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Archive for the ‘Lawsuits’ Category

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal’s travails (largely of his own making) continue with the filing of yet another in a series of legal actions, this one a federal LAWSUIT filed by a former female deputy.

As is usually the case, no matter how the trial (or settlement, which is more likely) eventually turns out, the real winners will be the attorneys who will have managed to drag out legal proceedings for a minimum of 18 months, barring any further delays in the trial tentatively set for June 4, 2018.

If the case follows the all-too-common trend, however, there is almost certain to be unforeseen delays and continuances that will push that date back even further as attorneys (and there is a gaggle of those) continue to rack up billable hours.

Candace Rayburn, a deputy sheriff for more than five years, claims she was unceremoniously and summarily terminated after she spoke up in the defense of a female co-worker filed an EEOC sexual harassment charge against a male deputy.

Rayburn’s is another in a string of lawsuits filed against Ackal, who was recently acquitted in Shreveport federal court of criminal charges of abusing black prisoners of his jail. Those charges included beatings of prisoners and turning a police dog on a helpless prisoner, a gruesome scene that was captured on video and posted by LouisianaVoice earlier.

Ackal is also being sued for wrongful termination by another former deputy and by the family of a prisoner who died of a gunshot wound while handcuffed and in the custody of Iberia Parish Sheriff’s deputies. The official coroner’s ruling was that the prisoner, Victor White, died of a self-inflicted wound.

The sheriff is also indirectly involved in the manslaughter arrest of a man instrumental in starting a recall of Ackal over the White shooting. https://louisianavoice.com/2017/03/21/man-indicted-for-manslaughter-after-he-is-rear-ended-by-man-later-killed-in-separate-accident-his-sin-was-recall-of-sheriff/

Rayburn initially named both Ackal and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office as defendants but recently amended her petition to include Ackal as the only defendant.

Ackal, who paid premium fees in his criminal defense, in a classic case of fiscal overkill, has opened up the parish bank in hiring not one, not two, not three, not four, but five defense attorneys, all from the same law firm.

That’s right. Because he’s being sued in his official capacity as sheriff, Iberia Parish taxpayers will pick up the tab for his legal bills—all of them.

Rayburn, who was employed as a Sheriff’s Deputy for IPSO from July 21, 2008 to November

15, 2013, says she received “overwhelmingly positive reviews from her Supervisors” and was even named “Employee of the Year” in 2012.

But when Deputy Laura Segura filed a sexual harassment complaint against Chief Deputy Bert Berry, she voiced her support of Segura. Within two weeks, she says, she was brought before the department’s disciplinary board which recommended a one-year probationary period and that she be offered remedial training. Instead, she claims in her suit, Ackal fired her for “multiple (uncited) policy violations,” actions she claims were committed “with malice.”

Rayburn is claiming loss of pay, loss of benefits, loss of earning capacity, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

She is seeking reinstatement, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

To say Ackal has lawyered up would be an understatement. He has retained half the Lafayette law firm of Borne, Wilkes & Rabalais: Allison McDade Ackal, Homer Edward Barousse, III, Kyle Nicholas Choate, Joy C Rabalais, and Taylor Reppond Stover.

Rayburn is represented by Justin Roy Mueller, also of Lafayette.

The calendar, rules, and SCHEDULE set forth by the court are simply mind-boggling and serve to illustrate why our courts are so backed up—and why justice is only for those who can afford it.

The court, invoking something called Rule 30(a)(2)(A), placed a limit of 10 on the number of depositions that may be taken in the case, limiting each to one seven-hour day—absent written stipulation of parties to the suit or of a court order.

Should the parties participate in the maximum 10 depositions with each one running the full seven hours allowed, that’s 70 hours of legal fees for which the parish must stand good.

Applying an arbitrary rate of $200 per hour (which most likely is considerably less than the hourly rate the parish paid his attorney in his criminal trial), that comes to $14,000—and that doesn’t count the costs of court reporters, expert fees, filing fees and countless other hours the five attorneys will be billing the parish for, or the Segura settlement which reportedly cost the parish in the ballpark of $400,000.

All in all, with all the legal expenses incurred by Ackal and his deputies in all the lawsuits and criminal charges, the folks in Iberia Parish must be asking themselves about now if they can really afford to keep such a financial liability in office.

Some might even call him high maintenance.

Others might call him a genuine physical threat.

By anyone’s definition, though, he is a loose cannon.

