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Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Remember this classic Looney Tunes CARTOON of the bulldog trying to compute why mice don’t like cheese and want the cat to eat them but the cat prefers that he be pummeled by the dog? After running the numbers, the confused bulldog declares, “It just don’t add up!”

Well, the same declaration may be made about a 911 call on a recovered vehicle in Terrebonne Parish on Friday.

“Add up” as in why certain items were found in the recovered vehicle.

Certain items like…oh, an AR-15, a police officer’s duty belt (with handcuffs) in the trunk.

And a check stub in the vehicle with Jerry Larpenter’s name on it.

Larpenter, of course is the long-time sheriff of Terrebonne Parish.

The term “recovered” could mean one of several things: a stolen car that was recovered, a towed vehicle or even one that was repossessed. The 911 call made no distinction as to the nature of the recovery but the sequence of events following the 911 call, as well as the name of the Terrebonne Parish sheriff, raises all manner of questions.

The notification was posted on the computer-aided dispatch system (CADS) which links various law enforcement agencies, in this case, the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Department, the Houma Police Department, and most likely, Louisiana State Police.

The notification, which went out at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, noted that a call was received from a Steven Boudreaux, identified as the “initial reporter,” but who said his last name was Thomas, according to the CADS computerized image.

And just as quickly, the CADS notice disappeared after the matter was transferred to the St. Mary Parish 911 system.

The vehicle’s location was given as near the intersection of Cajun Road and South Van Avenue.

LouisianaVoice called Steven Boudreaux who, other than confirming that he was not a law enforcement officer, declined to discuss the 911 call further.

He did not explain how he became involved in the “recovery” of a vehicle containing an AR-15, a police officer’s duty belt, handcuffs, and Larpenter’s paycheck stub in the vehicle. He said he was unable to discuss the subject “because it’s a legal matter.”

It just don’t add up.

 

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The powers that be in state and local government, i.e., agency and departmental heads, like to give the impression that personal activities on the job, particularly as they might involve office computers and personal email messages, are strictly verboten.

That’s not to say, of course, that while the lowly peons are held to this higher standard of professional excellence, supervisors don’t shop Amazon.com or book cruises or Disney vacations while at work.

But, hey! Everyone fudges on those restrictions. It’s the rare employee indeed who doesn’t sneak in a little self-time on state computers and telephones.

But the Hon. JIMBO STEPHENS, newly-elected judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, or at least Rayville attorney John Hoychick, Jr., acting on his behalf, has taken the practice to new heights with an email blast to a gaggle of attorneys seeking campaign contributions for Stephens.

Hoychick included in his email at least five attorneys working on the public dime, either for the City of Monroe, the University of Louisiana Monroe, or the gret stet of Looziana as well as no fewer than seven barristers in the employ of CenturyLink, the telecommunications company headquarter in Monroe.

Louisiana agencies some of the recipients work for are employed by include the Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Family Services (where the rank and file workers are chronically short-staffed and overworked but not, apparently, the attorneys).

Stephens, who defeated 4th JDC Judge Sharon Marchman in last October’s ELECTION, apparently wishes to retire his campaign debts and Hoychick is not the least bit shy in calling on some 140 attorneys in his email blast to do just that.

And while it may be a breach of protocol to solicit contributions from them at their taxpayer-funded jobs, it nevertheless serves as a classic illustration of how judges tend to lean on attorneys who might at some time in the future appear before them to argue a case or two—and woe unto one who has not paid his dues (at least that seems to be the mindset).

A “Sponsor Couple” can buy in for a mere 500 bucks while those on a tighter budget can get by for $150 as a “Supporter Couple,” according to Hoychick’s email solicitation.

(I just hope Stephens’s fundraiser doesn’t cut into LouisianaVoice’s ongoing fundraiser.)

Curiously, the email (or at least the one forwarded to LouisianaVoice) doesn’t give a date, time, or location for the highly anticipated “kickoff event.” But not to worry: checks, “payable to Judge Jimbo Stephens Campaign Committee,” can be brought to the event (wherever) “or mailed to Judge Jimbo Stephens Campaign Committee.”

