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In Chapter 26 of my book, Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption,

Louisiana's Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption

I described how St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain circumvented state ethics laws by setting the son and daughter of two of his deputies up as straw owners of a private entity formed to run the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Department’s prisoner work release program under a no-bid contract.

Unfortunately, when I wrote the Strain chapter, I didn’t have all the sordid details that went along with the agreement, which included kickbacks to Strain and hundreds of thousands of dollars that went to his two deputies, David Hanson and Clifford “Skip” Keen.

On Thursday (August 29) those details were made public in the form of a federal INDICTMENT of Strain—details that revealed how the scheme worked, how kickbacks were paid to Strain and how federal funds were used to pay American Express Gold Card charges for expensive family vacations to Hawaii, the Bahamas, Destin, Florida, a hunting trip to Illinois, a $2,000 down payment on a Dodge Durango truck, $2,770 for a jewelry purchase from Boudreaux’s Fine Jewelers, other personal purchases and a $2.500 contribution to Strain’s re-election campaign.

The single-count indictment, in 22 pages, laid out the method by which Strain, Hanson and Keen set up two separate prisoner work release programs and awarded a no-bid contract to St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC, to operate the programs.

The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans, said that Hanson supervised the sheriff’s department’s Canine Division and Keen was over the Maintenance Department.

Strain, the indictment said, wanted to transfer operations of the work release programs to a private entity run by Hanson and Keen but for them to do so would have necessitated their resignations from the sheriff’s office, thus forfeiting medical and retirement benefits.

As a solution, Hanson’s daughter, Brandy Hanson, and Keen’s son, Jarret Cole Keen were set up as operators of St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, with each holding 45 percent ownership. To sidestep state ethics laws, which were already virtually meaningless, Allen Tingle was given 10 percent ownership and was paid $30,000 per year to run the work release program.

Brandy Hanson and Jarret Keen received more than 100 payments each totaling nearly $1.2 million between them from 2013 and 2017. The kickbacks to Strain, David Hanson and Skip Keen, the charges claim, were accomplished by arranging for Brandy Hanson and Jarret Keen to serve as “straw owners” of St. Tammany Workforce Solutions.

David Hanson and Skip Keen entered guilty pleas last February to funneling kickbacks to Strains from profits they received through the work release program.

Tingle is never identified in the indictment and is referred to only as “Person 2.” But the indictment named Person 2 as the registered agent for St. Tammany Workforce Solutions and the Secretary of State’s corporate RECORDS show the registered agent as Allen Tingle.

Thursday’s indictment said that Tingle was required to make payments to Brandy Hanson and Jarrett Keen.

Among the expenditures paid on Hanson’s American Express Cold Card were payments of $4,041; $4,770; $2,205, and $4,660.

Payments were also made to American Express in the amounts of:

  • $4,000 for Hanson’s Hawaiian vacation;
  • $4,000 for Hanson’s trip to the Bahamas;
  • $2,770 to pay for jewelry from Boudreaux’s Fine Jewelers;
  • $2,000 for a down payment on a new Dodge Durango;
  • $4,360 for another vacation in the Bahamas;
  • A check for $16,000 made payable to Big River Outfitters for a hunting lease in Illinois to be used by Keen and Hanson;
  • A debit card charge of $2,241 to Destin West for a Keen family vacation, and
  • A check for $2,500 drawn on the Skip Keen account and made payable to the Jack Strain Campaign.

Last month, Strain, who was defeated for re-election in 2015, was indicted by a St. Tammany Parish grand jury on two counts each of aggravated rape and aggravated incest and single counts of sexual battery and indecent behavior with a juvenile.

Two of his alleged victims were under the age of 12 and the alleged incidents date back as far as 1975, to when Strain himself was as young as 12, according to 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery. One of his victims claimed he was only six when Strain anally raped him.

At least four persons came forward to claim they were molested by Strain, one of whom said he was raped as late as June 2004. Strain, 56, was first elected sheriff in 1995, serving until his defeat by current Sheriff Randy Smith.

Strain was arrested at his home by state police and booked into his former jail where he was held in lieu of posting $400,000 bail. He faced the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. Just another ho-hum day in Louisiana politics.

 

 

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I hadn’t visited John Wayne Culpepper’s Lip-Smackin’ Bar-B-Que Hut, House of Prayer, Used Light bulb Emporium and Snake Farm up in Watson for quite a while, but I found myself in need of a little counseling from Harley Purvis, so I dropped by earlier this morning.

