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Archive for the ‘Fraud’ Category

Anyone who thought retired State Police Lieutenant Leon “Bucky” Millet would eventually get tired of calling out State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) or the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) just doesn’t know Bucky Millet—or wife Vivian, for that matter.

Both have been fixtures at LSPC’s monthly meetings for more than a year now, driving in all the way from Lake Arthur, and at times have been a real pain in the posteriors for the commission. Millet has warned commissioners on more than one occasions that continuing to allow Edmonson to stack the commission with his lap dogs will eventually come to no good. Looking back, his repeated warnings have suddenly gone from the predictions of a disgruntled retiree to the prophetic words of someone with unerringly keen insight—and foresight.

Millet, fed up with the direction being taken by the organization he once served so proudly, has now fired off formal complaints to Gov. John Bel Edwards, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Inspector General Stephen Street, State Police Lt. Col. Murphy of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Bureau of Investigations, and East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore.

In his separate letter to each of the five, he called for an investigation of possible malfeasance and payroll fraud on the part of four State Troopers who took an unmarked State Police vehicle to California last October.

While LSPC Chairman State Trooper T.J. Doss and other commissioners have chosen to ignore his monthly warnings and have been generally dismissive of his questions the way a busy parent would dismiss a child’s questions, the LSPC now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of observing from the sidelines as a formal investigation gets underway of the very agency it is supposed to have been overseeing.

That investigation by auditors from the Division of Administration (DOA) was ordered by Gov. John Bel Edwards after it was learned that Edmonson had 15 of his subordinates (including the four who drove the vehicle assigned to Deputy Superintendent Charles Dupuy) to San Diego to witness Edmonson receiving an award for which a former State Trooper of the Year was originally nominated. LSP headquarters, meanwhile, is using an earlier 2015 unsuccessful nomination of Edmonson for the award as justification for stiffing Maj. Carl Saizan’s nomination.

It’s not as if the LSTA hasn’t tried to silence the affable Millet. After Millet and three other retirees challenged the association’s laundering more than $45,000 in illegal campaign contributions through its executive director’s personal checking account, LSTA took quick action. After it became evident that they weren’t going away, the association, without explanation or comment, simply revoked their memberships.

LSTA is supposed to be an association of active and retired state troopers established to work to benefit troopers, retirees and their families and to work for better conditions for troopers. But it’s evident those benefits extend only to those who keep their mouths shut. Apparently, there is some hidden clause in its bylaws that prohibits dissention among the ranks.

Again, if that move was intended to silence Millet, it only backfired by making him even more vocal and more determined than ever to ask questions and to challenge decisions. He has proven himself to be a nettlesome irritation over the pathetic, so-called “investigation” of the LSTA members who authorized the contributions, as well as the association’s endorsement of Edwards—its first-ever political endorsement.

Natchitoches attorney, former legislator and political ally of Edwards Taylor Townsend was hired by the LSPC under a $75,000 contract to conduct the pseudo-investigation after commission legal counsel Lenore Feeney said she could not conduct such an investigation. Neither, apparently, could Townsend, even though that didn’t prevent him from accepting payments under his contract. The final product of his investigation was not a written report as one might reasonably expect, but simply an oral recommendation that “no action be taken.” Not exactly the most bang for the buck.

Like the San Diego trip’s $72,000 costs in travel, lodging, meals and salary, Townsend’s contract stands as another $75,000 frittered away with nothing, repeat, nothing to show for it.

Doss and his allies on the commission must have thought they’d dodged a bullet despite fellow commissioner Lloyd Grafton’s observation that the entire affair looked a lot like “money laundering” to him. He should know. Grafton, a former federal DEA agent who was instrumental in thwarting a coup d’état in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, is no stranger to sniffing out money laundering. He eventually resigned from the commission in disgust over what he called a “lack of integrity.”

Millet, tired of constantly having to bicker with Doss and other commission members, has now taken the next logical step, spurred on by that San Diego episode, in filing his complaint.

