Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

Since our publication of those Crimson Tide pictures on a Terror-Bonne sheriff’s patrol vehicle, we have gotten all manner of pushback from supporters—and one apparent relative—of Sheriff Jerry Larpenter, one even suggesting we had libeled the good sheriff (we have not, by any definition of the term “libel”).

If those good people think we have been a little tough on Sheriff Larpenter, we have a few more surprises that are certain to get their blood boiling.

This is the sheriff, you recall, who had a search warrant executed against a blogger who had the temerity to criticize the man who holds what is arguably the most powerful elected office in the parish. The blogger’s home was raided in the early morning hours and his computers seized only to be sheepishly returned after a federal judge read the sheriff the riot act about a person’s First Amendment rights.

One who commented on our story said, “You guys do realize those letters are photo-shopped into that picture, right?”

Um, no.

Another well-meaning writer who works in graphic arts assured us she had no dog in the hunt but after examining the photos, she, too, was of the opinion they were photo-shopped.

Nope. Afraid not. It turns out they are produced specifically for Alabama fans. Subsequent photos put up by LouisianaVoice revealed that the tires had been turned around since our store so as to not be visible to the public.

But then the dealer who sold the tires to Larpenter’s department weighed in, saying that the tires cost no more than any other tire because they were on state contract and actually cost less than what they cost the dealer.

Okay, we concede that point but if the good sheriff had nothing to hide, why was he so quick in flipping them so that the lettering faced the undercarriage of the vehicle? Perhaps he did so to escape the wrath of LSU fans who can be every bit as rabid as ‘Bama faithful.

One writer, who identified himself as Joseph Larpenter, wrote, “If that’s all you people are bitching about is tires, then you are stupid. I know the reason behind the tires and it’s a great idea. I’m not saying this because of who I am. I’m not stupid to this approach. If you don’t get it, then you are stupid as well.”

He later emailed us to say, “Because of a set of tires really.” The lack of punctuation marks in the appropriate places sort of diluted his message, but we get it. He doesn’t like us and he thinks we’re picking on the sheriff as did the person who commented that we were treading dangerously close to libel. Our only response to that is that he’s obviously not an attorney.

Well, today we received a little tip about deputy overtime pay and, considering the financial plight of the sheriff’s department where employee benefits have been cut back to help the sheriff overcome a huge budgetary deficit, the numbers ain’t pretty.

Take Maj. Tommy Odom, for example.

Maj. Odom apparently is a workhorse of unlimited energy and a capacity for long hours.

Copies of time sheets from nine randomly selected two-week pay periods indicate Odom’s income may well surpass that Larpenter himself working as he does an average of 21 hours per week in overtime.

The man is dedicated, working Saturdays and Sundays and hardly, it seems, even taking time to go home for lunch, taking as he does only half-hour lunch breaks.

Why, in a single two-week pay period, he logged 88.5 hours over and above his regular 80 hours, good for an extra $5,100 in overtime in addition to his regular pay of $4,080. From September 15, 2014 through September 28, he worked 13 consecutive days, logging as many as 15 hour on several of those days, according to the time sheets obtained by LouisianaVoiceCLICK HER FOR TIME SHEETS

Using the nine pay periods as a base, it showed he worked an average of 21 hours per week overtime. At his base rate of $51 per hour, his regular salary is about $2,040, or around $106,000 per year. At the legal time and one-half overtime rate, he made $76.50 per hour for his overtime work, which, at an average of 21 hours per week, would be about $83,500 in addition to his regular salary.

These figures aren’t photo-shopped. They’re real. And it leads one to wonder just what it was that Odom did during all those overtime hours—or why he was allowed such latitude.

Odom, our source said, is the only one of his rank who is allowed to work overtime. In fact, our source said, “No one else at Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office at the rank of captain or above is allowed to work overtime.” Only Odom, who also is charge of purchasing. When he previously worked patrol, our source says, “he used to dictate his reports to his wife and she would write his reports for him.”

So, while we had a little fun with our tire story, the manner in which Larpenter runs his office is serious business and remains a sticking point with many residents of Terrebonne Parish.

So, in response to Mr. Joseph Larpenter, who obviously has skin (or at least kindred blood) in the game: No, bitching about tires is not all we have to bitch about is tires—not by a long shot. And LouisianaVoice will keep poking and probing and prodding for answers and we will report our findings.

