, Troop A President

Chris Brown, Troop B President

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President

Chance Thomas, Troop D President

Chris Wright, Troop E President

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President

Hack Willis, Troop G President

Dale Latham, Troop I President (Absent)

Heath Miller, Troop L President

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President

Doussan Rando, Retiree Rep (Absent)

Jay O’Quinn, LSTA President

David Young, Executive Director

Old Business:

David Young updated the board on the Ethics Board investigation and its findings. The ethics board has ruled against the LSTA and fined the LSTA $5000.00.

A MOTION was made by Derek Sentino to accept the advice of our attorneys, acknowledgement of the facts of the Ethics Board ruling and pay the $5000.00 fine.  Seconded by Chance Thomas. No opposition.  The motion passed.

A MOTION was made by Derek Sentino to remove LSTA members Jesse Perry, Blaine Matte, Leon “Bucky” Millet and Tanny Devillier and for each removal of a member to be voted on separately. Seconded by Heath Miller. 

Roll Call Vote: Jesse Perry

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President – Yes

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 7-2, Passed

Roll Call Vote: Leon Millet. 

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President- Abstain

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 6-2, Passed

Roll Call Vote: Tanny Devillier

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President – Abstain

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 6-2, Passed

Roll Call Vote: Blaine Matte

Derek Sentino, Troop A President – Yes

Chris Brown, Troop B President – No

Larry Badeaux, Troop C President – No

Chance Thomas, Troop D President – Yes

Chris Wright, Troop E President – Abstain

Andy Stephenson, Troop F President – Yes

Hack Willis, Troop G President – Yes

Dale Latham, Troop I President – Absent

Heath Miller, Troop L President – Yes

Rodney Hyatt, HQ President – Yes

Doussan Rando, Retiree Representative – Absent

Vote: 6-2, Passed

A MOTION was made by Derek Sentino to send a letter to the four members who have been removed from the LSTA. Seconded by Chris Brown. No Opposition, the motion passed.

So no one on the board had the nerve to tell them to their faces. They were notified by letter.

Real class.

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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.

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On Tuesday, millions of Americans marched to the polls to cast ballots for President in what is a clear demonstration to the rest of the world that we live in a free society where citizens can say what they want about their leaders without fear of reprisals.

Someone should remind the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) of that.

If additional evidence that the LSTA does little else than attend parties and conventions while brooking no dissention from its membership, there is the ongoing purge of retiree members who dared question activities of its board which LouisianaVoice just learned about.

At the same time LouisianaVoice learned of the reprisals against dissent, we also examined LSTA TAX RETURNS which show that the organization devotes only a small portion of its revenue to charitable causes despite its claims to the contrary. Instead, LSTA has placed about $1 million in trusts, equities and options, mutual funds and money market funds while doing little for the welfare of its members.

LSTA operates Louisiana State Troopers Charities as a 501(c) (3) charitable organization

It also invested more than $200,000 in fundraising activities during 2013, the latest year for which records are available. At the same time, it spent about $28,000 in “grants and other assistance to governments and organizations.”

Among its other expenses were $184,000 for salaries and benefits; $112,400 for conventions, conferences and meetings and nearly $82,000 for travel.

The LSTA is a fraternal organization representing the men and women of the Louisiana State Police. The LSTA represents approximately 97 percent of the commissioned officers as well as a “substantial portion of the state police retirees.”

But those who dare think for themselves need not apply.

The number of retired members has just been reduced by at least four.

LouisianaVoice has learned that four retirees who questioned the authority of LSTA to make political contributions through its executive director in 2015 have been sent letters informing them they are no longer welcome as members of the fraternal organizations they devoted their working lives for.

State civil service rules, which extend to state troopers, prohibit political activity (including campaign contributions) on the part of classified employees.

This precision surgical procedure being carried out on its membership—to remove an inconvenient wart—is evidence of the influence that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson has over LSTA despite Edmonson’s repeated contention that he has no direct involvement in the association’s activities.

As further illustration of the influence of Edmonson—and LSTA’s propensity to ignore the wishes of its membership—affiliated troops throughout the state voted against expulsion, LouisianaVoice has learned. The only vote to expel the retired members came from headquarters in Baton Rouge.

So much for the democratic process.

One of those retirees, Bucky Millet of Lake Arthur, has been a particular source of irritation to the association, attending monthly meetings of the Louisiana State Police Commission since last December to challenge actions by both the commission and association.

“I was a member of LSTA for 40 years,” Millet says. “Now they tell me I’m not welcome.”

Millet was instrumental in prodding the commission to at least go through the motions of a pseudo-investigation of the association’s funneling campaign contributions to political candidates through its executive director David Young.

That investigation was turned over to Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, a confidant of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who essentially punted. Townsend declined to even issue a written report, which would have become a public record. He also neglected to include a digital recording—a recording that he possessed then and possesses now—of an admission by LSTA officers that they had violated state ethics regulations in contributing to several political candidates through Young.