Harley, in case you don’t remember, is my longtime friend who also just happens to be president of the Greater Livingston Parish All-American Redneck Male Chauvinist Spittin’, Belchin’, and Cussin’ Society and Literary Club (LPAARMCSBCSLC).

I was in a foul mood as I approached him where he was seated in his customary spot in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark (apologies to the late Flip Wilson) and my mood was not lightened at the sight of a stranger already seated across from my friend and mentor. Harley spotted me and waved me over. “Have a seat. I want you to meet someone.” So, I slid into the booth next to Harley.

“This here’s Jimbo ‘Snake Eyes’ Hampton,” Harley said by way of introduction. We shook hands as the waitress pored me a cup of coffee. I shook hands with him while simultaneously ordering scrambled eggs, country ham and toast.

“What brings you in today?” Harley asked. He knew I rarely came to see him unless I was upset about something.

“Did you see the news last night?” I asked.

“Yep,” he answered. “And I figure you’re pissed that the state ethics board cleared Mike Edmonson of any wrongdoing. That about it?”

“Mostly confused and yes, a little angry,” I replied.

Edmonson’s attorney Gray Sexton, who once headed the Louisiana Ethics Board but who now represents clients before that same board, had told a Baton Rouge television station that his client, the former State Police Superintendent, had been cleared of all wrongdoing and that other agencies investigating Edmonson were dropping their investigations, as well.

“I don’t understand how that could be,” I said. The investigation centered around that trip to San Diego back in 2016 when four troopers drove a state police SUV there, taking side trips to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon along the way, while charging for overtime they didn’t work. “Back in April 2018, the same ethics board cleared—in secret, I might add—the troopers of any wrongdoing, saying that they were just following orders and had done so with the approval of Edmonson (see that story HERE). But now the board has cleared Edmonson, as well (see that story HERE).

Harley smiled, took a swig of his black coffee and said, “Son, don’t you know that the state police has a whole fleet of them self-drivin’ SUVs? That vehicle obviously drove itself out to San Diego and decided all on its own to take a side trip to Vegas and the Grand Canyon.”

He and Snake Eyes giggled in unison, apparently finding Harley’s explanation amusing. I just looked at both of them. Harley continued, “And them four troopers? Hell, they was hostages an’ couldn’t get outta that vehicle until it stopped at the expensive hotel where they stayed on the trip.” More giggles.

“Well, first of all, I don’t like the ides of Sexton being able to represent clients before the board he once headed,” I said. “He even referred to ‘unsubstantiated’ reports by the media and I can substantiate every single thing I wrote about him. Sexton’s full of crap. And even the state auditor found Edmonson had committed all kinds of violations of state policy.”

LSP AUDIT

AUDIT FINDINGS

“You know as well as I that’s the way they game the system,” Harley explained. “Prosecuting attorneys turn up as criminal defense attorneys and Sexton represents clients before his old board. Judges in cases brought against doctors by the medical board accept campaign contributions from the prosecuting attorneys for the board. Public Service Commission members take contributions from industries they regulate. Same thing for the insurance commissioner getting contributions from insurance companies.”

“But how can the ethics board clear the four troopers AND Edmonson 16 months later? It would seem that somebody would have to fall on their sword.”

“You know the system don’t work that way. They protect theyselves. That’s why they waited 16 months; they figured you’d forget they cleared the troopers after that much time. You think justice is even-handed? Look at ol’ Snake Eyes here. He just got out of prison. Know what he was in for? Tell him, Snake.”

Snake Eyes, a 47-year-old black man, grinned and said, “I was caught with less than three grams of weed. They gave me 13 years but it was reduced to eight years.” (Full disclosure: Snake Eyes is a pseudonym but his story is based on a real person from New Orleans.)

Harley leaned forward and added, “Louisiana ain’t the only place this kind of crap goes on. Remember that case in New Jersey where the judge refused to try a teenage rapist as an adult because he was a Eagle Scout, had good college entry scores and came from a GOOD FAMILY? That Eagle Scout not only raped a girl, but he filmed it and sent the video to his friends.

“And look at Jeffrey Epstein. Back in 2008, he was charged with having sex with underage girls and he got a nice plea deal that gave him 13 months in jail, only he was able to go to his office every day during those 13 months and just stayed in his jail cell at night. And the prosecutor who gave him that deal became Trump’s secretary of labor. An’ Ol’ Snake Eyes here gets eight years for a little pot.