Surely, the State of Louisiana, ULM, the City of Monroe, or CenturyLink won’t mind if their staff attorneys take a little time to write a check to the good judge. After all, if there’s important legal work to be done, it can be pawned off on an overworked paralegal or legal secretary.

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First and foremost, there is nothing in the job description requirements that says the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) must—or should—be a physician.

Nor does the state receive any benefit from the secretary’s maintaining a medical license or credentials and board certifications.

So, why should the head of the state’s largest department devote so much time, effort, and manpower on attempts to secure her professional credentials outside her state job?

Dr. Rebekah Gee was appointed Secretary of LDH by Gov. John Bel Edwards in January 2016 as he came to office. Prior to that, she was employed by the LSU HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER (LSUHSC) in New Orleans where she served as an obstetrician/gynecologist and as assistant professor of health policy and management.

So, it stands to reason that any attempt by LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee to pursue negotiations with LSU to retain her medical license, credentials, and board certifications through continued part-time employment as a physician at LSUHSC would be done on her own behalf and at her personal legal expenses.

Certainly, rank-and-file state employees must adhere to strict guidelines regarding the use of state computers, email addresses and telephone numbers—not to mention the taboo of calling on state attorneys to do private legal work on state time and state equipment.

Instead, following her appointment as secretary, she apparently directed the department’s legal counsel to pursue negotiations with LSU on her behalf on state time and using his state email address and signing off on his email correspondence with LSU as the executive counsel for the department.

Included in the email thread were negotiations on Dr. Gee’s behalf for her to retain her tenure at LSU (pretty difficult, considering her status was reduced to unpaid volunteer) and for LSU to pony up the premiums to keep her medical malpractice insurance from lapsing—a pretty generous financial windfall in its own right.

And all that doesn’t even address the apparent conflict of interest in her performing work for an agency overseen by—and which receives funding from—the department which she now heads.

As they say, rank does have its privileges and the series of emails back and forth between executive counsel Stephen Russo and LSU officials appears pretty rank.

Gee’s APPOINTMENT was announced on Jan. 5, 2016, and before she could even get settled into her office, the email campaign by Russo had begun in earnest.

At 3:12 p.m. on Jan 13, Russo emailed LSUHSC Chancellor Dr. Larry Hollier to ask “if there is anything you need from us regarding Dr. Gee. My understanding is that she will not be receiving compensation for providing services at the LSU clinic. If that is the case, that is a good starting point to make sure we are well clear of any issues…”

At 5:15 p.m. that same day, Hollier responded: “Dr. Gee will receive a ‘gratis appointment’ and will not receive compensation from LSUHSC. She would like to still see patients to maintain her medical licensure; we are happy to have her see patients. Would there be any ‘conflict of interest’ or other issues since, as Sect. of DHH (since renamed LDH), she ‘oversees’ Medicaid payments to LSUHSC?”

The following day, Jan. 14, LSUHSC General Counsel Katherine Muslow emailed Russo at 1:36 p.m. to say, “In addition to the prohibitions provided in the Governmental Code of Ethics, the incompatibility provisions of (state statutes) should also be reviewed for applicability.”

She then went on to list six “incompatibility provisions” which she seemed to feel would prohibit Dr. Gee from working even as a volunteer for an agency partially funded by the department that she headed.

On Jan. 15, Russo, still on the state clock at 1:28 p.m. and still on a state computer, wrote LSUHSC General Counsel Katherine Muslow and others from his state email account to ask that “y’all email or telephone us and let is (sic) know the legal relationship today between y’all and secretary gee (sic).”

At 1:40 p.m., Dr. Hollier emailed Russo to reiterate that Dr. Gee “is our gratis faculty with no compensation.”

Two minutes later, Russo, apparently having not fully digested the content of Muslow’s list of reasons why Dr. Gee could not work for LSU (and too excited to bother with punctuation), responded to Hollier: “Super so she is not contract or anything but like any other faculty just not compensated?”

