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Archive for the ‘Commissions’ Category

It’s been nearly a year since we’ve written anything about the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry and while there appears to be little going on with the board, there is quite a bit of activity going on beneath that veneer of tranquility, including, apparently, an ongoing FBI audit of the board.

Despite the efforts of State Sen. Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie) who, in 2014 passed legislation to move the board’s headquarters from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, the board has continued to resist the move from its posh high-rent offices on Canal Street.

Our last story about the LSBD was last July. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/18/case-of-slidell-dentist-illustrates-unbridled-power-of-dentistry-board-to-destroy-careers-for-sake-of-money/

Apparently the FBI has taken an interest in the LSBD.

The AGENDA for a special March 10 meeting (a Friday, no less) of the board caught the eye of one of our regular readers, a dentist who was put through the board’s mill and ground into so much fodder a few years ago.

Buried on page three of the agenda, under the heading “New Business and any other business which may properly come before the board,” was item IX which said, “Discussion of FBI audit results (p. 50).”

We had no prior knowledge of any FBI audit, although we have been aware that the board’s former attorney is awaiting a disciplinary hearing before the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/11/16/dentistry-board-facing-difficult-future-because-of-policies-contracts-with-attorney-private-investigator-are-cancelled/

At the very bottom of page 3 was a call for an executive session “for the purpose of discussing investigations, adjudications, litigation and professional competency of individuals and staff; because discussion of these topics would have a detrimental effect on the bargaining and litigation position of the Louisiana State of Dentistry.”

It was unclear if the proposed closed-door session was related to the FBI audit or not.

LouisianaVoice will be making a public records request for that FBI audit report and we will publish our findings.

Meanwhile in his farewell address in the winter 2014 LSBD BULLETIN, outgoing President Dr. Wilton Guillory said, “Legislation was recently passed to move the Board’s domicile to Baton Rouge. If that legislation is not changed in the upcoming legislature as I hope, then the Board, who self generates its funds, will have to raise the license fees to fund the move. We have been able to prevent this in years past but will have no choice. We are working with the LDA (Louisiana Dentists Association) and legislators to try to prevent this unnecessary move.”

That self-generation of funds has been a bone of contention between the board and the dentists its disciplines. Because the board sets itself up as accuser, prosecutor and judge, dentists who appear on the board’s radar have little chance of prevailing in disputes.

That is, if they choose to dispute the board—and that’s a big “if” that carries high risks, as in high dollar risks. Often a token fine, if disputed, quickly becomes a five- or even a six-figure fine and more than one dentist has been run out of business by the sheer cost of defending himself from the board’s kangaroo court.

That’s why Martiny, when his own dentist fell into disfavor for a minor offense, took it upon himself to rein in the board by moving it from its Taj Mahal to more modest headquarters in Baton Rouge.

Thanks to State Reps. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) and Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), Martiny’s efforts may be overturned before the move can even be implemented.

House Bill 521 by Johnson and Hoffman has been reported out of committee and is scheduled to be taken up for debate before the full House tomorrow (Wednesday, May 17). Simply put, the bill would amend Act 866 by Martiny, effectively negating that action, and allow the board to remain in either New Orleans or Jefferson Parish.

Hoffman has received $3000 from the Louisiana Dental Political Action Committee since 2011, $500 from Appel Dental, LLC in 2007, and an additional $500 from two individual dentists in 2007 and 2011.

Johnson, meanwhile, has received $6,250 from the Louisiana Dental PAC since 2011, and $500 from the Kid’s Dental Zone of Alexandria, LLC in 2015. He also received $500 each from the same two individual dentists as Hoffman.

We have documented several cases of the board’s heavy-handedness in dealing with dentists, its unscrupulous investigative methods, its dictatorial dealings with dentists and its exorbitant system of fines imposed in order to pay the rent on its office space and to pay its contract private investigator and attorney. We have also written about the legal troubles of that investigator.