“Then there’s that dentist at the LSU School of Dentistry who blew the whistle on the jaw implants bein’ a health hazard. Did they thank him? Hell, no, they revoked his license and ruined him financially, drove him outta the state, ‘cause he cost LSU money. Problem is, LSU lost more money on the lawsuits from the faulty implants. Same thing for Ivor van Heerden who criticized the Corps of Engineers following Katrina. He posed a threat to LSU federal grants from the Corps, so they run him off, just like they did Steven Hatfill who the FBI named as a person of interest in those anthrax letters even though he had nothing to do with them.

“Here’s another fine example of American justice at its best: The chief deputy of th’ Pima County, Arizona Sheriff’s Department pleaded guilty to laundering half-a-million dollars in RICO funds and got one year’s probation, a $3,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. Half-a-million dollars! And he never spent a day in jail while Snake here gets eight years for a coupla joints wortha weed.”

I started to speak, but he held up his hand. “A Oklahoma woman sold $31 wortha pot and got a 12-year prison sentence. Over in Mississippi, a man wanted the land his neighbors owned, so he instigated charges against the entire family after their son was caught cultivating marijuana on the man’s land. Police tore up their home, seized all the money they had, including the children’s piggy banks and a 90-year-old relative’s social security check. A year later, they raided the home again, arresting the entire family. The daddy got 26 years, the mama got 24 years and all four children received sentences of three to 15 years.

“The LSU fraternity members who were implicated in the binge drinking death of Max Gruver, meanwhile, got 30 DAYS in jail. They had the same lawyer who got Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal off after Ackal had several prisoners die in his custody. But Snake here gets eight years an’ he ain’t hurt nobody.

“And did you know that in Louisiana, if you steal a cell phone, you can get up to six months in jail but if you unknowingly buy a stolen cell phone, you could get up to 10 years for possessing stolen property?”

Harley and Snake Eyes exchanged knowing glances before Harley spoke again. “Son, you set the bar way too high for guvmental ethics. But the sad part is Louisiana ain’t unique. We’re actually pretty typical across the board.

“Jes’ remember the real Golden Rule: Them what has the gold makes the rules. An’ that goes double for the Louisiana so-called ‘Ethics’ Board.”

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St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told LouisianaVoice today that former deputy Billy McCauley was not arrested at the time of his firing because while the department’s internal investigation was complete, the criminal investigation was not.

Since then, he said, the criminal investigation has been completed without sufficient evidence to place McCauley under arrest because of refusal by an informant to wear a wire to gather further evidence.

“I don’t like to investigate my own people for obvious reasons of conflict of interest,” Sheriff Guidroz said. “I tried to get Louisiana State Police and the Attorney General’s office to conduct investigations. Unfortunately, each declined.

“It’s not that I won’t investigate and arrest my employees. I have. In fact, over the years I’ve arrested 51 employees, mostly at the parish jail.”

Guidroz said a local drug dealer, “Goldmouth” Johnson, told deputies that McCauley was on his payroll for $500 a month. His job was to provide internal information to Johnson, the sheriff said. “We tried to get Goldmouth to wear a wire to gather additional evidence against McCauley, but he refused.

“But we seized McCauley’s wife’s cell phone and found evidence of the $500 monthly fee and of attempts to purchase drugs,” he said. “McCauley was using his wife’s phone in attempts to buy marijuana for her.”

Guidroz also addressed the clothing found at Eunice High School that included some of McCauley’s sheriff’s deputy uniform. “As I understand it, McCauley lost his house and he was getting rid of stuff and that included uniform trousers, a departmental vest, a badge, and other items, along with other personal property. Because he did not turn his departmental-issue property in when he was fired, we withheld payment for the items from his last paycheck.”

Guidroz said that while he was unable to have McCauley arrested, “I wanted to make sure he wasn’t able to go to work for another law enforcement agency by simply allowing him to resign. By firing him, he should not be able to get another job in law enforcement.”

Guidroz said he didn’t know where the copy of the letter of McCauley’s dismissal was obtained by LouisianaVoice, “but I would assume I have leaks internally.”

McCauley, in a partial Facebook message to LouisianaVoice, proclaimed his innocence and even though we offered to speak with him, he has not made contact again. His Facebook page blocked LouisianaVoice from responding.