He finally got around to responding to Muslow at 6:32 p.m. that day: “Good deal. I am sending to my ethics folks. I have not been talking with the attorney general and have not sought a formal ethics opinion.”

On Jan. 19, Russo was back at it early, emailing Hollier at 8:33 a.m. to discuss the termination of the contract between LDH and LSUHSC for the Medicaid Medical DIRECTOR position, the position Dr. Gee had held at LSUHSC. “Before we date and send the contract termination,” he wrote, “the Secretary (Dr. Gee) would like for me to confirm the following:

  1. Her current LSU title;
  2. Her tenure status;
  3. The dates when she can begin clinic.”

At 9:48 a.m., Hollier responded: “She is an Associate Professor, gratis appointment. She had tenure but loses that since she is not Full Time; but whenever she returns to FT (full time), I will simply restore her Tenure. She will arrange to see patients two half-days a month, starting I believe after the special session. I am waiting for final clearance from LSU System Counsel.”

The news about Gee’s loss of tenure must’ve thrown Dr. Gee and by extension, Russo, into a tizzy. On Jan 21 at 2:54 p.m., Russo emailed Hollier: “Can yall’s (sic) lawyers look at this tenure issue again? It is obviously a little worrisome that she would be ‘losing’ tenure. Personally, your word is good as gold to me but what if you have moved to greater adventures.”

“I am happy to have it reviewed again,” answered Hollier at 3:48 p.m., “but regs say tenure only for full time employees. I will see what other options might be available.”

So, bottom line, what we have here is the secretary of a state department:

  • Working for an agency over which her department has jurisdiction;
  • Attempting to retain tenure from her old job even though state regulations clearly say an employee must be full time to earn or keep tenure;
  • Attempting to have the state pay for her medical malpractice insurance;
  • Instructing a subordinate (legal counsel Stephen Russo) perform private legal work on state time and on state equipment on behalf of her efforts to retain private part time employment.

As the late C.B. Forgotston would say, you can’t make this stuff up.

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Allegations of forged and falsified time sheets, misapplication and/or misappropriation of federal funds, unaccounted for expensive ice chests, a claim of a stolen computer hard drive and an FBI investigation.

Just another ordinary day at the office in another state agency in Louisiana.

Except this state agency, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) normally flies well under the radar, attracting little or no attention from local, state or federal officials.

And, to be truthful, that’s the way LDWF officials would have preferred it.

In fact, according to one former agent who spoke with LouisianaVoice, he was told precisely that by a fellow agent: “Don’t worry, we’re over here in Southwest Louisiana where no one ever looks at us”

Long before it became public knowledge that the FBI was investigating irregularities at LDWF, LouisianaVoice received a cryptic telephone call in mid-June from an FBI special agent from Baton Rouge asking what we might know about the agency.

We had already received an anonymous tip that the feds were looking into illegalities involving misappropriation of federal funds related to the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill cleanup. Our source said about $10,000 in fishing equipment was purchased with the federal funds, “along with 40 or 50 Yeti coolers,” of which “only three can be accounted for.”

Yeti coolers are expensive, top-of-the-line coolers, some costing more than $1,200, making them a prime target for theft.

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1NHXL_enUS703US706&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=yeti+coolers&tbm=shop

Professing (truthfully) that we had little information to share, we referred the caller to former LDWF agent Todd Abshire who had contacted us earlier about payroll irregularities—including the forging of his initials on his timesheets to reflect time classifications which he says were inaccurate.

Now it appears official that LDWF is indeed under investigation for misapplication of federal funds from the BP oil spill. http://www.louisianasportsman.com/details.php?id=9895

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_f06a8d82-5e67-11e6-bc45-9b911b0114db.html

At issue is how the agency spent $8.6 million seafood testing grant awarded by BP following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

Abshire, a Marine Corps veteran, said he was the victim of discrimination because supervisors would not accommodate him for his service-related PTSD. He also said he witnessed supervisors claiming hours that they did not work. In one case, he said the supervisor left him practicing backing a trailer in the supervisor’s driveway while the supervisor worked at his second job.