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Allstate Insurance only wants its good hands on your wallet.

State Farm isn’t such a good neighbor, after all—especially in your time of greatest need.

Farmers has seen a thing or two and has learned a thing or two—about low-balling claims.

Nationwide isn’t on anyone’s side, no matter what Peyton Manning says.

And lest one think that political grandstanding by some members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation is a viable substitute for effective representation and an avenue to disaster recovery…think again.

U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves, apparently hoping to bolster his 2019 gubernatorial campaign, has issued a series misleading, mistaken and inappropriate claims about the disbursement of recovery funds.

His claim that his House colleagues are questioning what the state did with $438 million in recovery funds was absurd because, simply put, the money had never actually been received.

And he knows it. The claim was grandstanding in its purest form and made only in the interest of political capital to be gained. Flood victims in his district would be far better served by a more positive use of his office.

Sometimes you have to wonder why, when these guys are elected, they can’t just do their damned job.

Of course U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, also said to be casting a solicitous eye toward the governor’s mansion, couldn’t help offering, as is his custom, yet another of his trite homilies when he described the governor’s handling of the flood recovery contract as a “Three Stooges-like performance.” http://www.theadvocate.com/louisiana_flood_2016/article_a41326a0-1326-11e7-8805-574e2f9c803c.html

And the contract to administer the anticipated $1.6 billion in federal recovery funds was a major embarrassment because of the involvement of attorney Larry Bankston in trying to disqualify the low bidder when his son was employed by a firm affiliated with one of the losing bidders. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_aae4b7aa-101f-11e7-924b-037340aec399.html

Edwards must feel as if he’s being pecked to death by a duck.

Greater good could be achieved for all by taking the higher ground to enlightenment (to borrow a phrase employed by The Cincinnati Enquirer in describing a debate between William Howard Taft and former Democratic Secretary of State Richard Olney in the 1904 presidential race between Theodore Roosevelt and Alton B. Parker) instead of acting like a bunch of kids in a schoolyard fight.

People have been suffering for eight months now and they want to get back into their homes. They don’t need cheap campaign rhetoric; they want real answers.

And to compound their frustration, they now know they cannot look to their insurers for relief, either, thanks to lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2017/03/thousands_to_receive_small_pay.html

Thanks to a tactic affectionately known as Delay, Deny, Defend, introduced to Allstate and State Farm by McKinsey and Co. just in time for Hurricane Katrina, policyholders learned that insurers would rather fight than pay up. For every claimant who stuck it out and won a big award from his insurer, hundreds did just what the companies anticipated: they caved in and took settlements of pennies on the dollar simply because they didn’t have the resources to fight back.

http://www.delaydenydefend.com/excerpt/

Less than a week following the devastation of Katrina, Nationwide, on September 4, 2005, instructed its claims adjusters that “if loss is caused by both flood and wind, there is no coverage,” according to Mississippi Gulf Coast U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor.

Nine days later, on September 13, Taylor said State Farm instructed its adjusters that “where wind acts concurrently with flooding to cause damage to the insured property, coverage for the loss exists only under flood coverage.”

On-site damage assessment by engineer Jerome Quintero of Rimkus Consulting Group, contracted by Allstate to handle claims, said there was “insufficient physical evidence to determine the proportion of wind versus storm surge that destroyed (a) structure.”

That was in June 2006. But on November 4, Quintero’s conclusion of “insufficient physical evidence” was altered to read “Storm surge and waves destroyed the residence” by Rimkus staff who never visited the site. Quintero’s name was signed to the revised report without his knowledge, Taylor said.

So, in just those three examples, we have Nationwide, State Farm and Allstate implicitly telling their adjusters to blame Hurricane Katrina’s damage on water alone, thereby passing an inflated $23 billion bill on to American taxpayers.

Did we say inflated? Well, yes. As if that were not enough, Allstate devised a clever way of enriching itself while passing the cost of those claims on to the taxpayer-funded National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Documents obtained by LouisianaVoice show that Allstate, which had an arrangement with NFIP under which it paid Allstate for handling flood claims, took full advantage of that position to protect its own financial interests.

If Allstate found itself on the hook for wind damages, it would use one formula for paying claimants but if it determined the damages were caused by flooding, a second, separate formula was employed. The difference was eye-opening, to say the least.

The formulae varied, depending upon location and on whether or not Allstate deemed damage to be from wind or flooding.

