Archive for the ‘Commissions’ Category

When Monica Manzella showed up for her first meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) last November, she received a warm greeting and a hug from State Police Lieutenant Rodney Hyatt.

We were curious how they knew each other so well. It was, after all, her first meeting.

Hyatt, other than his state trooper duties, also was—and still is—President of the Headquarters Chapter of the Louisiana State Police Association (LSTA). Click HERE. He is also one of the four troopers who drove a state vehicle to San Diego via the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas last October to cheer on and party with their boss, then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson as he received a national award.

Manzella, appointed to the LSPC last October, was an assistant city attorney for the City of New Orleans and had, as part of her duties, signed off on Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) contracts between the City of New Orleans and Louisiana State Police (LSP). Under LACE, state police are paid by the local district attorney to help beef up traffic enforcement. Some characterized her work on the contracts and her appointment to the commission as a possible conflict of interest but she dismissed that concern out of hand.

Other than his position as headquarters chapter president of LSTA and her signing off on LACE contracts, there was no apparent connection or any obvious reason why the two would be on such friendly terms at her very first meeting.

But thanks to the wife of retired state trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur, a connection that appears a little more than casual has been discovered.

Bucky Millet first set the stage a year ago at the LSPC meeting of August 11, 2016, when he filed a formal complaint about the manner in which LSPC members were supposed to be appointed and the manner in which those requirements were being ignored.

[Please keep in mind that LSPC is the Louisiana State Police Commission, which rules on appeals of troopers subjected to discipline and LSTA is the private, non-profit association comprised of active and (some) retired state troopers as members. Some retirees have been expelled from the LSTA for questioning certain activities. The two, LSPC and LSTA, are completely separate entities.]

In his complaint, Millet referenced 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.

For the full story of just how dysfunctional the LSPC was at that meeting, click HERE.

So, when Manzella was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards two months later, was that procedure finally followed? Well, yes and most probably not so much.

Thanks to Vivian Millet’s extensive Internet search, we now know that Lt. Hyatt and Manzella had their own history, dating back to March of 2016.

It seems that both Hyatt and Manzella were among 28 attendees from across the U.S. who earned their security Master of Arts degrees in Security Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) in Monterey, California, on March 25.

The CHDS curriculum is an 18-month master’s degree program in homeland security.

Click HERE to see the press release and to see a class photo of the proud graduates. It’s a rather small photo, so here’s a little help with the identities: Hyatt is on the far right in the front row in complete Louisiana State Police uniform and Manzella is behind him and to his right, in the red top.

Which brings us to the question of how she got her appointment to LSPC.

She obtained her J.D. in Law from Loyola University of New Orleans in 2005 (click HERE). Loyola could have been expected to nominate one of its alumni—if it had been asked to do so.

That certainly makes sense. But it didn’t go down that way and with Hyatt in a key position with the LSTA and with LSTA the subject of what the LSPC attempted to pass off as an ongoing “investigation” of its illegal campaign contributions funneled through the personal bank account of the LSTA executive director, the stage was certainly set for a little politicking on her behalf. LSTA needed desperately to stack the commission with members friendly to the LSTA who would lend comfort and support to LSPC Chairman, State Trooper T.J. Doss and other like-minded members.

So, did Hyatt and the LSTA exert a little friendly persuasion to secure a seat on the commission for Manzella? Did they engage in a little back channel diplomacy in order to wrangle the appointment of a member guaranteed to be friendly to the LSTA?

Given the outcome of that investigation by Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, who still has yet to provide a written report of his findings as required by his $75,000 contract and despite repeated demands that he do so, it would seem the Manzella—and subsequent—appointments have paid off handsomely for the LSTA. She has been everything LSTA could want—and more, as she moved from new member to vice chairman of the commission in a matter of just a few months while voting the LSTA line.

Which only underscores the necessity of at most, abolishing the LSPC and to put a constitutional amendment before voters to bring LSP under State Civil Service as it once was or at least, wiping the slate clean and beginning anew with all new members, unaffiliated with any political faction or with any organization and with the common goal of cleaning up the image of State Police and the troubled LSPC.

Failing either of those options, the term “Tarnished Badge” will soon refer to something other than just the nom de plume of a frequent commenter to LouisianaVoice posts.

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After viewing WVUE-TV Lee Zurik’s report on the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), several things are abundantly clear:

  • If a State Police report is accurate, commission member Calvin Braxton must go but it has to be a package deal with fellow member Jared Caruso-Riecke also being shown the door.
  • The commission, embroiled in tawdry political theatrics, is no longer functional if, indeed, it really ever was. It is incapable of autonomy and must be abandoned and Louisiana State Police (LSP) brought back under the management of the Louisiana Civil Service Commission.
  • In the alternative, if it is to remain intact, there must be put in place a prohibition against a state trooper’s serving as chairman.