LDWF receives no state General Fund (direct) money, but the bulk of its funding is via statutory dedications which are state funds and, like all other agencies, its funds have to be appropriated by the state to be spent. Therefore it would be incorrect to say the agency is self-funded, as some in the agency insist. In fact, it receives funding from several federal programs and, says Abshire, that is where the time sheet irregularities come into play.

Agents are required to code their time sheets according to which of the federal programs they work on a particular day. The money for their salaries is charged back to the program listed on the timesheets.

The federal programs include, among others:

  • Boating Safety Enforcement;
  • Boating Accident Investigation;
  • Boating Safety Search and Rescue;
  • Recreational Fishing Federal;
  • Commercial Fishing Federal;
  • Commercial Catch Shares;
  • Federal Game and Waterfowl;
  • Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ);
  • Maritime SWAT

Abshire said he has witnessed agents remaining in the LDWF offices while coding their timesheets under one of the federally-funded programs.

He even provided copies of his own timesheets which he said showed changes to times he did not work—changes made without his authorization and with his initials forged to the timesheets.

Besides the feds, the agency is also being investigated for contract irregularities and for nepotism by a number of local and state agencies, including the Legislative Auditor, the Louisiana Office of Inspector General and East Baton Rouge District Attorney.

Now, in addition to the missing ice chests, claims of illegal purchases with federal funds, and charges of falsified time sheets, comes the word that a LDWF employee has reported the theft of items from her desk, items that include a computer hard drive and a day planner.

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_99bc910a-760f-11e6-9040-bb2dc8e09bb9.html

Wendy Brogdon, listed as a confidential assistant, said the hard drive, day planner and personal souvenirs were taken in a burglary of her office between the evening of Aug. 11 and Aug. 24 during a time the office was shut down because of record flooding, according to her attorney, J. Arthur Smith, III.

Inexplicably, she was placed on administrative leave after reporting the theft and just as puzzling, LDWF spokesperson Adam Einck would not confirm whether or not she was a LDWF employee even though her name regularly appears in the minutes of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission as the commission secretary.

LDWF officials also said surveillance cameras at agency offices were of no use because they were aimed at the office’s exterior and not the interior. If we had a tendency toward conspiracy theories, that would be just too convenient and it might even prompt us to wonder what might have been on the hard drive and the day planner that was important enough to be taken in the theft.

But this is Louisiana, after all, so it’s only natural that the thief would also take Duck Commander duck calls autographed by Willie Robertson of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty, Duck Commander tea cups signed by Si Robertson and Duck Commander baseball caps signed by Willie and Si Robertson.

At least now we know the real reason for the burglary.

 

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Leave it to Attorney General Jeff Landry to come down on the wrong side of a case involving a question about constitutional law.

The Attorney General’s office, under the dictates of the state’s 1974 Constitutional, is barred from prosecuting illegal activity (other than child porn and a few drug cases) unless specifically asked to do so by the local district attorney. Instead, while attorneys general of other states actively pursue criminal prosecution, the Louisiana AG for the most part is relegated to defending state agencies, even when those same agencies may be neck deep in illegal or unethical activity.

Then Attorney General William Guste fought the encroachment on his prosecutorial powers but the state’s district attorneys, equally determined to protect their fiefdoms, were simply too strong. In the end, the AG was gutted of its authority to intervene in local criminal matters.

So it was that on Thursday (Aug. 25), Landry, after the Terrebonne Parish District Attorney recused himself from the case, wound up on the short end of a ruling by Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeal that a search warrant signed by State District Court Randall Bethancourt and executed by Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter was unconstitutional at both the state and federal level.

http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/lafourche-terrebonne/court-rules-search-warrant-in-terrebonne-sheriff-case-unconstitutional/308367610

LouisianaVoice requested a copy of the search warrant but was initially referred by the clerk of court’s office to the Terrebonne Sheriff’s Department’s Chief of Detectives who told us, “The only way you’re gonna get that is with a subpoena.”

Not so fast, Barney. The Louisiana Public Records Law clearly says otherwise.