In one location for which LouisianaVoice was provided documentation, for example, if damage was from wind, Allstate paid 83 cents per foot for removal and replacement of drywall (sheetrock). If it was determined to be flood damage, that same dry wall removal and replacement—paid for by American taxpayers—was $1.53 per foot, a difference of 70 cents per foot. Painting that drywall cost Allstate 35 cents per foot if the damaged was caused by wind but cost NFIP (taxpayers) 58 cents per foot if it was determined to be flood damage.

For an average 2,000-square-foot home, that is an extra cost of $1,747 that’s passed on to taxpayers for the drywall and an additional $1,148 for painting—a total overcharge of $2,895.

Assuming Allstate handled 20 percent of total claims for Katrina and Rita in Louisiana and Wilma in Florida, the company would have handled some 48,000 claims, costing the federal government as much as $645 million in inflated claims costs, including overhead and profit, which are also calculated into each claim.

In Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the costs of removal and replacement of drywall was 50 cents per foot for wind damage and $1.12 per foot for flood damage. Painting was 26 cents per foot for wind and 83 cents for flood.

To remove and replace electrical outlets, the cost difference was even starker. For wind damage, the cost was $45.62 but if the damage was caused by flooding, Allstate reported a cost of $219.27 to NFIP.

Kermith Sonnier of Oberlin, Louisiana, is a public claims adjuster and provides the source of much of the information cited here. Company adjusters work for insurance companies and their work is generally geared toward saving the company every dime they can by low-balling claims or by denying them outright.

A public claims adjuster is independent who works only for claimants and Sonnier has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money doing just that.

Sonnier, with 38 years’ experience, was once a company adjuster for Farmers Insurance—until he learned a thing or two about the company.

He enjoyed an impeccable reputation in the claims adjustment industry, having worked the Exxon-Valdez claim in 1989, which until the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, was the worst oil spill in history.

In 1994, he was hired by Pilot which was under contract to Farmers to work claims stemming from the Northridge earthquake in California that year. But beginning in 1996, he said, Farmers began pressuring him to lower his loss estimates. He refused because he saw no grounds to do so and Farmers terminated him in 1997 despite a spotless work record. It gave as its reasons that it was reducing its work force even though it continued to hire other adjusters.

He sued for wrongful termination and won a stunning $10 million judgment against Farmers.

http://slabbed.org/2010/11/15/adjusters-special-employees-not-contractors-farmers-lost-10-4-million-wrongful-termination-case-filed-by-you-wont-believe-who/

He, along with other experts in the field of insurance claims, will be working closely with LouisianaVoice in the coming weeks as we explore how those goods hands people, those good neighbors and those who purport to know a thing or two and who claim to be on your side will, when the chips are down, will do everything legally possible—and sometimes things not legal—to minimize or even deny your claim altogether.

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Bobby Jindal and former Director of the Louisiana Office of Workers Compensation (OWC) Wes Hataway are gone but a court decision late last month could represent a legal smack down of the way workers’ compensation claims have been handled since July 13, 2011, Jindal’s third year in the governor’s office.

The ruling by 19th Judicial District Judge Don Johnson takes direct aim at a law pushed through the Louisiana Legislature and which set up new medical treatment guidelines for injured workers which plaintiffs said violated the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions.

In his WRITTEN REASONS FOR JUDGMENT, Judge Johnson struck down provisions which:

  • Stipulated that when a carrier/self-insured employer fails to return LWC forms within the five business days it is deemed to have denied such request for authorization;
  • Provided an automatic “tacit denial” of medical treatment;
  • Allowed OWC to enforce variances from medical treatment guidelines;
  • Denied treatment not covered by medical treatment guidelines;
  • Allowed the OWC a workers compensation carrier to arbitrarily submit—and the OWC medical director to accept—any information it desires without notifying the injured worker of the “evidence.”

The suit was brought against the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) in 2013 by attorney Janice Hebert Barber and several physicians and injured workers who were denied benefits under the new law. Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith III represented each of the plaintiffs. Also named as defendants were LWC Secretary Curt Eysink, Hataway, and former OWC Medical Director Dr. Christopher Rich.