Perhaps legislators might like to refresh their memories about the board before they vote on Wednesday. Here are links to just a few of our stories:

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/18/like-dental-board-louisiana-board-of-medical-examiners-survives-on-fines-and-incentive-to-punish/

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/04/16/13976/

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/07/dentistry-board-member-was-witness-in-earlier-case-now-he-also-decides-insurance-claims-benefits-paid-to-other-dentists/

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/04/15/remarks-by-former-head-of-state-dentistry-board-on-suit-dismissal-reopens-louisianavoice-investigation-of-tactics/

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/23/appeal-court-slams-lsdb-tactics-in-reversing-kangaroo-court-license-revocation-board-attorney-rules-on-his-own-objection/

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Little more than a year ago, on February 15, 2016, Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) case worker Kimberly Lee of Calhoun in Ouachita Parish was ARRESTED and booked into jail with bond set at $25,000.

Her crime? She was accused of falsifying entries in her case records showing she had made home visits to foster children when she hadn’t. Her agency had undergone massive budget cuts and the cuts, combined with more children entering foster care, meant an impossible caseload. That, in turn, had prompted a Shreveport DCFS supervisor to tell caseworkers that they could make “drive-by” visits to foster homes, which meant talking to the foster parents in their driveways. Policy says that workers will see both the child and the foster parent in the home, interviewing each separately.

On Thursday, the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), showing all the backbone of a jellyfish, accepted an agreement reached between Louisiana State Police (LSP) attorneys and former trooper Ronald Picou’s attorney Jill Craft of Baton Rouge.

That agreement called for LSP to rescind its letter of termination in exchange for Picou’s “resignation” for the same offense as Ms. Lee—except where her time sheet falsification was over a relative short time period, Picou’s went on for years.

And where Ms. Lee’s responsibility called for the oversight of the well-being of foster children (certainly a serious responsibility), Picou’s was for the general safety and protection of Louisiana citizens.

Nor was his caseload overly burdensome. He simply went home and went to bed after only two or three hours on his 12-hour shifts.

Craft, addressing the LSPC as if she were arguing a legal case, complete with the obligatory rhetoric, said her client was making a sacrifice for the benefit of his family and his “brothers in blue,” that he loved working “as a dedicated law enforcement officer for the better part of a decade,” and that a lot of “irresponsible reporting” had been done about Picou.

Funny, but when LouisianaVoice did a story about one of her clients winning a big court case, she never breathed a word about “irresponsible” reporting. Guess it depends on whose ox is being gored, eh counselor?

So, bottom line, Picou was allowed to walk away from his transgressions a free man. Unemployed at least for the time being, but free to accept another job in law enforcement for some city or town—or even another state agency as was the case of one terminated State Trooper who ended up policing for Pinecrest State School in Pineville.

“Irresponsible” are the actions of a man who ran a daytime construction business so he would cut his shift short by eight or nine hours so he could go home and sleep so he would be fresh when he did his day job.

“Irresponsible” are the tacit approvals given his actions by his supervisors at LSP Troop D in Lake Charles—Troop D Commander Capt. Chris Guillory and Picou’s immediate supervisor, Lt. Paul Brady.

“Irresponsible” are the sham investigations conducted first by Guillory and then by LSP Internal Affairs until LouisianaVoice published its “irresponsible” stories—backed up by Picou’s very own radio logs that repeatedly showed no activity after the first few hours of his shift. Only then did LSP conduct any semblance of a real investigation and subsequently gave Picou his walking papers. Of course he appealed his firing, which was the basis of Thursday’s scheduled hearing by LSPC until commissioners were informed of, and asked to approve, the settlement agreement. Commissioners went into executive session all of 12 minutes to discuss the proposed agreement before accepting it unanimously—and without comment.