LouisianaVoice has been upfront in its past support of Braxton, primarily because he is something of a maverick who refused to take his marching orders from former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. He often bucked the rest of the board and he asked probing questions that made some other members more than a little uncomfortable. The commission needed such a member.

Our 180-flip, based in large part on Zurik’s excellent REPORT Monday night, isn’t because Braxton had a couple of tickets fixed—or that he apparently imposed on then-LSPC Executive Director Cathy Derbonne to write letters on his behalf in efforts to put the fix in.

Who among us has never had a ticket taken care of by friends in the right places? In the spirit of full disclosure, I have on a couple of occasions. My first was as a 21-year-old and was issued as the result of an accident that I still maintain, after 52 years, was not my fault. Not knowing any better, I showed up in court in Farmerville in Union Parish only to have District Attorney Ragan Madden (he represented the 3rd Judicial District, which includes Union and Lincoln, my home parish) meet me at the back of the courtroom. “What’re you doing here? I dismissed your ticket. Go home.”

Wow. And I didn’t even ask. Guess he felt the accident wasn’t my fault either.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I also paid a few tickets along the way, even though in two cases, I was offered the fix, but politely declined. Also in the interest of full disclosure, none of the tickets were for anything major (other than the accident)—a rolling stop and a couple of speeding offenses but only about 15 mph over the limit.

When fellow blogger and occasional LouisianaVoice contributor Robert Burns suggested the ticket-fixing would force Gov. John Bel Edwards to remove Braxton from the commission, my first rhetorical question was: How many tickets do you suppose the governor’s brother, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, may have fixed over the years?

No, it wasn’t the attempt to get tickets fixed that concerned me. It was Zurik’s revelation that Braxton had apparently attempted to have the state trooper who arrested his daughter for DUI transferred and that he implied that as a member of LSPC, he might be disinclined to help the trooper should he ever find himself before the commission for disciplinary action.

Those allegations were contained in a lengthy report by Troop E Commander Captain J.D. Oliphant to the Region 3 Command Inspector that was brandished by Zurik.

Such behavior on the part of a member of the commission that oversees the actions of Louisiana State Troopers in unacceptable. Period.

Granted, Zurik blindsided Braxton at the LSPC meeting last Thursday. Some call it “ambush journalism,” but Braxton has exhibited a reluctance to talk to anyone in the media, LouisianaVoice included, and the direct approach was apparently the only one available to Zurik.

And Braxton’s sudden memory loss concerning his communications with Derbonne was clumsy and was certainly less than convincing.

So why would I insist that Caruso-Riecke be removed from the commission along with Braxton?

Not because he has been a divisive force since his appointment by Gov. Edwards, though he has certainly been that.

My contention is that while Braxton has been issued tickets and then tried to get them fixed, Caruso-Riecke has made it a point of considerable pride that he avoids tickets because…

He cheats. He openly violates the law and even boasts about it on his internet Web page.

You can hear it in his own words HERE and about his wager with Team Texas HERE.

You see, Riecke, who is worth an estimated $70 million, has a lot of time on his hands to pursue his hobby as a star in a TV reality show in which he uses his modified Mercedes in cross-country rally competition, tearing down the nation’s highways at speeds of up to 140 mph.

His vehicle is equipped with two in-dash police scanners with more than 1,000 channels—concealed by a fake dashboard, a handheld scanner and several cellphones, all used to evade law enforcement on public highways.

But here’s the real clincher: his car has 10 separate license plates to help evade law enforcement.

That raises the obvious question of how one gets 10 separate license plates issued to the same vehicle. Or does he pull plates from other cars to use to escape police?

Well, he is a licensed auto dealer, so perhaps he has access to plates from other vehicles. Or maybe he registered the vehicle in multiple states—sort of like Donald Trump’s claim of multiple-state voter registration fraud.

But no one appears to be concerned about that. When Floyd Falcon, attorney for the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), fired off a LETTER to Gov. Edwards on July 11, 2016, asking that Braxton be removed from the commission, he included a laundry list of 20 specific complaints and also included a four-page State Police Incident Report by Oliphant and submitted to Region 3 Command Inspector Kevin Reeves (since named as Edmonson’s successor as Superintendent of State Police with Oliphant promoted to Major and moved to Reeves’ former post as Region 3 Command Inspector) which detailed Braxton’s alleged threats against the State Trooper who arrested his daughter.

Falcon has been strangely quiet about Caruso-Riecke’s somewhat cavalier attitude about speeding, eluding law enforcement by illegally switching license plates (and yes, it is definitely illegal). But there seems to be no indignation over his thumbing his nose at the law.

But Riecke won’t be removed by Edwards.

Why? A little thing called campaign contributions. Riecke is a close friend of Sheriff Daniel Edwards and between the sheriff and his brother, Riecke has contributed $10,000 in campaign cash. He ain’t going anywhere.

