Archive for the ‘Legislature, Legislators’ Category

Contests for the U.S. House and Senate are going virtually unnoticed as the nation becomes more and more transfixed, shocked—and disgusted—at each new charge of sexual abuse and deleted emails that arises in a sordid presidential race no one dared imagine could ever happen in this country.

Also generally overlooked are scores of local elections scattered across Louisiana’s landscape.

One of those is the race for Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Incumbent Mayor-President and erstwhile candidate for Lieutenant Governor Kip Holden is term-limited and has now set his sights on the 2nd Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond.

Predictably, the job has attracted quite a few applicants—12 to be precise. One of those is Republican State Sen. Bodi White of Central, coincidentally, the largest fundraiser to date.

With just over three weeks to go before the Nov. 8 election, White has begun his TV ad blitz. And like candidates before him (including Holden in his initial run) has included a campaign promise to “improve public education” by “building more schools.”

White knows full well there is no way he can make good on such a preposterous promise because the mayor-president has absolutely zero to do with education. That’s the responsibility of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board into whose operations the mayor and parish council have no input.

He knows that but to voters who do not know, it sounds wonderful, like a promise from on high. And that’s the sad part; voters are generally uneducated on the issues and their decisions are often based on cockamamie sound bytes like the one currently being aired by White. He could just as easily say he’s going to build a wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. There are, I’m certain, voters who would buy into that just as quickly.

But there’s more to white than blustering campaign rhetoric.

In 2008, he introduced a bill in the Legislature to create the Central Recreation and Park District and take Central out of BREC (BREC is an acronym for Baton Rouge Recreation—we don’t get it, either).

On May 6, 2008, he revealed his ownership interest in a tract of land BREC wanted for a park. Then on May 14, 2008, White and BREC director Bill Palmer announced a “compromise” under which White would withdraw this legislation to take Central out of BREC.

That “compromise” consisted of a resolution for BREC to purchase some of White’s business partner’s land and develop the adjacent land for the company by whom White was employed.

Not too shabby a deal if you can swing it and apparently his position as a state representative gave him just the political stroke to pull it off. No abuse of his office there.

In addition, BREC agreed to pay Parcel 52, LLC, $130,000 to help build a 750-foot-long road with curbs and sidewalks to the BREC site. The road goes through the center of the eight-acre commercial property owned by Parcel 52, LLC, and adds significant value to the commercial property, which could be developed for 10-20 commercial sites or offices. http://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/politics/bodi-white-proof-that-louisiana-has-low-standards-brec-bribed-him/28772800/

Parcel 52, LLC was registered with the Secretary of State. The partners in the company were Brandon and E. Gordon Rogillio, Jr.  and Rep. Mack (Bodi) White. White, who later relinquished his interest in the property, is a realtor who works for Brandon Rogillio. http://centralcitynews.us/?p=3373

Gordon Rogillio later explained that White invested nothing in the property and received nothing in the transaction. http://centralcitynews.us/?p=3427

White’s boss prospered nicely, however, and therein lies the possible quid pro quo.

A timeline provided by a local newspaper, the Central City News, published by former State Rep. Woody Jenkins, further revealed details of the entire transaction: http://centralcitynews.us/?p=3373

In a throwback to the days of raging newspaper wars (days we sorely miss, by the way), a rival publication, Central Speaks, attempted to exonerate White from any wrongdoing in the BREC flap. http://www.centralspeaks.com/old/rep-bodi-white-brec-sports-park-just-the-facts/

Just another day in good old-fashioned Louisiana politics.

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The simmering resentment between the Blue Shirts and the Gray Shirts isn’t going away anytime soon—at least as State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson continues to push for higher and higher pay for Louisiana State Police (LSP) while ignoring Department of Public Safety (DPS) police http://www.lsp.org/dps_police.html. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/09/16/two-year-old-edmonson-email-to-dps-seemed-to-promise-salary-increases-and-he-delivered-for-all-but-dps-officers/

DPS police may have a lower profile, a less public face than LSP officers. After all, DPS doesn’t detail officers to serve as bodyguards for the state’s college football coaches. That, by the way, is precisely the total qualifications of Edmonson to be Superintendent of State Police; he served as Nick Saban’s personal escort when he was LSU’s head coach.

Carrying that thought a bit further, it has always escaped me why a coach with upwards of 100 beefy, muscular jocks in protective pads and helmets surrounding him would need a bodyguard. Does anyone out there agree with me that this seems like a colossal waste of manpower, money and resources invested in training these men as law enforcement officers?

Before nabbing that plum assignment, Edmonson was the LSP Public Information Officer with precious little experience as a road trooper and zero experience in a supervisory capacity.