Asked if the agreement precluded Picou’s ever working again as a police officer for another agency, commission Chairman T.J. Doss said the commission had no authority over that matter. Asked if commissioners, who had the power to accept or reject the agreement, could not have insisted on a clause in the agreement to that effect, member Eulis Simien, an attorney, reiterated the position that the commission had no authority over Picou’s future employment.

But the commission did have the authority to accept or reject the agreement. And while the commission has no enforcement authority, it certainly could have refused to rubber stamp the agreement until that wording was included.

The LSPC has evolved into a running joke with the resignations of five of seven commissioners within the past year and the forced resignation of former Executive Director Cathy Derbonne.

Only last month the commission rejected the appeal—with only member Calvin Braxton voting no—of a State Trooper who provided substantial evidence to back up his claim that he was harassed and ultimately suspended by supervisors in Troop F after he issued a traffic ticket to the teenage driver of a vehicle in which the son of Troop Commander Tommy Lewis was a passenger. For whatever reason, the commission apparently saw no reason to call in witnesses or to take statements from those involved.

The powers that be wanted the trooper punished and that was that.

On Thursday, it was determined that a Trooper who took an oath of office to serve and protect and to uphold the Constitution but who instead committed payroll fraud should be allowed to resign and walk away.

Does the term double standard carry any meaning anymore?

Perhaps it would be irresponsible to ask that.

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Col. Mike Edmonson is gone. The good troopers in the Louisiana State Police (LSP) can breathe a sigh of relief. Although gone from LSP in quick fashion and in a manner that is not altogether typical of an honorable retirement, he leaves LSP with some cleaning up to do.

Trooper Ronald Picou was terminated from Troop D for numerous violations of LSP policy. The investigation was initiated by LSP after LouisianaVoice published an article about Picou (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/).

Picou ended up being terminated for things like sleeping on duty, lying, and performing tasks in his patrol vehicle while on duty for his private business.

In 2013, by anonymous letter to Internal Affairs from another active member of LSP, Picou was reported for being absent from duty (Payroll Fraud). According to sources who worked with Picou and who audited radio logs, Picou wrote citations for the first 1-3 hours of his 12 hour night shifts and on average, less than half of his 12-hour day shifts. He was reportedly receiving over half of his paycheck in this manner for the better part of a decade.

IA passed that investigation on to the now discredited former Troop D commander, Chris Guillory. Guillory found Picou did nothing wrong in an investigation that seemed more focused on finding whistleblowers.

Picou knew then his fellow Troopers did not approve of his activities. He had to make a choice. Guillory’s clearance of Picou emboldened him to reportedly continue his activities while under the immediate supervision of two of Guillory’s friends, Jim Jacobsen and Paul Brady. Picou’s absences went unchecked until troopers reached out to LouisianaVoice.

In an effort to confirm the reports, LouisianaVoice sent a public records request for Picou’s time sheets and the radio logs to conduct an audit. Realizing what the records would divulge, IA attempted to defuse the issue by finally initiating an investigation.

Picou was still absenting himself from duty which could have been investigated with a simple surveillance operation or a departmental vehicle tracking device. Instead, they notified Guillory who reportedly went on the warpath. Picou was finally terminated. The evidence found in the internal investigation was overwhelming.

IA found 50 days of zero activity although Picou was paid for the entire shift. IA ignored virtually every other day where Picou had some activity at the beginning of the shift but nothing after two or three hours. Sources who conducted radio log audits reported there was much more time of inactivity than that identified by IA.

IA did not document nor did IA investigators even bother to interview Picou for an explanation of his absence from duty. Seriously? What kind of Inspector Clouseau investigation is that?

LSP stacked on the violations. Not for payroll fraud but for things like not remaining logged on to his computer for the entire shift, lying, and sleeping on duty.

By nothing short of investigative blindness or influence by Edmonson, the investigation did not find Picou violated the law. The elements of the offense were met based on the information in the investigation file.