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I’ve got no quarrel with anyone who wants to display his loyalty to a particular college or professional sports team. As a Louisiana Tech graduate, I naturally pull for the Bulldogs and because I live in Denham Sprints, right next door to Baton Rouge, I’m an LSU baseball fan.

And I’ve been a Boston Red Sox fan all my life, dating back to the days of the greatest hitter of ‘em all, Ted Williams who also, incidentally, was very active in helping raise money for the Jimmy Fund, a benefit program for children suffering from cancer. He did so quietly and privately, regularly visiting sick children. There was one ground rule, however: no media were to know when he was there. On one occasion a sick child was holding Ted’s finger in his hand. As Ted tried to leave, the child wouldn’t let go. Williams had a nurse bring a chair to the child’s bedside and he sat there all night holding his hand.

I have LSU, Tech and Red Sox caps and T-shirts but no bumper or window stickers but see nothing wrong with those who openly support Mississippi State, Florida or even Alabama on LSU turf—even if that person happens to Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter.

You remember Larpenter. He’s the one who got a judge to sign a search warrant so he could raid the home of a blogger whose only sin was being critical of Larpenter. You know, free speech and all that.

A federal JUDGE threw that search warrant in the trash can and in doing so, gave a Larpenter a verbal lashing and a refresher course on the First Amendment while clearing the way for a civil rights lawsuit against the high sheriff.

Well, now we learn that Larpenter, even as he cut back on his department’s matching deferred compensation for his employees and cut a boat load of other benefits as well in an effort to overcome his department’s $3 million deficit, saw nothing wrong with blowing a tidy sum on special tires and rims for one of the Sheriff’s Department’s vehicles.

In what was obviously a hilarious joke on the local LSU fans, Larpenter’s tires have nice white raised lettering reading “University of Alabama Crimson Tide.”

And while the “in your face” rolling proclamation might rankle resident Tiger fans, it should really raise the hackles of local taxpayers who’re paying for this unusual expenditure.

This little gesture must certainly fall under the “What the hell were you thinking” classification of really stupid things to do, Sheriff. It would have been far more economical to just get a Tide rear window sticker—and it’d be a lot less offensive to those who write checks for their property taxes each December.

But then again, this is the type mentality we get from elected officials who feel sufficiently immune to voter outrage and who seem to think of their office as just that—their office, instead of belonging to the people who have bestowed upon them the privilege of occupying the office temporarily.

(Lord, I hope he doesn’t get a search warrant to come barging through my front door at 6 a.m. to seize my laptop the way he loves to do to bloggers who criticize him. I just painted the door and put in new flooring following last year’s flood and don’t need the aggravation.)

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There have been some curious hires at the State Fire Marshal’s office which have attracted the attention of LouisianaVoice.

Two in particular: former State Rep. Bryan Adams and Dean Smith.

Of the two, Adams raises the most questions.

There is no question that Adams, unlike Smith, possessed experience in firefighting, having served as Chief of the Terrytown 5th District Volunteer Fire Department for 31 years, from 1982 to 2013.

But when he resigned from the Louisiana House of Representatives in July 2016 after four years, seven months in office to take a position as Deputy Chief-Investigations with the State Fire Marshal’s office, he was already working simultaneously as Customer Service Manager for Ferrara Fire Apparatus of Holden, a company that had extensive dealings as a major vendor for the Fire Marshal’s office at a whopping $120,000.

That, combined with his position as State Representative, might raise eyebrows. As a member of the Legislature, he had a vote on the budget for state agencies, including that of Fire Marshal, which did business with his employer. CLICK HERE.

He was elevated to Fire Chief on January 2 of this year but his salary did not change. He remained at the Fire Marshal’s office for only another month after that, until February 12, when he went to work for the Department of Revenue at a salary of $71,300, a drop of almost $49,000 in salary. He recouped some of that lost salary on June 19 of this year when he went to work as Executive Director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board at $91,000 per year (CLICK HERE).

Bryan Adams

Begin Date End Date Agency Job Title Biweekly Pay Rate
6/19/17 Present CRT-Office of the Secretary Executive Director $3500.00 (6/19/17 to present)
2/13/17 6/18/17 DOR-Department of Revenue Executive Staff Officer $34.30/hour (2/13/17 to 6/18/17)
1/2/17 2/12/17 DPS-Office of the State Fire Marshal Fire Chief 4615.39 (1/2/17 to 2/12/17)
6/24/16 1/1/17 DPS-Office of the State Fire Marshal Deputy Chief-Investigations 4615.39 (6/24/16 to 1/1/17)

So, who is Dean Smith?