 

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The St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office has been rocked by two embarrassing incidents within a matter of two weeks, one of which involved the quiet firing of a deputy reportedly on the take from drug dealers in the parish.

While Holden Matthews, 21, arrested in connection with the ARSON of three African-American churches in St. Landry, was not an actual employee of the sheriff’s office, his father, Roy Matthews, is a deputy.

Though the arrest of Holden Matthews does not constitute a black eye for the department—his father and the department cannot reasonable be held responsible for his actions—an April 3 letter by Sheriff Bobby Guidroz is another matter.

In that letter, Guidroz informed former deputy William Davis “Billy” McCauley that he was being terminated for malfeasance in office, “effective immediately.”

Guidroz said in his letter that “information was obtained from an individual arrested on narcotics charges by the sheriff’s office in reference to you being paid a monthly fee for information from the sheriff’s office.

“An internal investigation was initiated and you were placed on administrative leave without pay on March 20, 2019, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“The investigation revealed that you committed malfeasance in office.”

Additional information obtained by LouisianaVoice indicated the department was first alerted following an arrest on February 19 of a drug dealer known locally as “Goldmouth,” who revealed that McCauley was a paid informant of his.

McCauley, sheriff’s detectives learned, would provide confidential departmental information to Goldmouth in exchange for drugs and/or money.

Recently, LouisianaVoice was told, a bag of clothing which included McCauley’s sheriff’s deputy uniforms was found discarded on the Eunice High School campus. McCauley was said to have no children of high school age or family attending the school as a possible source of the uniforms.

Speculation is the uniforms were given to Goldmouth to use and once McCauley was fired, he had no further use of the uniforms.

There has been no indication of any criminal charges filed against McCauley—only his dismissal from the department.

Efforts to contact Guidroz were unsuccessful because of the Good Friday holiday.

 

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As reports of financial improprieties in the LSU BASKETBALL program, the SCHOOL of VETERINARY MEDICINE and a children’s foundation at a Baton Rouge HOSPITAL compete for headlines, another scandal has been quietly brewing across town that thus far has managed to fly under the radar of news reporters and investigators.

It’s nothing on the magnitude of the pay to play story that has rocked higher education at the nation’s elite universities, but it is indicative of a growing problem of a deterioration of trust, integrity and morality behind the walls of academia.

Once considered paragons of virtue, propriety, and incorruptibility, our colleges and universities have become politicized by draconian budgetary cuts to the point that schools find themselves searching for their collective moral compasses even as they strive for funds to remain afloat.

But budgetary cuts alone can’t account for the some of the shenanigans we see taking place on our college campuses. Sometimes it’s just outright contempt for the rules of common decency.

Take Southern University, the state’s largest predominantly black university, for example.

The school has, with nobody taking notice, become embroiled in a dispute involving the firing of four faculty members in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology/Audiology.

The firings occurred when the faculty members refused to go along with:

  • The creation of a so-called shadow, or non-existent curriculum to benefit a single student;
  • The falsifying of another student’s grade from F to B so that she could graduate even though she failed to attend the class;
  • Allowing a student to enroll despite her being under suspension from the university;
  • Permitting a major course to be offered as an independent study when the department does not have independent study, again to benefit a single student;
  • Nepotism;
  • Bullying and threatening behavior by administration officials when faculty members questioned the legality or propriety of their actions;

The four, Dr. Elaine Lewnau, Dr. Christy Moland, Dr. Terrilynn Gillis, and Dr. Marilyn Seibert, are represented by Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith, III.

During Monday’s hearing by the Southern University System-wide Grievance Committee, committee chairperson academic counselor Marla Dickerson consistently interrupted Smith with a barrage of questions despite Smith’s repeated requests that he be allowed to complete his statements to the committee.

The entirety of Monday’s hearing was the very definition of a kangaroo court as the four faculty members were also interrupted time and time again as they attempted to give their opening statements.

Then, without a motion or vote to do so, Dickerson called an executive session, saying the hearing was not a public meeting and the committee was not a public body even though any decision it may make is clearly defined as an official action by a public body under state law. Dickerson’s saying otherwise does not change that.