Picou got what he deserved in his termination but we believe he should have been arrested for his public payroll fraud as was a Department of Children and Family Services inspector who was accused of falsifying her time sheets. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/13/dcfs-funding-slashed-necessitating-driveway-visits-but-overworked-caseworker-is-arrested-for-falsifying-records/

Can you see a double standard here?

Because of his obvious egregious behavior, Picou posed a liability and had to be sacrificed. Why did LSP ignore the criminal aspect of the investigation? Because they could not pursue the payroll fraud without also pursuing some of the Troop D clique: Chris Guillory, Paul Brady, and Jim Jacobsen.

Jacobsen and Brady supervised Picou during his constant absences while hard-working Troopers had to pull his weight. According to sources, Picou would not help other Troopers.

At a time where law enforcement is getting more and more dangerous, this is an ultimate betrayal of his brothers and sisters in blue. Brady and Jacobsen were either incompetent supervisors or they had to approve of Picou’s actions. Guillory further approved based on his joke of an investigation in 2013.

LSP produced no documentation indicating they investigated obvious supervision deficiencies by Jacobsen, Brady, or Guillory.

Payroll fraud applies to those who steal time and who allow others to steal time. If they knew he was doing it and they damn well should have, they are criminally culpable as well. We believe Edmonson, true to form, protected his friends and ignored that aspect of the investigation. According to our public records requests, none of those responsible to the taxpayers for supervising Picou were punished.

This is old news. Why are we bringing it up now? Picou has a hearing scheduled with the Louisiana State Police Commission to appeal his termination on Thursday, April 13.

Picou, represented by Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft, can claim he was doing just what he was told to do by his supervisors and that would appear to be the truth. We are told Picou received positive performance evaluations for his work while he was violating the policies for which he was terminated and for non-performance of his duties—payroll violations for which LSP failed to cite as reasons for his termination.

They kept the investigation limited to policy violations to protect Edmonson’s friends. We wonder if Picou will remain loyal to those friends while trying to get his job back.

LSP now has a new commander and we are told he is an admirable leader. This will be one of the first tests of his leadership. The stench of Guillory remains. Guillory was finally removed under a cloud of controversy where there were numerous disciplinary actions, a termination, a sudden resignation, and now multiple lawsuits.

His punishment for his dismal failure to effectively lead Troop D? A bigger command as the head of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED). We are told this is a position in Baton Rouge. Captain Guillory lives in Sulphur. That is three hours of authorized travel, one way, six hours both ways. We see this as a ceremonious hole for Guillory who has documented issues with prescription drugs.

Will LSP continue to stand behind Guillory, Brady, and Jacobsen? Will it cower to the will of Edmonson and actually allow Picou the chance to once again put on the badge of a Louisiana State Trooper? We believe Picou returning to the ranks of LSP would be a slap in the face to every Trooper and Law Enforcement Officer who has donned the uniform and sworn to protect and serve their communities.

We further believe it is time for LSP to properly investigate Picou and those who allowed him to betray his badge, fellow officers, and the people of Louisiana.

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Louisiana State Police (LSP) captains were called in to headquarters in Baton Rouge on Monday to hear the news that had already leaked out across the state that Superintendent Mike Edmonson was stepping down but officially, the head of LSP’s public information office said he knew nothing of reports that he said were “above my pay grade.”

But truth be told, after the way LouisianaVoice has latched onto the sorry story at LSP, had I been in Doug Cain’s position, I probably would’ve done the same thing. I hold no ill will toward him because he was in an unenviable position. On the one hand, his job is to inform the public but on the other, he had a boss to whom he answered. I’m old enough to grasp the realities of the situation.

That boss, while defiantly denying he would resign as late as last Friday when LouisianaVoice first said he was on his way out (and we did say it first), ended his 36-year career at State Police with a whimper today with his announcement that he would resign his position as the longest-tenured superintendent in LSP history.

Today’s online edition of the Baton Rouge Advocate carried the STORY of Edmonson’s announced retirement and in so doing, tied his decision to the “widening controversy” surrounding that San Diego trip taken by Edmonson and 15 subordinates to see him receive a national award.