So it was back to the clerk as we explained that the warrant and affidavit were public record and on file in the clerk’s office. Incredibly, despite the illegal warrant having already made national news, the clerk employee professed to not knowing what we were asking for. finally, after more back and forth, she “found” it and said the five-page document would be sent when she received a $5 check ($1 per page). The check was sent only to be returned with the message that personal checks were not accepted by her office (she neglected to inform us of that minor detail before). So then we sent  money order and by sheer coincidence, we received the warrant on Thursday—the same day as the First Circuit’s ruling. That couldn’t have worked out better. Like they say, Sheriff, karma is a b—h.

But even more incredible was that upon reading the warrant, we learned that Larpenter also had served search warrants on Facebook and AT&T in an effort to go after his nemesis. That’s right. You read it here first. Presumably, Bethancourt signed those search warrants as well. (We originally published a copy of the warrant but removed the link when informed the publishing of home addresses of law enforcement officers is prohibited under state law.)

The entire basis of the warrants was a 1968 state anti-defamation law. A local blogger, it turns out had said bad things on the Internet blog Exposedat about the sheriff and the cozy business and familial relations that seem to abound in Terrebonne Parish (never mind that the stories had more than a grain of truth).

The only problem was—and something Judge Bethancourt should have known, assuming he is capable of reading a law book—the law was declared unconstitutional in 1981.

Rather than advise his new client (Judge Bethancourt and the high sheriff) of this, however, Landry allowed the matter to become case law (thankfully for the media) rather than quietly dropping the matter while working out an out-of-court monetary settlement with the victim whose computers and cell phones were seized in the illegal raid.

Instead, the sheriff’s office has now exposed itself to far greater legal liability for the August 2 raid deputies carried out on the home of Houma Police Officer Wayne Anderson during which they seized computers and cell phones, alleging that Anderson, the blog’s suspected author, committed criminal defamation against the parish’s new insurance agent, Tony Alford. Anderson has denied that he is the blog’s author.

We first addressed this Gestapo-type raid on Aug. 8:

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/08/08/blog-in-terrebonne-parish-making-officials-nervous-sheriff-conducts-raid-based-on-law-ruled-unconstitutional-in-1981/

Making matters even worse, Larpenter pulled off the near impossible feat of making Donald Trump appear to be the voice of reason and restraint with his comments about a Loyola University law professor’s assessment of the warrant at the time it was carried out.

Professor Dane Ciolino said on Aug. 3 that the Exposedat blogger’s comments about public affairs was protected speech under the 1st Amendment and that the raid was likely unconstitutional.

Not so, said a defiant Larpenter on a local television talk show, insisting that the criminal defamation law was not unconstitutional. He took a shot at Ciolino when he said, “Now, if this so-called professor they got out of whatever college he’s from, and you know, I hate to criticize anybody, but apparently he didn’t look at the West criminal code book to find out there is a statute in Louisiana you can go by criminally.”

That’s Loyola, Sheriff, the same “college” from which Huey Long obtained his law degree. It has pretty good creds, which is more than can be said for you. Where is your law degree from?

Our advice, unsolicited as it is, may well fall on deaf ears but Sheriff Larpenter and Judge Bethancourt need to realize they are not the law, but merely public servants with whom citizens have entrusted the responsibility of carrying out the law. There’s a huge difference. HUGE!

When public servants attempt to become public masters, when instead of enforcing laws, they starting making laws to serve a personal agenda, we have started down a slippery—and dangerous—slope.

And when an ego-driven sheriff and a sitting judge can disregard the law by serving search warrants on an individual and two major U.S. corporations for no other purpose than to stifle the First Amendment right of free speech, things have gotten more than a little dicey.

And it’s no better when the state’s attorney general attempts to defend that position.

And these are men who, in all likelihood, proudly—and loudly—support the Second Amendment.

Sorry, boys, but you aren’t allowed to cherry-pick which laws are guaranteed by the Constitution. Supporting one right while simultaneously defying another makes each of you nothing more than hypocritical tin horn despots.

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