The state’s OPEN MEETING STATUTE, R.S. 42:16 (A)(25) reads:

In order for a public body to enter into an executive session, a vote of 2/3 of members present at an open meeting, for which proper notice was given pursuant to R.S. 42:19, is necessary — along with an accompanying statement of the reason for entering into the executive session. The vote of each member on the motion to enter into executive session along with the reason for entering the executive session must be recorded and entered into the minutes. (emphasis added)

So, the “Grievance Committee” violated the state’s open meetings statutes which require public hearings of grievances should those filing grievances request a public hearing, which all four in fact, did request.

The same section says:

Further, the public body may not enter into executive session for the purposes of this discussion, if the individual requests that the matter be discussed in an open meeting. (emphasis added)

Dickerson, in calling the closed session, ejected not only LouisianaVoice, but also the four professors and their legal counsel (Smith) as well as the legal counsel for the university itself (Winston Decuir), thus preventing legal counsel for each side from hearing any testimony by witnesses.

The grievance was filed against Dr. James Ammons, executive vice president and executive vice chancellor of Southern University.

For the 2018 Spring Semester, a shadow curriculum consisting of three courses, was approved for a single student, even though there is no record of a syllabus for such courses and no record of student performance in the courses for which she received a grade of A. “This is grade fraud,” Smith said, because “The department chair did not know that these courses were being given to the student” and “there is no record of ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) certification standards achieved in any of the courses.

“Because these courses were put into (the student’s) schedule without any knowledge of the department chair (or) graduate program director, in other words, illegal courses, and taught by…illegally appointed department chair and graduate program director, respectively,” Smith said. The previous department chair and graduate program director were removed by Ammons without reason, in violation of school policy, Smith said.

Smith said a major course was offered to a single student as an independent study in the 2018 Fall semester even though the Speech Pathology Department does not offer independent study, which Smith said violates the accuracy of the ASHA accreditation report where no independent study has ever been reported. Again, Smith said this constituted grade fraud.

Further, Smith said Dr. Stephen Enwefa removed Dr. Lewnau from her duties of teaching the course without reason and appointed his wife, Dr. Regina Enwefa, to teach the course. “This is nepotism despite the insistence by Dr. Ammons and President (Ray) Belton’s general counsel that the university is not in violation of the state’s nepotism laws.”

The student was to have completed an unauthorized clinic in the 2018 Spring semester, Smith said, but neither the site nor the clinical hours were approved by the Clinical Education director. The student was given an F because she attended only two weeks of the eight-week clinic, but Ammons changed her grade to a B. “The grade of B that was authorized by Dr. Ammons is fraudulent,” Smith said.

“Because Dr. Moland refused to give credit for something of which she had no record; because she would not falsify records for this student and lie, Dr. Ammons fired her,” Smith said.

Likewise, Dr. Gillis said she was fired for refusing to violate the ASHA professional ethics and because she “refused to submit to the illegal orders of Dr. Ammons.”

Dr. Seibert said she entered into an agreement with Southern whereby she would be paid $20,000 for teaching in the Speech-Language Pathology Department during the 2018 Fall semester but was subsequently paid only $7,500.

Dr. Lewnau added, “As chair of the admissions committee for the master’s degree program in speech-language pathology, Dr. Gillis had been contacted several times about the admission of 6 students who had applied and been denied because they did not meet the minimum admissions requirements.

“These contacts came from various offices on campus, including the President’s office, the Board of Supervisors’ office and the office of the Executive Vice President/Executive Vice Chancellor and someone who claimed to be a member of the Southern University Alumni Association, for the purpose of trying to get these students into the master’s degree program.

“Dr. Gillis had to repeatedly stated that the students just did not qualify for admissions. After Dr. (Donna) Dejean and Dr. Lewnau were removed from their administrative offices and replaced by the husband and wife team of Drs. Stephen and Regina Enwefa, and Dr. Gillis was given a letter of termination from the University, effective May 2019, these students were admitted to the master’s degree program by the Enwefas.

“Bear in mind, these students were admitted by the Enwefas who together and without any input from the rest of the faculty admitted them and without re-opening the admissions process to other students who might interested.

“The invitation was extended to these students who had been supported by individuals from the offices cited above. We believe that this was a contributing factor to Dr. Gillis’ being terminated. She refused to bow to the pressure placed upon her in the matter of these admissions. Since then all admissions, undergraduate and graduate, are administered by Stephen and Regina Enwefa; there is no longer an admissions committee as there had been in the past. Once again, nepotism!”

 

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