But that trip, including the side trip taken to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon by four troopers in a state vehicle en route to San Diego, is not the story of what is really wrong at LSP. As one veteran observer of law enforcement noted, the San Diego trip is a mere symptom of a much larger problem festering in the bowels of State Police headquarters. It was never the story.

This was a story of a State Police Superintendent who once told a group of sheriffs at a roundtable meeting at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Baton Rouge that when it came to choosing between State Police and the sheriffs, his loyalty was with the sheriffs.

There are the ever-persistent rumors of parties, too many parties being held in conjunction with official functions. They simply did not coalesce with what the image of law enforcement is supposed to be about.

There are reports, growing in number even as this is being written, of junkets to New York in private jets paid for by a police uniform vendor, to the Washington Mardi Gras celebration paid for by a local contractor, to Cancun on the private jet of a north Louisiana supporter, and of trips to gaming conferences in the company of the owner of video poker machines (Edmonson is ex-officio member of the State Gaming Commission).

There were seemingly endless reports documented and posted by LouisianaVoice of inconsistent discipline of State Troopers, depending on whether or not the trooper was in the inner circle of the Edmonson clique.

A trooper with multiple prescriptions for a controlled narcotic, instead of being disciplined for showing up to work impaired, was promoted and made commander of Troop D in Lake Charles.

A married lieutenant who, along with a few buddies and a couple of single female “bartenders,” took a borrowed limo to a Vicksburg casino. At the casino, he took one of the girls, who was underage, onto the floor of the casino to play blackjack. He was apprehended by Mississippi gaming officials and tried to negotiate his way out of the situation by proclaiming he was a Louisiana State Police lieutenant and “can’t we work something out?” He was fined $600 by Mississippi officials and promoted to commander of Troop F by Edmonson.

A trooper who twice had sex with a female while on duty (once in his patrol car, no less), was barely disciplined at all.

Troopers at Troop D were given days off for making a minimum number of DWI arrests, no matter if the driver was actually drinking. Just make the arrest and let the district attorney dismiss the case—you’ll still get credit for the stop—that was the unwritten policy.

Another trooper at Troop D owned a daytime construction company. So, instead of working a full shift at night, he would work a couple of hours and then go home to sleep the rest of the night so he could work his private job during the day. This was allowed to go on for an extended period of time until LouisianaVoice revealed what was taking place.

Department of Public Safety (DPS) Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux was allowed to take a buyout for early retirement but stayed retired only a single day before coming back with a promotion and about $55,000 in early buyout money which she was ordered to return—but did not. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

When she finally retired for good, Edmonson, appearing before a compliant State Police Commission stacked with his supporters, pushed through the creation of a new lieutenant colonel position to take over her duties. In pitching the position, he told the commission that it would create no additional cost and that it was not being designed specifically for Maj. Jason Starnes.

Guess what? Starnes got the job, the promotion, and a $25,000 raise. Now he administers Management and Finance for LSP despite having no accounting degree or background. When member Lloyd Grafton asked about Edmonson’s promise of no additional expense, no one on the commission seemed to remember.

It was Grafton who first used the term “money laundering” when discussing how the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) funneled LSTA funds through the personal checking account of its executive director David Young so that political contributions could be made to key political candidates. Young subsequently submitted expense reports for reimbursement of the campaign contributions. Grafton should know a little about money laundering: he is a retired ATF agent.

The LSTA did refuse Edmonson’s request that the association pen a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards recommending that Edmonson be reappointed superintendent. Edwards reappointed him anyway.

And, going back to 2014, there was that surreptitious amendment inserted onto an otherwise benign bill in the closing minutes of the regular legislative session. State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) did the honors in introducing the amendment. Passed overwhelmingly over the promise that it would have no financial impact on the state budget, it instantly awarded Edmonson a healthy bump in retirement income.