Which brings me to my final point. T.J. Doss is a state trooper. He is a mostly ineffective chairman of the LSPC but as such, is in position to control investigations (or non-investigations in the case of those illegal campaign contributions by the LSTA) of trooper misconduct.

But not once did he attempt to investigate the actions of his former boss, Mike Edmonson. Not once was that infamous San Diego trip raised before the commission. But who in his right mind would want the dubious task of investigating one’s boss?

Which is precisely why there should be a prohibition against a State Trooper serving as chairman of the LSPC. It’s too much of a hot seat—or should be—for a State Trooper. Yes, the LSTA should be represented on the commission, which hears appeals of disciplinary action by troopers. But chairman? No indeed.


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There’s an ongoing hatchet job that is remarkable only in the clumsy, amateurish manner in which it is being carried out.

But the thing that is really notable, considering the stumbling, bumbling effort is that it apparently is being executed (if you can call it that) by either the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) or the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA)—or both.

Several weeks ago, LouisianaVoice received an anonymous letter critical of our coverage of the LSPC’s lack of credibility and integrity in the manner in which it punted on an investigation of illegal political contributions by LSTA.

First of all, there is nothing illegal per se in an association making political contributions except in this particular case, the decision was made to do so by officers of the association who are by virtue of their very membership in LSTA, state troopers. State troopers are, like their state civil service cousins, prohibited from political activity, including making campaign contributions.

To conceal their action, they simply had the LSTA Director David Young make the contributions through his personal checking account and he was then reimbursed for his “expenses.” Former LSPC member Lloyd Grafton of Ruston labeled that practice “money laundering.”

Then came the dust-up with LSPC Director Cathy Derbonne who, in performing her duties as she saw them, attempted to hold the commission members’ feet to the fire on commission regulations.

The commission, led by its president, Trooper T.J. Doss, mounted an effort to make Derbonne pay for her imagined insubordination. After all, no good deed goes unpunished. A majority of the commission quickly convened a kangaroo court to fire her but, told she didn’t have the votes to survive the coup, she resigned under duress.

She has since filed a lawsuit to be reinstated with back pay and damages but the LSPC simply turned up the heat first when two members of the commission paid a private detective to follow her in order to learn who she was talking to and meeting with. LouisianaVoice has been told that the private detective was paid for by the two commission members and not with state funds.

That anonymous letter to LouisianaVoice also accused Derbonne of having sexual relationships with a state trooper, a claim she has vehemently denied.

In some quarters, that would be called character assassination and it does tend to follow a pattern of behavior that has emerged over the past two years with certain commission members, the LSTA, and even the State Police command. Just in the past year, five commission members, the commission director, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson has resigned, his second in command reassigned and 18 members of LSTA were subpoenaed by the FBI.

Now, New Orleans TV investigative reporter Lee Zurik has apparently been contacted to drive the stake through Derbonne’s heart, i.e. completely discredit her in order to destroy her pending litigation.

Zurik was scheduled to air a piece at 10 p.m. today (Monday) that is speculated to include descriptions of Derbonne’s attempts to fix a ticket for commission member Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches, one of the remaining members friendly to Derbonne. From all accounts, Braxton is the thrust of Zurik’s story with Derbonne being collateral damage—convenient for Doss, et al.

We have no idea what Zurik’s story will say, but he requested—and received—a lengthy list of email correspondence between Derbonne and Braxton, the contents or which are not clear but which Zurik is expected to elaborate on tonight.

The odd thing about that is Derbonne’s successor, Jason Hannaman, told the commission during its meeting last Thursday that the commission server had crashed and that all emails and all other documents were lost permanently.

If that’s the case, how were Derbonne’s email exchanges with Braxton recovered so easily and quickly for Zurik?

As if all that were not enough to keep one’s mind reeling, there is also this:

When Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend was hired at a price of $75,000 to investigate the LSTA campaign contributions, his contract specifically required that he file a report on his findings. Instead, he came back with a verbal recommendation that “no action be taken.”

That might have been the end of the story had it not been for retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur who kept pounding the drum at each monthly meeting, insisting that Townsend was required to file a written report. Millet, moreover, was victorious in his assertion that all information, materials, and items produced by Townsend’s investigation were property of the state and must be submitted to the commission.

That would include a tape recording of an LSTA meeting in which it was allegedly admitted that the association had violated the law in making the contributions. Townsend has that recording and it should be among the materials submitted to the commission—provided the recording didn’t also “crash,” with its contents destroyed.

So, in summation, we have a sham of an investigation of the LSTA, the orchestrated ouster of the LSPC director who was the only one knowledgeable about commission members’ activities, the hiring of a private detective to follow her, an anonymous letter intended to tarnish her reputation with one of the only news outlets that would tell her story, the forced resignation of the State Police Commander, and now the recruitment of a New Orleans TV reporter to abet the commission in taking down Braxton and further smearing Derbonne.

What could be more Louisiana?

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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:






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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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