Barber said the regulations also discriminate against injured workers in that:

  • Medical benefits were denied to injured workers because their physicians could not return calls from Rich’s staff as quickly as they liked;
  • One request for medical treatment was denied because the injured worker’s attorney submitted too many pages of records to Rich;
  • Another request for treatment was denied because the case itself was 12 years old;
  • Numerous requests for treatment were denied because Rich claimed they were submitted by “bad doctors” who were “bad” only because they were too favorable to their patients, in Rich’s opinion;
  • Requests for medical procedures were denied on the basis of who owned the medical equipment which would be utilized for the procedure;
  • As of December 2012, Medical Director Rich had approved only 14 percent of all requests for medical treatment of injured workers in cases where compensability had already been determined;
  • Rich had denied requests for medical treatment in cases in which he never even spoke to the claimants;
  • Hataway repeatedly engaged in ex parte communications with attorneys and others representing workers compensation insurance carriers and self-insured employers;
  • Hataway and his staff repeatedly expressed the Jindal administration’s “positions” on issues to be litigated by workers compensation judges to the judges themselves.

Barber said in her lawsuit that the new regulations had “enriched workers’ compensation insurance carriers and has harmed injured workers in Louisiana.” She claimed that under the new regulations, the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation (LWCC), the state’s largest workers’ compensation carrier, more than doubled premium dividend payments to Louisiana employers than were paid the year before the new law went into effect.

When Jindal named his four nominees to the University Medical Center Management Corp. Board back in March of 2010, he not only was looking after some of his more generous campaign contributors, but he also placed one of them in a position of potential conflict of interest.

At the time of his appointment as medical director, Dr. Christopher Rich of Alexandria currently held three separate contracts with the state totaling more than $3.3 million and he had already run into ethical problems with one of those contracts.

Rich also was named by Jindal as one of four nominees for the proposed billion-dollar University Medical Center that was to serve as a replacement for the 70-year-old facility that was closed after its basement was flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Like many of Jindal’s high-profile appointees, Rich, his wife Vickie and business partner Dr. Mark Dodson, also of Alexandria, combined to contribute $9,500 to Jindal’s campaigns in 2007, 2010 and 2011.

Rich had a $516,646 contract to serve as Medical Director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) Administration that called on him to approve or disapprove medical treatments and procedures for the Office of Workers’ Compensation.

That contract is actually to Chrickie Investments, a company owned by him and his wife.

In 2009, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law which changed the process for determining whether or not medical treatment was “medically necessary.” If a workers’ comp insurance company denies a treatment request, the denial is referred to the OWC medical director, in this case, Rich.

Though the law was passed in 2009, problems with implementing the rules to enforce the new law delayed the actual enactment date of the law until July 13, 2011.

Rich testified before the House Labor Committee that he was “denying 80 percent” of all treatment requested.

At the same time he was contracted to be the sole determiner of all medical treatment for Louisiana’s injured workers, he and Dodson were partners in Louisiana Ortho Services which held a $2.3 million contract to provide orthopedic services for the state, specifically Huey P. Long Medical Center.

Huey P. Long Medical Center (HLMC) at the time was one of 10 state hospitals that made up the LSU Health Care System which is administered by the LSU Board of Supervisors which also oversees the University Medical Center Management Board on which Rich sits. HLMC was subsequently shut down by the Jindal administration.

Because he also owned an interest in Central Louisiana Surgical Hospital which also provided medical treatment to injured workers, the question of his eligibility to make decisions on medical treatment which could financially impact the hospital as well as Mid-State came before the Louisiana Board of Governmental Ethics on separate occasions.

In March 2011, the ethics board ruled that Rich was prohibited, in his capacity as Medical Director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation, from participation in any matter involving Central Louisiana Surgical Hospital.

In January 2012, however, a second opinion said there was no conflict since he had terminated his relationship with Mid-State—only six months since the state had awarded Louisiana Ortho, that $2.3 million contract. Though he no longer is affiliated with Mid-State, he remains a partner in Louisiana Ortho with Dodson who in turn remains as a partner with Mid-State. The timing and the connections, to say the least, are curious.

Rich and Dodson also were partners in a company called ACTIVEMED, Inc., which held a $523,000 contract to provide orthopedic medical services to Northwestern State University student athletes.

Activemed also provided secondary insurance, also known as a preferred provider network (PPN) for two Louisiana university college sports teams and athletes. Basically, the athletes’ primary health insurance is the first payor for sports-related injuries. Then, if the student treats with an Activemed provider and they are enrolled with Activemed, then Activemed picks up the tab for the remainder of the treatment.