No, not the legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach who passed away in February 2015.

We’re talking about the Dean Smith whose last day as police captain for the Pontchartrain Levee District was January 27, 2017, not quite seven months ago and who went to work as a Fire Chief for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (SFM) three days later at a cool $85,000 per year.

Nothing in his background would seem to qualify him as Fire Chief.

The Louisiana Civil Service Department says Dean Smith began working for the Pontchartrain Levee District as a Police Captain on July 1, 2010 at a salary of $61,000 per year.

On March 12, 2012, he was designated as a Police Captain A and on October 1, 2015, his salary was $71,000 and remained at that level until his departure on January 27 of this year. Three days later, with no professional experience to qualify him for his Fire Chief position, his salary jumped by $14,000 per year, to $85,000.

Dean Smith

Begin Date End Date Agency Job Title Biweekly Pay Rate
01/30/17 Present DPS-Office of State Marshal Fire Chief $3269.23 (1/30/17 to present)
3/5/12 1/29/17 Pontchartrain Levee District Police Captain A $2744.80 (10/01/15 to 1/29/17)

$2639.20 (10/1/14 to 9/30/15)

$2537.60 (10/1/13 to 9/30/14)

$2440.00 (10/1/12 to 9/30/13)

$2346.40 (3/5/12 to 9/30/12)

7/01/10 3/4/12 Pontchartrain Levee District Police Captain $2346.40 (7/1/10 to 3/4/12)

Smith was a volunteer fireman in Gonzales when Browning was Fire Chief there and the two are close friends, often joining each other on motorcycle rides.

Smith was also an Ascension Parish deputy sheriff at one time. While in that capacity, he had a gun to discharge accidentally, striking a prisoner in the spine and rendering him a paraplegic. He left the sheriff’s office after that, was elected a justice of the peace and eventually resigned to work for the levee board.

Irony of ironies, we are informed that one of the current duties of the man who once accidentally shot and paralyzed a man is to serve as firearms instructor for the Fire Marshal’s office.

Despite holding down a critical job like Fire Chief, it’s impossible to reach Smith by telephone because, you see, he has no phone extension at the Fire Marshal’s office. None. Nada. Nil. Zip. Attempts to call him on two separate occasions by LouisianaVoice met with explanations that he had no extension but that a message would be given him to return the call.

Of course, he never did.

Wanting to know just what it was that Smith did to earn his $85,000, we emailed State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, the man himself. He should know, after all:

From: Tom Aswell [mailto:azspeak@cox.net]
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 1:07 PM
To: ‘butch.browning@la.gov’ <butch.browning@la.gov>

Mr. Browning:

How long has Dean Smith worked for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal and why does he not have a phone extension?

What, exactly, is his title and what are his duties?

You will notice our email was sent at 1:07 p.m. last Friday. Minutes later we received a receipt showing that Browning had read our email at 1:08 p.m.

From: Butch Browning [mailto:Butch.Browning@la.gov]
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 1:08 PM
To: Tom Aswell <azspeak@cox.net>
Subject: Read: FW: DEAN SMITH

Your message

To: Butch Browning
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 1:07:24 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada)
was read on Friday, August 11, 2017 1:08:01 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada).

But Browning never answered our inquiry, so four hours later, at 5:12 p.m., a follow-up email was sent but alas, he must’ve already started his weekend for he never opened that message:

From: Tom Aswell [mailto:azspeak@cox.net]
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 5:12 PM
To: ‘butch.browning@la.gov’ <butch.browning@la.gov>
Subject: FOLLOW UP

I received the receipt showing that you read my previous email but you didn’t respond. You should know that it isn’t in your best interest to ignore me when I ask valid questions. And those were valid questions I asked before.

Not a threat, just friendly words of advice.

As we said, Butch, not a threat. But legitimate inquiries should never be ignored. As the slogan at the top of our web page says, “It is understandable when a child is afraid of the dark but unforgivable when a man fears the light.” The tactic of ignoring inquiries has never worked. It will not make us go away; quite the opposite, in fact.

So, to learn just what else besides teaching firearms safety does a Fire Chief at SFM do to earn his $85,000, we were forced to turn to other sources, current employees in the Fire Marshal’s office, both of whom said Smith and Browning are pals from way back.

One of those says Smith was hired to oversee the non-existent SFM fleet of boats. Well, it shouldn’t too difficult for a Fire Chief with no apparent firefighting experience to watch over boats that don’t exist.