His appointment, for those who don’t remember, was made by Bobby Jindal soon after he became governor in 2008.

Besides the title of Superintendent of State Police, he also carries the title as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Public Safety. http://www.dps.louisiana.gov/deputy.html

With the latter title, Edmonson is also responsible for the well-being of the DPS officers and that would include working for better pay for them as well as for State Troopers.

Instead, we learn that instead of going to bat for DPS, he is going after DPS with a bat. We have been told there was an intensive effort to ferret out the identities of those in DPS who spoke to us about pay issues for DPS officers. The only reason to seek those identities, of course, would be for reprisals.

In an earlier post about the recent pay increase for Edmonson and his inner circle, we said the raises were approved in House Bill 1 in the 2016 legislative session.

Not so. It turns out the salary for Edmonson is set by the governor at his discretion and Edmonson took it upon himself to the increase certain subordinates’ salaries to levels that exceed the State Police pay grid.

We recently obtained a copy of the DPS pay grid and we offer both for your comparison.

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You may have seen one or more of a series of http://www.vote-4-energy.org/ television ads by the American Petroleum Institute (API) that have been running on a more regular basis than lawyer commercials recently.

Intended to give us a warm fuzzy feeling about Big Oil, it’s no coincidence they’re airing in an election year.

The primary trade association of the oil and gas industry, API boasts nearly 400 members. http://www.polluterwatch.com/american-petroleum-institute

Though it spent only about $200,000 on the 2012 election, it literally pours money into other programs—$33 million on lobbying between 2008 and 2012—and was instrumental in funding a $27 million anti-science “scientific” study to refute research linking benzene to cancer.

API was also not above embellishing job creation claims, touting 20,000 new jobs as opposed to the 6,000 estimated by the U.S. State Department and Cornell University.

API also donated money to the National Science Teachers Association for distributing a short film promoting the petroleum industry. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/American_Petroleum_Institute#Concerns_about_API-funded_research

If there remains any doubt to the underlying intent of the recent glut of ads, a leaked memo written by API CEO Jack Gerard in August 2009 revealed that a number of trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, coordinated “Energy Citizens’ rallies in key Congressional districts in an effort to ramp up political opposition to climate and energy legislation.

Directly funded and organized by API and member companies, the “rallies” were coordinated by oil lobbyists and API member Chevron even bused it employees to events.

API also contributed $25,000 to Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organization founded and chaired by billionaire oilman David Koch. http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/03/energy-industry-trade-groups/

Which brings up Koch Industries, headed by David and brother Charles, both major players in the American political arena.

In just one state for example, Texas, the Kochs are proving our repeated position that money has supplanted the importance of voters in influencing election outcomes by dumping money into the campaigns of 66 candidates—15 for the U.S. House of Representatives, three for the Texas Supreme Court, 31 for the Texas House of Representatives, 16 for the State Senate and one for the State Railroad Commission (the Texas equivalent to the Louisiana Public Service Commission).

Here is a complete state-by-state listing of Koch-supported candidates (Note: only legally-required reported contributions are listed but Koch, in addition to monetary contributions has been known to exert pressure on its employees as to which candidates they should support.

And it’s not as if the Kochs are alone, nor is this an effort to say that only Republicans are beneficiaries of the avalanche of campaign funds that has occurred since the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court opened the spigot of campaign cash.

Politics has become a game played by any billionaire with an agenda—to the overall detriment of the average citizen, whose numbers comprise 99.9 percent of the nation’s population. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/superpac-donors-2016/

So just how much Super PAC money, so-called outside spending (which does not include individual contributions to thousands of candidates in federal, state and local elections), was lavished on behalf of or in opposition to candidates in the 2012 elections?

The 1,310 super PACs raised $828.2 million for the 2012 election cycle, which was just two years after Citizens United, and spent $609.4 million. https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2012&chrt=V&type=S

This year, in the Presidential, and Congressional elections alone, spending has already surpassed $1.8 billion. Of that amount, more than $248 million has come from PACs. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/03/daily-chart-1

Before all is said and done, it is expected that more than $5 billion will be spent on the Presidential election. That figure includes money to be spent by candidates, political parties and outside groups (PACs), and includes money spent on presidential primaries—more than double the cost of the 2012 campaign.

All of which raises a moral question: if political donors are so civic-minded (as most insist they are) as opposed to an eagerness to promote a personal agenda (as most will go to great lengths to deny), why don’t they put their money to use for an even greater good?

Has it ever crossed the minds of the Kochs or any of the other members of the mega-rich influence-purchasers what even a small portion of that kind of money would mean to St. Jude or other children’s hospitals?