While he is asking for an investigation of the four who drove, it is critical to remember they took a vehicle permanently assigned to Edmonson’s second-in-command—pretty clear evidence that they didn’t act on their own volition but were instructed to drive some 2,000 miles in order to help bolster Edmonson’s ego. That raises the question of who ordered the four to pile into that Expedition and head west?

Accordingly, no investigation should be held without including Edmonson (who had to have ordered them to drive the vehicle) and Dupuy, whose vehicle was used—obviously with his permission.

But Millet is more concerned about the overtime charged by each of the four, including 12 hours each for seven days of travel. Two legs of their trip, from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas, and from Las Vegas to San Diego were trips of about 250 miles or so that should have taken about four hours each but for which each man charged 12 hours. That’s 96 total hours—32 hours at overtime rates—to travel about 500 miles.

While it’s probably a waste of time to ask Street to conduct an investigation given the effectiveness displayed by his office over the past several years, any investigation undertaken by Paul would be even more fruitless; he’s being asked to investigate the actions of Edmonson, his boss. That ain’t happening.

But if Landry launches his own investigation, the results should be fascinating when compared to that of the governor’s office, given the acrimonious relationship between the two offices and given Landry’s obvious desire to run against Edwards in 2019.

But all of those will pale in comparison to the ticklish position T.J. Doss will find himself in if Millet does the expected and requests another investigation—by the LSPC.

We have speculated on this site several times in the recent past as to what Doss, a state trooper who owes his position as commission chairman to Edmonson (not to mention his job), will do if called upon to investigate his boss.

As the late C.B. Forgotston would say if he were still with us: You can’t make this stuff up.

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In what may turn out to be one of her last official acts, Louisiana State Police (LSP) Executive Officer Rhonda Fogleman, has issued official notice of the transfer, albeit illegal, of Major Derrell Williams from head of Internal Affairs to Technical Support Services “on authority of Colonel Mike Edmonson.”

Additionally, LouisianaVoice has received information from a person who claims to have witnessed Edmonson and family members taking food and beverages from the State Police cafeteria for their personal use.

Edmonson initially said Williams was being transferred to road patrol as punishment for the side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon during a drive to San Diego last October.

The move would hardly be considered a demotion—or punishment, for that matter. But it would impossible for Edmonson to actually discipline Williams since there has been no due process for him or any of the other three who rode in the unmarked State Police vehicle assigned to Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy to San Diego.

At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned that Fogleman, who Edmonson earlier threw under the bus along with the four who drove to California in October, has made inquiry into possible retirement.

Edmonson, shown copies of expense reports for Williams that contained his signature, tantamount to approval of the expenses, laid the blame for that approval on Fogleman. He claimed that she used his signature stamp to approve the expenses, which included hotel invoices from hotels in Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Fogleman has been employed at LSP for 32 years and currently earns $72,800 per year, Civil Service records show.

A terse comment received today from a Department of Public Safety employee who requested anonymity for obvious reasons said, “I have personally witnessed the illustrious Colonel back his state-owned SUV to the back of the cafeteria and load it up with food and drinks and unload at his residence.”

The comment went on to say, “If that wasn’t enough his kids were allowed to do the same. I witnessed it because I was assigned to HQ as my assigned shift.”

LouisianaVoice contacted Edmonson through Public Information Officer Maj. Doug Cain. He did not deny he had taken food and beverages from the cafeteria but did issue a one-sentence statement through Cain:

DPS cafeteria services are available for purchase by all DPS employees as well as the general public.”

He did not say whether or not he or members of his family actually purchased the commodities. Nor did it address the claim that he and his family members were taking bulk items from the cafeteria in vehicles.

The question of the legality of the reassignment of Williams is hinges on whether or not LSP followed established RULES for filling vacancies. Rule 8.2 says the technical support major must be advertised as a promotion for anyone interested in applying.

That section says, “When proposing to fill a vacancy by original appointment, the appointing authority (Edmonson) shall request the Director (of the Louisiana State Police Commission) to certify the names of persons eligible for appointment, furnishing such information about the vacancy as may be necessary for the Director to decide those persons eligible for appointment.”