So, when Millet and other retirees who were members of LSTA questioned the propriety—and the legality—of the contributions, the lines were effectively drawn. Those trouble-making retirees had targets on their backs from that moment on.

And now, even as 100 million Americans cast their votes in the greatest democracy the world has ever known, we learn there is no room for dissention in what should be a beacon of democracy and freedom of expression—the Louisiana State Troopers Association, the fraternal organization that represents those who are supposed to be the very guardians of our freedoms, our protectors.

Perhaps the leadership of LSTA should take a high school civics refresher course.

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It seems that the folks at Louisiana State Police (LSP) headquarters over at Independence Park rather pompously refer to Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers as Gray Shirts because DPS uniform shirts are gray as opposed to the blue worn by State Troopers (and we thought the Blue-Gray business ended 151 years ago. Not true. We’re told that a State Trooper will not obey a direct order from a DPS captain. Can’t you just imagine an Army private ignoring an order from a Marine captain? And they say the FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA don’t cooperate.).

In the wake of significant pay raises for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and his inner circle and revelations of the glaring disparity in the salaries of (LSP) and (DPS) officers, it’s interesting to go back a couple of years and review an email Edmonson sent to DPS personnel. Our interpretations are inserted in bold face parentheses:

 

From: Mike Edmonson Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 5:19 PM

To: _DPS_Commissioned Personnel_DPSPolice Subject: Personal Note

As you likely noticed, several e-mails have been sent to all commissioned personnel over the last few weeks discussing HB 872 and how that piece of legislation impacts troopers. Apparently those e-mails have fueled concerns and in some cases discontent within the ranks of DPS police. Let me reassure all of you that you remain a very important part of the DPS family (“But don’t any of you DPS lieutenants or captains try giving orders to my troopers.”) and while HB 872 does not specifically affect you (“It doesn’t affect you, so just keep your mouths shut”), my staff and I are well aware of the deficiencies within your current pay ranges. (“Guess what? Those deficiencies are about to become even greater.”)

The “fix” for that problem is somewhat more complicated than the “fix” for State Police because DPS personnel are part of the Civil Service classified service while troopers are part of the State Police classified service. Adjustments to State Police salaries may be made independent of Civil Service and thus do not affect the parity of all other employees who are part of that classified service, typically a major impediment to salary adjustments. We are however undeterred by the challenges of operating within the current structure of Civil Service. (“We at LSP are getting ours.”) and I have directed the staff of Operational Development to begin evaluating and analyzing the current pay levels for DPS police officers. (“It takes two-plus years to do this evaluation? Funny it didn’t take that long to get your $43,000 raise.”) In particular we want to identify which other Civil Service positions are similar in minimum qualifications and duties and thereafter evaluate the salary schedules of those positions in comparison to ours.

It should be noted that all eligible DPS officers received their 4% merit adjustments last year and will receive another this year amounting to an 8% total salary increase. (“Meanwhile, State Troopers will be getting 30 percent bumps and I’m gonna get a 32percent raise.”) Troopers, on the other hand, received anywhere from 0-3% merit adjustments. Moreover, the approval of HB 872 by the legislature is only the preliminary step in implementing a new pay grid for troopers. The new fund established to achieve that goal has a current balance of zero. We fully anticipate that sufficient monies will be accumulated over time to make the new grid a reality, but like the study and adjustment of DPS salaries, it will take time. (“Don’t hold your breath, Gray Shirts.”)

I understand the financial urgency that some of you feel at being improperly compensated and the frustration with the required process. But it has been disheartening to me that some within the ranks of DPS have seen fit to anonymously complain to legislators, the media and others outside our organization about feeling neglected and mistreated. (“That’s because if I ever learn who you are, you will be punished.”) Such communications are counterproductive to our efforts and can actually undermine our attempts to make adjustments to DPS salaries by drawing unnecessary attention to our plans. (“We have to keep our plans secret.”) Please understand that such communications put at risk the success of our efforts on your behalf. (“Strike that ‘on your behalf’ part.)

The study by Operational Development is the first step in what can sometimes be a laborious process but we will move as quickly as possible at finding an appropriate solution. Once our recommendations are finalized we will work with Civil Service in an effort to address the compensation issues. I will personally appear on your behalf before the Commission to make the case for pay adjustments (“What part of ‘Don’t hold your breath, Gray Shirts’ do you not understand?”). I pledge to keep you informed of our progress (So why has it been more than two years since we’ve heard from you?) and I would ask that you be patient during this process and have faith in me and my staff as I do in each of you. (We’ve seen what faith in you and your staff got us…nothing.) Be safe and may God continue to bless our families and guide each one of us. I will be visiting your sections soon.

Colonel Michael D. Edmonson

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