This means that Drs. Rich and Dodson had direct control over which doctors Activemed refers injured students to and if those same doctors happen to treat any Louisiana workers’ compensation patients, there existed a potential conflict of interest for Rich.

Activemed’s internet web page contains no list of medical providers, nor is Activemed listed under the Louisiana Department of Insurance either as an insurance company, a third party administrator (TPA), or an adjusting company.

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Here’s a story no one saw coming:

There’s political chicanery afoot in Baton Rouge.

Who’d-a-thunk it?

Okay all that was said tongue-in-cheek.

Unfortunately.

The truth is, we’ve become so inured to political sleaze in Louisiana politics that it’s become difficult to be either surprised or outraged, leaving only indifference as our emotion of choice.

All the ingredients are in place for graft, corruption, and exploitation and there are plenty of those more than willing to take advantage of the opportunity:

  • A contract to manage Louisiana’s flood recovery program worth anywhere from 16 percent to 22 percent of $1.6 billion in federal funds;
  • A former state senator, Larry Bankston, convicted two decades ago on two counts of racketeering who now advises the State Contractor Licensing Board that has managed to insert itself into the debate over the proposed contract;
  • Claims of bid irregularities by a losing bidder;
  • Support of that claim by Bankston who neglected to mention that his son worked for one of the losing bidders;
  • Cancellation by the state of the $250,000 contract so that it may be re-advertised;
  • A potential 2019 gubernatorial candidate questioning the propriety of Bankston’s employment by that state board;
  • Up to 150,000 homes and nearly half-a-million residents affected by Louisiana floods in 2016, many of whom are still waiting for the political inertia called Restore Louisiana to start things moving so they can get back into their flooded homes.

Anytime there’s big money involved, especially federal money, the potential always exists for political and legal jockeying and manipulation. The temptation can be overwhelming.

Stephen Winham recently wrote a column for LouisianaVoice on this very subject: https://louisianavoice.com/2017/03/18/forget-blaming-fema-guest-columnist-area-reporters-correctly-place-fault-with-state-for-flood-recovery-failures/

The fact that the plight of the state’s flood victims has been obscured, seemingly forgotten, in the process of too-long delayed recovery only makes the state of affairs all the more shameful and disgusting. But when you have no voice, you are quickly forgotten in the scramble for big bucks.

And the bigger the bucks, the more greed manifests itself. And the more the greed, the less focus there is on the victims. That’s the way it’s always been and apparently that’s the way it will always be.

And hardly addressed is the issue of just what the deliverables on such a contract would be. Here we have companies crawling all over each other in order to obtain a contract which represents 20 percent of the total allocation for flood recovery.

And those companies won’t put up the first piece of drywall or sheetrock. They won’t perform any plumbing or electrical work. They won’t install any flooring or apply the first coat of paint, nor will they hammer the first nail. In short, they will do nothing meaningful toward flood recovery other than to approve payments to those who do the actual work.

But they will collect up to 20 percent of the recovery money—likely more if they can succeed at the usual practice of coming back for a contract amendment a few months down the road.

This story has received fairly significant play in the Baton Rouge area but if you’ve not kept up with The Advocate’s coverage, here’s essentially what has transpired:

A team led by IEM, a North Carolina company affiliated with several Baton Rouge engineering and consulting firms, easily had the best score—by at least 16 points—among the five teams submitting proposals and also quoted the lowest price—$250 million.

But PDRM, led by CSRS of Baton Rouge, whose bid was $65 million higher, filed an official complaint with the State Licensing Board for Contractors, pointing out that IEM did not possess a commercial contractor’s license at the time of its bid.

The Request for Proposals issued by the state, however, said only that bidding companies had to possess a license or be able to obtain one. IEM did, in fact, obtain a license prior to the time bids were opened. Ironically, PDRM, the company which blew the whistle on IEM, did not possess a contractor’s license at the time it submitted its bid either.

Bankston, legal counsel for the licensing board, opined that eligible bidders needed a contractor’s license at the time of bid submissions—and the licensing board agreed. The following day, March 17, the state decided to CANCEL IEM’s contract and re-bid the project.

By offering the opinion that he did, apparently disqualifying both IEM and PDRM in the process, the winning bid would have then gone to the third lowest bidder had not the administration decided to pull the plug on the whole thing and start over.