Rule 8.4 (a) says, “The Director…shall certify to the appointing authority the names of the highest ranking eligibles from the appropriate list for the class of the vacant position.”

Paragraph (b) adds, “In specific instances, and pursuant to and in conformity with an order of the State Police Commission, a court, or other commission, or agency of competent jurisdiction, the Director may make, or permit the appointing authority to make, selective certification.”

The transfer of Williams and the assignment of Maj. Cathy Flinchum to head of Internal Affairs was Edmonson’s way of addressing the flak over the trip taken by him and 15 other LSP personnel, each of whom was paid for attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference last October to see their boss receive an award from IACP.

To date, Edmonson has only addressed the travel and overtime of the four State Troopers who drove Dupuy’s vehicle to San Diego.

That apparently was insufficient to Gov. John Bel Edwards who has ordered an investigation by auditors from the Division of Administration.

LouisianaVoice, meanwhile, has requested copies of Training and Travel authorizations for each of those who went to San Diego as well as authorization documents for taking the state vehicle out-of-state. We have yet to receive those documents.

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Could it be that Gov. John Bel Edwards has finally seen and heard enough about the shenanigans of Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Mike Edmonson?

Has he been embarrassed one too many times by the state’s top cop who was foisted on him by the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police?

If the tone of this NOLA.com STORY by Julia O’Donoghue Wednesday (Feb. 22) is any indication, Edmonson’s days at LSP may indeed be numbered.

Edwards earlier this week ordered auditors from the Division of Administration (DOA) to conduct an investigation into a trip taken by a gaggle of LSP personnel and hangers-on to witness Edmonson receive an award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) at its conference in San Diego.

Of particular interest to Edwards was the expenditure of thousands of dollars in salaries, overtime, fuel, lodging and meals for four State Troopers who drove an unmarked State Police vehicle assigned to Edmonson’s second-in-command to the event. That trek included a side trip to and overnight stays in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Three of the four combined to claim 105 hours of overtime on the trip to and from San Diego, figures that appear far out of line with the distances traveled.

For example, each of the four claimed 12 hours to travel from the Grand Canyon resort city of Tusayan, Arizona, to Las Vegas, a distance of only 270 miles, a torrid pace of 22.5 mph. They also claimed 12 hours to drive from Las Vegas to San Diego, a trip of only 290 miles. For that leg of the journey, they put the petal to the metal, averaging a scorching 24 mph.

Can you say payroll fraud?

Maj. Derrell Williams did not claim overtime hours because those of the rank of captain or above are prohibited from claiming overtime. He did, however, claim compensatory leave time for the same hours.

While investigators’ focus will apparently be on the overtime charged by the four and the reasons for their side trip, there are several other aspects of the entire San Diego affair that should be considered:

  • Why was the original award nomination of Maj. Carl Saizan, a former State Trooper of the Year, pulled in favor of Edmonson?
  • Why was it necessary for so many State Police personnel to accompany Edmonson on this trip?
  • Why was Michelle Hyatt, the wife of Lt. Rodney Hyatt and a civilian non-LSP employee, allowed to accompany her husband in the State Police Ford Expedition on that cross-country trip? (The Expedition, by the way, is permanently assigned to Edmonson’s second-in-command, Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.
  • Why was part-time student worker Brandon Blackburn paid 53.5 hours for attending the conference? And why was Brandon Blackburn, the son of the late Frank Blackburn, formerly the LSP legal counsel, allowed to travel to the conference on his father’s ticket?
  • Finally, since each of the 15 LSP personnel who accompanied Edmonson on the trip, were on the clock and were paid for attending the conference, how many of those personnel actually attended conference sessions for which they charged the state?

LouisianaVoice made inquiry of IACP for attendance lists for the various sessions but we received the expected response: “We do not provide attendance records or make any information about our attendees publicly available.”

Of course, the DOA investigation is barely underway so it’ll be some time yet before any determination is made regarding Edmonson’s future.