Have they ever considered underwriting cancer research on such a scale? What about feeding the hungry or even helping restore the country’s crumbling infrastructure? After all, they use the same highways, rely on the same water and sewer services, depend on the same police and fire protection.

So much good could be accomplished with the billions of dollars that are wasted on the campaigns whose promises are as empty and meaningless as the hopes and dreams of the poorest of our poor?

Yes, the Kochs give millions to charities but then spearhead coalitions of businesses and industries that pour hundreds of millions into efforts to pass anti-environmental legislation or they endow chairs at schools like Florida State University on condition that they get the final say in the hiring of faculty members who will teach their political and economic philosophy.


But we as a nation have somehow seen a trend away from using our wealth to accomplish the greater good for all our citizens. Instead, we’re seeing the wealthiest using their monetary buying power to purchase influence so they can accumulate even more wealth.

And we wonder why there is an ever-widening disconnect from the American political process.

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It seems that the folks at Louisiana State Police (LSP) headquarters over at Independence Park rather pompously refer to Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers as Gray Shirts because DPS uniform shirts are gray as opposed to the blue worn by State Troopers (and we thought the Blue-Gray business ended 151 years ago. Not true. We’re told that a State Trooper will not obey a direct order from a DPS captain. Can’t you just imagine an Army private ignoring an order from a Marine captain? And they say the FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA don’t cooperate.).

In the wake of significant pay raises for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and his inner circle and revelations of the glaring disparity in the salaries of (LSP) and (DPS) officers, it’s interesting to go back a couple of years and review an email Edmonson sent to DPS personnel. Our interpretations are inserted in bold face parentheses:


From: Mike Edmonson Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 5:19 PM

To: _DPS_Commissioned Personnel_DPSPolice Subject: Personal Note

As you likely noticed, several e-mails have been sent to all commissioned personnel over the last few weeks discussing HB 872 and how that piece of legislation impacts troopers. Apparently those e-mails have fueled concerns and in some cases discontent within the ranks of DPS police. Let me reassure all of you that you remain a very important part of the DPS family (“But don’t any of you DPS lieutenants or captains try giving orders to my troopers.”) and while HB 872 does not specifically affect you (“It doesn’t affect you, so just keep your mouths shut”), my staff and I are well aware of the deficiencies within your current pay ranges. (“Guess what? Those deficiencies are about to become even greater.”)

The “fix” for that problem is somewhat more complicated than the “fix” for State Police because DPS personnel are part of the Civil Service classified service while troopers are part of the State Police classified service. Adjustments to State Police salaries may be made independent of Civil Service and thus do not affect the parity of all other employees who are part of that classified service, typically a major impediment to salary adjustments. We are however undeterred by the challenges of operating within the current structure of Civil Service. (“We at LSP are getting ours.”) and I have directed the staff of Operational Development to begin evaluating and analyzing the current pay levels for DPS police officers. (“It takes two-plus years to do this evaluation? Funny it didn’t take that long to get your $43,000 raise.”) In particular we want to identify which other Civil Service positions are similar in minimum qualifications and duties and thereafter evaluate the salary schedules of those positions in comparison to ours.

It should be noted that all eligible DPS officers received their 4% merit adjustments last year and will receive another this year amounting to an 8% total salary increase. (“Meanwhile, State Troopers will be getting 30 percent bumps and I’m gonna get a 32percent raise.”) Troopers, on the other hand, received anywhere from 0-3% merit adjustments. Moreover, the approval of HB 872 by the legislature is only the preliminary step in implementing a new pay grid for troopers. The new fund established to achieve that goal has a current balance of zero. We fully anticipate that sufficient monies will be accumulated over time to make the new grid a reality, but like the study and adjustment of DPS salaries, it will take time. (“Don’t hold your breath, Gray Shirts.”)

I understand the financial urgency that some of you feel at being improperly compensated and the frustration with the required process. But it has been disheartening to me that some within the ranks of DPS have seen fit to anonymously complain to legislators, the media and others outside our organization about feeling neglected and mistreated. (“That’s because if I ever learn who you are, you will be punished.”) Such communications are counterproductive to our efforts and can actually undermine our attempts to make adjustments to DPS salaries by drawing unnecessary attention to our plans. (“We have to keep our plans secret.”) Please understand that such communications put at risk the success of our efforts on your behalf. (“Strike that ‘on your behalf’ part.)