That third company whose bid was $350 million, $100 million higher than IEM, was Rebuild Louisiana Now and was led by a Texas firm called SLS. SLS also owns a company called DRC Emergency Services. Bankston’s son, Benjamin Bankston, works as regional manager for DRC. Larry Bankston said he was unaware his son’s firm had any relationship to any of the bidding companies when he wrote his opinion.

DRC had its own legal problems back in 2012 over payments and gratuities the company was accused of giving former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle after the firm received two CONTRACTS from the then-sheriff totaling more than $3 million.

In March 2002, the Louisiana Supreme Court REVOKED Bankston’s law license after his conviction on two counts of racketeering in 1997 in connection with then-State Sen. Bankston’s sham rental of his Gulf Shores condo to video poker operator Fred Goodson for $1,555 per week.

Bankston’s conviction was UPHELD by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in July 1999.

Contracting board Chairman Lee Mallett of Iowa, said he retains “full confidence” in Bankston.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry DISAGREES. But Landry’s desire to run for governor against John Bel Edwards in 2019 is the worst-kept secret in Baton Rouge, so he’s going to do and say anything he can to embarrass the governor.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, also being mentioned as a potential opponent for Edwards in two years and who was instrumental in obtaining federal flood recover money for Louisiana, also takes issue with the decision to cancel the IEM contract and to start the bid process all over.

“This is very disappointing news,” Graves said, adding that the decision will only serve to further delay needed flood relief funds. “It is impossible to explain to flood victims why $1.6 billion in recovery dollars are stuck in the bureaucracy while homes remain gutted, molded and uninsulated.”

Graves said obtaining the federal money “wasn’t easy and now every time we talk to the Appropriations Committee and leadership folks, they cite the fact that we haven’t spent what we already received. It’s a concern absolutely.”

That politicians, lawyers and contractors would put their own interests ahead of those of people who have been forced out of their homes—some for a year now—only serves to drive home the point that while there has been a change of administrations in Louisiana, nothing really has changed.

Yep, there’s political chicanery afoot in Baton Rouge.

Who’d-a-thunk it?

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Louisiana State Police (LSP) captains were called in to headquarters in Baton Rouge on Monday to hear the news that had already leaked out across the state that Superintendent Mike Edmonson was stepping down but officially, the head of LSP’s public information office said he knew nothing of reports that he said were “above my pay grade.”

But truth be told, after the way LouisianaVoice has latched onto the sorry story at LSP, had I been in Doug Cain’s position, I probably would’ve done the same thing. I hold no ill will toward him because he was in an unenviable position. On the one hand, his job is to inform the public but on the other, he had a boss to whom he answered. I’m old enough to grasp the realities of the situation.

That boss, while defiantly denying he would resign as late as last Friday when LouisianaVoice first said he was on his way out (and we did say it first), ended his 36-year career at State Police with a whimper today with his announcement that he would resign his position as the longest-tenured superintendent in LSP history.

Today’s online edition of the Baton Rouge Advocate carried the STORY of Edmonson’s announced retirement and in so doing, tied his decision to the “widening controversy” surrounding that San Diego trip taken by Edmonson and 15 subordinates to see him receive a national award.

But that trip, including the side trip taken to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon by four troopers in a state vehicle en route to San Diego, is not the story of what is really wrong at LSP. As one veteran observer of law enforcement noted, the San Diego trip is a mere symptom of a much larger problem festering in the bowels of State Police headquarters. It was never the story.

This was a story of a State Police Superintendent who once told a group of sheriffs at a roundtable meeting at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Baton Rouge that when it came to choosing between State Police and the sheriffs, his loyalty was with the sheriffs.

There are the ever-persistent rumors of parties, too many parties being held in conjunction with official functions. They simply did not coalesce with what the image of law enforcement is supposed to be about.

There are reports, growing in number even as this is being written, of junkets to New York in private jets paid for by a police uniform vendor, to the Washington Mardi Gras celebration paid for by a local contractor, to Cancun on the private jet of a north Louisiana supporter, and of trips to gaming conferences in the company of the owner of video poker machines (Edmonson is ex-officio member of the State Gaming Commission).

There were seemingly endless reports documented and posted by LouisianaVoice of inconsistent discipline of State Troopers, depending on whether or not the trooper was in the inner circle of the Edmonson clique.

A trooper with multiple prescriptions for a controlled narcotic, instead of being disciplined for showing up to work impaired, was promoted and made commander of Troop D in Lake Charles.