One LouisianaVoice reader made an interesting observation when he said in an email to us this morning that the LSP superintendent’s position “is a job needing turnover every so often to avoid a J. Edgar Hoover situation.”

But should the governor decide that Edmonson has embarrassed his administration one too many times and that he must go, it’s crucial that he make the correct choice in selecting a successor—and not listen to the sheriffs and chiefs of police. He—and this is critical—must be his own man in making that decision.

If he simply drops down the chain of command a notch and names Dupuy, Lt. Col. Jason Starnes, or Maj. Beckett Breaux, nothing will have changed and LouisianaVoice will be guaranteed an uninterrupted flow of stories from Independence Boulevard.

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Gov. John Bel Edwards has ordered an investigation of that Las Vegas trip by four State Troopers.

The Trooper Underground has commissioned a poll of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s job performance.

Louisiana State Police (LSP) insiders confide that Edmonson is more nervous than he’s been since that attempt in 2014 to slide a bill amendment through the legislature that would have given him a $55,000 per year increase in his retirement income.

Want a good laugh in the meantime? When asked about his signature on the expense forms submitted by Derrell Williams, one of the four who drove the vehicle, Edmonson said (are you ready for this?) he allows his assistant to approve/look over this stuff and use his signature stamp.

hard-at-work-at-torrey-pines

And yet….and yet, no one has addressed that tacky action of yanking the nomination of a highly respected former Trooper of the Year so that Edmonson could stand in for the award in the company of a gaggle of his inner circle who made the trip to San Diego with him for the ceremony.

And while there has been plenty focus on the overtime pay claimed by the four who drove an unmarked State Police car to San Diego via Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, little attention has been given the salaries paid the others who attended the conference at which Edmonson was honored. And even less attention has been given to how Michelle Hyatt, wife of Lt. Rodney Hyatt and a civilian, was allowed to ride in the Expedition on that trip in violation of state regulations.

working-hard-at-the-searsucher-san-diego

San Diego’s nice this time of year

These five guys on the clock?

Why aren’t they at the IACP conference?

In fact, it appears that officials at LSP have circled the wagons as records promised by Public Information Officer Maj. Doug Cain have not been forthcoming.

Gov. Edwards Monday ordered an INVESTIGATION by the Division of Administration (DOA) into (you know someone was going to say it) LSP Travelgate. The investigation will be conducted by DOA auditors.

While the investigation will begin with the San Diego trip, Richard Carbo, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said auditors would look for patterns and “keep going further back if they find additional information.”

It could, however evolve into a good news-bad news scenario:

In what has to be encouraging to Edmonson’s critics, Carbo said the DOA investigation would be conducted apart from an internal investigation ordered by Edmonson, who has opposed efforts to bring in outside investigators to review the Las Vegas trip for possible criminal wrongdoing.

Auditors may also look into presence a fifth passenger, a civilian, who also made the trip in the Ford Expedition permanently assigned to Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy. Michelle Hyatt posted photos of her and husband, Lt. Rodney Hyatt (one of the four who drive the Ford Expedition) at the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam on Facebook but has since taken them down. Those photos raised speculation, since confirmed by Edmonson, that she may have been a passenger in the vehicle, a violation of state policy.

The results of that nine-question SURVEY are certain to be interesting and will be published later this week.

Each question provides five possible answers. Without listing the answer choices, the questions include:

  • How effectively does Colonel Edmonson use company (agency) resources?
  • How much integrity does Colonel Edmonson have?
  • How consistently does Colonel Edmonson reward employees for good work?
  • How consistently does Colonel Edmonson punish employees for bad work?
  • How much trust to you have in Colonel Edmonson’s ability to make the right decisions?
  • How well do Colonel Edmonson’s priorities match up with the goals of your company (agency)?
  • How comfortable do you feel voicing your disagreement with Colonel Edmonson’s opinions?
  • How knowledgeable is Colonel Edmonson about the laws that matter to your company’s (agency’s) industry (field)?
  • Is Colonel Edmonson fit to lead the Louisiana State Police?