The study by Operational Development is the first step in what can sometimes be a laborious process but we will move as quickly as possible at finding an appropriate solution. Once our recommendations are finalized we will work with Civil Service in an effort to address the compensation issues. I will personally appear on your behalf before the Commission to make the case for pay adjustments (“What part of ‘Don’t hold your breath, Gray Shirts’ do you not understand?”). I pledge to keep you informed of our progress (So why has it been more than two years since we’ve heard from you?) and I would ask that you be patient during this process and have faith in me and my staff as I do in each of you. (We’ve seen what faith in you and your staff got us…nothing.) Be safe and may God continue to bless our families and guide each one of us. I will be visiting your sections soon.

Colonel Michael D. Edmonson

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They have full arrest powers but instead of patrolling the state’s highways and arresting drug dealers, they patrol the more placid State Capitol complex.

You won’t see them providing security for the governor or trotting onto the field at Tiger Stadium along with Les Miles and the Tiger football team. Nor will you ever see their commander standing stoically behind the governor during press briefings.

They’re not even allowed to head up security at the Capitol during the legislative session. That honor goes to the more glamorous State Police detail.

They have the same arrest powers as the high-profile State Troopers, charged with enforcing the same laws for the benefit of public safety and protection of the state’s citizens while securing the safety of the myriad of state offices.

And they must go through the same training and certification qualifications as State Troopers.

Though Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers conduct investigations and all other duties that State Troopers perform, they are, for all intents and purposes, invisible to all but state employees. Both they and the more prestigious Louisiana State Police (LSP) are part of the Department of Public Safety and both patrol the entire state. But make no mistake, the DPS Police are the stepchildren of DPS.

Held to the same standards as State Troopers, State Capitol Police get the equivalent of table scraps. DPS police patrol throughout the state in patrol cars eight- to 10 years old and with as much as 300,000 miles on them, according to one DPS officer.

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, meanwhile, just got a brand new SUV issued to him. “Edmonson tells us over and over that he’s ‘working’ on something,” the DPS officer said. “I guess that ‘something’ was that $43,000 raise he got on August 1. I guess it’s good to be the king when your living expenses are paid by somebody else.”

Despite repeated promises, pay for DPS police officers lags further and further behind that of their counterparts over at Independence Park.

The evidence is right there in black and white for all to see.

Here is the comparison between comparable ranks, based on years of service:

  • DPS Police Officer 2: $24,066 to $57,900 per year;
  • State Trooper: $46,600 to $94,750;


  • DPS Sergeant: $29,500 to $66,300;
  • LSP Sergeant: $51,500 to $104,700;


  • DPS Lieutenant: $33,758 to $75,920;
  • LSP Lieutenant: $56,900 to $115,700.

Adding insult to injury, the DPS pay grid stops at the rank of lieutenant, meaning $75,920 is the most a DPS officer can anticipate making.

The LSP pay grid, on the other hand, keeps going to Captain ($64,750 to $131,670) and major ($69,300 to $140,900).

Edmonson, who was not making the pay grid maximum (he was making $134,351.10), was recently granted a $43,100 pay increase to $177,435.96. The increase was approved by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Chief of Staff Ben Nevers who previously served in the State Senate.

Nevers received $1,500 in campaign contributions from the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) last year. The controversial contribution was funneled through LSTA Executive Director David Young who was reimbursed by the LSTA.

Others who got raises included Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy ($140,890.10 to $161,304.78), Jason Starnes (promoted to Lt. Col. And raised in salary from $128,934.26 to $150,751.90, and Deputy Superintendents Adam White, Glenn Staton and Murphy Paul, both receiving raises from $140,900 to $150,750. All this despite an executive order issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards freezing all merit increases from June 29, 2016 through June 29, 2017.


With the latest glut of increases, Edmonson, Dupuy, Starnes, Staton, Paul and White all now make salaries that exceed the maximums on the State Police pay grid.

When Edmonson came to the Louisiana State Police Commission last month with the proposal to create the new position to which Starnes was approved by the LSPA last week, he told commission members there would be no additional costs but Starnes got an immediate increase of $21,850. Moreover, the opening for the new post was never formally announced, thus barring others the opportunity to apply for the position.

LouisianaVoice has learned that several legislators are upset at the latest pay raises, Edmonson’s in particular, and that the Legislative Fiscal Office has begun inquiries as to who authorized them.

This gambit comes only two years after a furtive attempt to increase Edmonson’s retirement benefits by $55,000 per year despite his having locked his retirement years before by opting to participate in the former Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).

LouisianaVoice learned of the attempt, made via an amendment to an obscure bill in the closing hours of the 2014 legislative session. That attempt, from which Edmonson attempted to disassociate himself, was thwarted by a combination of negative public reaction and by a lawsuit filed by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge).

But now he’s back and time it looks as though he may have focused unwanted attention on himself and his agency.

Sometimes it’s best to keep a low profile, but in the case of DPS, it certainly hasn’t been very profitable—or fair.

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