A married lieutenant who, along with a few buddies and a couple of single female “bartenders,” took a borrowed limo to a Vicksburg casino. At the casino, he took one of the girls, who was underage, onto the floor of the casino to play blackjack. He was apprehended by Mississippi gaming officials and tried to negotiate his way out of the situation by proclaiming he was a Louisiana State Police lieutenant and “can’t we work something out?” He was fined $600 by Mississippi officials and promoted to commander of Troop F by Edmonson.

A trooper who twice had sex with a female while on duty (once in his patrol car, no less), was barely disciplined at all.

Troopers at Troop D were given days off for making a minimum number of DWI arrests, no matter if the driver was actually drinking. Just make the arrest and let the district attorney dismiss the case—you’ll still get credit for the stop—that was the unwritten policy.

Another trooper at Troop D owned a daytime construction company. So, instead of working a full shift at night, he would work a couple of hours and then go home to sleep the rest of the night so he could work his private job during the day. This was allowed to go on for an extended period of time until LouisianaVoice revealed what was taking place.

Department of Public Safety (DPS) Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux was allowed to take a buyout for early retirement but stayed retired only a single day before coming back with a promotion and about $55,000 in early buyout money which she was ordered to return—but did not. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

When she finally retired for good, Edmonson, appearing before a compliant State Police Commission stacked with his supporters, pushed through the creation of a new lieutenant colonel position to take over her duties. In pitching the position, he told the commission that it would create no additional cost and that it was not being designed specifically for Maj. Jason Starnes.

Guess what? Starnes got the job, the promotion, and a $25,000 raise. Now he administers Management and Finance for LSP despite having no accounting degree or background. When member Lloyd Grafton asked about Edmonson’s promise of no additional expense, no one on the commission seemed to remember.

It was Grafton who first used the term “money laundering” when discussing how the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) funneled LSTA funds through the personal checking account of its executive director David Young so that political contributions could be made to key political candidates. Young subsequently submitted expense reports for reimbursement of the campaign contributions. Grafton should know a little about money laundering: he is a retired ATF agent.

The LSTA did refuse Edmonson’s request that the association pen a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards recommending that Edmonson be reappointed superintendent. Edwards reappointed him anyway.

And, going back to 2014, there was that surreptitious amendment inserted onto an otherwise benign bill in the closing minutes of the regular legislative session. State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) did the honors in introducing the amendment. Passed overwhelmingly over the promise that it would have no financial impact on the state budget, it instantly awarded Edmonson a healthy bump in retirement income.

Edmonson had, years earlier, entered what was referred to as DROP, a special retirement plan that was said to be “irrevocable” which at the time locked in his retirement at about $76,000. At the time the amendment was approved, it would have meant an additional $55,000 to his retirement but with the recent pay increases pushing his salary to its current level of $177,400, it would have meant a retirement increase of a whopping $101,000.

LouisianaVoice was notified of the amendment via an anonymous letter. That was when Mike Edmonson first appeared on our radar.

Then State Rep. John Bel Edwards, who unwittingly voted for the amendment, subsequently called for House Speaker Chuck Kleckley to investigate the maneuver but the invertebrate Kleckley refused.

State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) then filed suit in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge and a district court judge struck down the amendment.

Edmonson, true to form, at first denied any knowledge of the amendment but later admitted that one of “his people” came up with the idea and he gave the approval.

That was pretty much in line with the blaming of his secretary for using a signature stamp to approve overtime pay for that San Diego trip and his decision to throw the four who drove to San Diego under the bus for taking an unauthorized detour—even though it has since been learned by LouisianaVoice that he knew the route the four were taking and was in touch by text and phone the entire trip.

That’s the Edmonson persona. He has consistently shirked responsibility for actions that could cast him in a bad light and basked in the glow when things went well. He even is said to have told a retiring trooper—a veteran of two tours in the Mideast wars, no less—that he was a coward and a disgrace to his uniform in a late-night telephone conversation.

While other media have only recently joined in the investigation of LSP and Edmonson (and make no mistake, it was heartening to see them doing solid investigative work), LouisianaVoice has been there all along. This was not a sprint to LouisianaVoice, it was a marathon. And if this sounds a little vain and boastful…well, it is.

And it isn’t over. LouisianaVoice has pending numerous public records requests with LSP on other matters within the agency. We do not intend to let Edmonson’s resignation diminish our ongoing examination of why one man was allowed to bring a great department into such disrepute and disgrace.

The rank and file Louisiana State Troopers deserve better.

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