Optional: So that those taking the survey may verify that respondents are state employees, please provide your name. Names will remain strictly confidential, but if you are uncomfortable doing so, it is not required.

Optional: Provide any comments you wish to be provided to the media and the governor.

 

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State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson Monday showed his true colors and they weren’t blue. (Hint: think canaries, school buses and bananas) in the wake of revelations about sending four State Troopers to San Diego last October in an unmarked State Police vehicle.

His demotion, albeit likely temporary, of Maj. Derrell Williams, head of State Police Internal Affairs, in an effort to deflect responsibility from himself may backfire with the discovery of three pages among hundreds of pages of documents that contain Edmonson’s signature as evidence he knew of the Vegas trip at least since last November.

Meanwhile, a new wrinkle has emerged, thanks to Facebook (people just can’t help letting social media get them in trouble). It seems that Michelle Hyatt posted photos of her and husband, Lt. Rodney Hyatt (one of the four who drive the Ford Expedition) at the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam during that little trip out west.

The photos have since been removed (as have every single post she previously had on Facebook), but their brief appearance raises a critical question: Was she, a civilian, riding in the state vehicle on that San Diego trip? If so, that raises all manner of liability issues and violates all kinds of state regulations.

If she was not a passenger, how did she get to those sites for the photos?

But back to Edmonson. He announced sweeping changes in overtime regulations in light of his incredibly ill-advised order to have the vehicle driven to San Diego for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference where he was presented an award that was originally slated for another Louisiana State Trooper—a former State Trooper of the Year.

Of course, in announcing the CHANGES and throwing four subordinates under the bus in order to maintain his saintly aura, he has yet to address the circumstances of how he managed to break in line ahead of Maj. Carl Saizan, a 33-year State Police veteran and former State Trooper of the Year who was originally slated for the award until his nomination was pulled in favor of Edmonson, who was probably overdue for an out-of-state trip.

The Advocate broke the story Sunday morning followed by the LouisianaVoice story we’d been working on for two months. Monday night, investigative reporter Lee Zurik of WVUE Fox 8 TV in New Orleans aired his STORY that raised serious questions about Edmonson’s honesty in saying he was unaware of the side trip.

LouisianaVoice has copies of three documents containing Edmonson’s signatures approving expenditures submitted by Williams at Tusayan, Arizona, site of the Grand Canyon, and at the Venetian Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Two of the documents were signed by Edmonson on Dec. 20 and the other more than a month earlier, on Nov. 10.

lacarte-bill-approved-by-edmonson

 

redacted-invoice

edmonsons-printed-name-and-signature

I believe in law enforcement, that’s called documentary evidence.

LouisianaVoice made public records requests on Saturday for:

  • All Training and Travel Requests completed, signed, filed and approved for authority to take the Ford Expedition (Vehicle No. 80331) to California in October of 2016;
  • All authorizations for Out of State Travel completed, signed, filed and approved for out of state travel to California by each individual in LSP who traveled to California in September and October, 2016.

We have not heard back from Public Information Officer Doug Cain.

Meanwhile, Edmonson needs to explain how he can justify punishing subordinates two and three months after he signed off on the expense accounts of the senior officer making the trip in a state vehicle permanently assigned to his second in command, Special Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.

Edmonson told Zurik that those supervisors (including Dupuy) who signed off on the expenses of the other three troopers in the vehicle would answer to him.

The real question is: Who does Edmonson answer to? Maj. Catherine Flinchum, the one he assigned to investigate the four in the Expedition? Department of Public Safety Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc? The State Police Commission, headed by one of his troopers? Gov. John Bel Edwards?

Since it was Edwards who made the decision (at the insistence of the Sheriffs’ Association), it should be Edwards to sees to it this whole mess is sorted out.

Edmonson says he’s “embarrassed” by the Vegas trip—a trip he’s known about since November.

The governor should be embarrassed by his Superintendent of State Police, the man who is the public face of law and order and all that’s supposed to be good, honest, and trustworthy.

The fact is, he appears to be neither and it’s past time for the governor to cut his losses.

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