He also cooked jambalaya for attendees at a firefighters’ conference held in Houma the weekend of July 19-22. Oh, well, at least there most likely was some fire involved with that.

If that conference could somehow be deemed an emergency, perhaps that might justify the use of the SFM’s special service trailer. The trailer was “up-fitted” in May 2015 from 5 Alarm Fire Apparatus of Raceland at a cost of $4,649 “for USAR emergency field food service cooking during emergencies.” The Fire Marshal’s office said at the time the expenditure was necessary, that the office “has no way of supporting USAR events or emergencies when they take place. This up-fit cooking trailer will now support events and emergencies with equipment for field food services when necessary.”

They probably also made good use of the 30-gallon roll-around combo set (complete with paddles for stirring the jambalaya) purchased in January 2015 from Krazy Kajun Cookware for $895.

But, despite the apparent critical need for an $85,000 per year Fire Chief, Boat Watcher and Jambalaya Cook, he doesn’t have a telephone extension at the Fire Marshal’s headquarters in Baton Rouge even though that’s where he works reports to collect his salary.

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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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It was inevitable, I suppose. The signs were there for us to see all this time, so it certainly should be no surprise.

Donald Trump has launched his own NEWS SERVICE to give the minions the “real” news. He’s fed up with that fake stuff dished out by the networks that they back up with obviously faked video, doctored photos, falsified documents and biased stories about his bogus university, his refusal to divest himself from his business interests and his coziness with the Russians.

Well, what ostrich-head-in-the-sand couldn’t see that coming?

Of course, the real head-scratcher is why he would go to all that trouble when he has the biggest blowhard of all spewing the right wing extremist line for three hours every day on a smaller-than-before-but-still-large radio network.

But Rush (“Praise the Lord and Pass the OxyContin”) Limburger is basically a mouthpiece for the Republican Party as a whole and that party is going to have to separate itself from ol’ Orange Hair with all due haste if it has a chance to hold its ground in the 2018 elections. So, in that respect, maybe his own “news” network would seem in order to Trump.

After all, this is the man whose motto would seem to be ut per eos testacles in cordibus et in animis sequentur. That’s Latin for “Get ‘em by the testacles; the hearts and minds will follow.” (And he’s certainly known for grabbing those areas.)

Any student of history knows that a dictatorship requires a suspension of all citizens’ rights (see his efforts to clamp down on dissent) and to muzzle all criticism (his repeated attacks on the media). The third requirement, of course, is to take over the media so the dictatorship’s lies can be saturated without fear of challenge.

We may as well start referring to Trump as DEAR LEADER a-la Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, though, I just don’t think I can bring myself to call him Herr Trump.

But the signs are already there. His repeated boasts of non-existent accomplishments, his exploring the possibility of pardoning himself, his exaggerated claims of voter fraud, claims that he had the biggest inauguration crowd in history, attacks of “fake news,” and the list goes on and on ad nauseum. And all easily refutable lies but still he barges ahead with still more lies. His favorite, of course, is calling the special prosecutor’s investigation into collusion with the Russians “a witch hunt.” He uses that one on a regular basis these days.

Adolf Hitler was the first to describe the benefits of the repetitive lie, which he said people would come to believe if they heard it often enough. He called it the “Big Lie.”

In Mein Kampf, Hitler said, “…In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie…Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” (emphasis added.)

He would go on to say in Mein Kampf:

“The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.

The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make and objective study of the truth, insofar as it favors the enemy, and then set before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, would later expand on der Führer’s philosophy when he said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Extreme examples? Perhaps. But the track that Trump is on is frighteningly familiar to students of history and should not be dismissed lightly.

After all, look at the people with whom he has surrounded himself. Not the least of these is one STEPHEN BANNON who has described Trump as a “revolutionary on the world stage,” and who described himself as a LENINIST who desired “to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

So, is Bannon Trump’s Joseph Goebbels or will he be his Martin Bormann (Hitler’s private secretary who controlled access to der Führer)? Or worse, will he be Trump’s Heinrich Himmler (commander of the Gestapo)? From this vantage point, the vote would have to go to Bormann.

All these scenarios were unthinkable 18 months ago. No one seriously thought Trump would ever be president. The day of his announcement, I confidently predicted he would “crash and burn” in six weeks.

But then, no one thought Hitler would rise to a position from which he could plunge the world into war.

But now we have an official Trump news service through which he can reach the masses with his own skewed version of reality. And for now, at least, he has an official Minister of Propaganda in Kayleigh McEnany.


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