Edmonson had, years earlier, entered what was referred to as DROP, a special retirement plan that was said to be “irrevocable” which at the time locked in his retirement at about $76,000. At the time the amendment was approved, it would have meant an additional $55,000 to his retirement but with the recent pay increases pushing his salary to its current level of $177,400, it would have meant a retirement increase of a whopping $101,000.

LouisianaVoice was notified of the amendment via an anonymous letter. That was when Mike Edmonson first appeared on our radar.

Then State Rep. John Bel Edwards, who unwittingly voted for the amendment, subsequently called for House Speaker Chuck Kleckley to investigate the maneuver but the invertebrate Kleckley refused.

State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) then filed suit in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge and a district court judge struck down the amendment.

Edmonson, true to form, at first denied any knowledge of the amendment but later admitted that one of “his people” came up with the idea and he gave the approval.

That was pretty much in line with the blaming of his secretary for using a signature stamp to approve overtime pay for that San Diego trip and his decision to throw the four who drove to San Diego under the bus for taking an unauthorized detour—even though it has since been learned by LouisianaVoice that he knew the route the four were taking and was in touch by text and phone the entire trip.

That’s the Edmonson persona. He has consistently shirked responsibility for actions that could cast him in a bad light and basked in the glow when things went well. He even is said to have told a retiring trooper—a veteran of two tours in the Mideast wars, no less—that he was a coward and a disgrace to his uniform in a late-night telephone conversation.

While other media have only recently joined in the investigation of LSP and Edmonson (and make no mistake, it was heartening to see them doing solid investigative work), LouisianaVoice has been there all along. This was not a sprint to LouisianaVoice, it was a marathon. And if this sounds a little vain and boastful…well, it is.

And it isn’t over. LouisianaVoice has pending numerous public records requests with LSP on other matters within the agency. We do not intend to let Edmonson’s resignation diminish our ongoing examination of why one man was allowed to bring a great department into such disrepute and disgrace.

The rank and file Louisiana State Troopers deserve better.

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It’s not certain if Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) Chairman T.J. Doss is simply LSPC’s equivalent to Donald Trump or if he’s not seeking or getting sound legal advice from commission legal counsel Lenore Feeney.

Either way, the commission, already reprising author Jimmy Breslin’s Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, just can’t seem to conduct a simple investigation into State Trooper political activity. Nor can Doss seem to get it right when seeking nominations to fill vacancies on the commission.

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.

That should be plain enough. The presidents of the private universities are required to submit three names from the congressional district within which a vacancy occurs.

With four of the six schools located in New Orleans, that can become something of a problem if the vacancy is from, say the Third Congressional District which comprises much of Acadiana and Southwest Louisiana.

But if a vacancy occurs from the Fourth District, common sense says contact the President of Centenary in Shreveport for names of nominees. In the Fifth District, it would be the President of Louisiana College in Pineville.

So, when Lloyd Grafton of Ruston resigned earlier this month, why did Doss contact Gov. Edwards on Feb. 10 to say he was soliciting names from the President of Loyola University in New Orleans? And why did he, on that same day, fire off a letter to Loyola President Rev. Kevin Wildes saying that the Louisiana Constitution requires that Grafton’s vacancy be filled by gubernatorial appointment “from one of three persons nominated by the President of Loyola University”?

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Doss was correct in saying the vacancy had to be filled by someone from the Fifth Congressional District, but there is no such requirement that the names of nominees come from Loyola. Louisiana College is in the Fifth Congressional District and that institution’s president should have been the one contacted for names.

Perhaps Doss has access to alternative facts when complying with the Louisiana Constitution.

Of course, if Feeney dared try to correct him, there is legal precedent for firing the messenger: There’s Trump and his dismissal of interim Attorney General Sally Yates. And there’s the LSPC itself with the manner it forced out former Executive Director Cathy Derbonne in January because she insisted on complying with the law.

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