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Earlier this week, we posted our story about growing frustration over the fact that time after time, when official corruption and wrongdoing are exposed, nothing is done.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/25/in-a-state-where-graft-and-corruption-abound-honesty-and-law-enforcement-have-taken-a-permanent-leave-of-absence/

And it isn’t just the wrongdoing or questionable activities exposed by LouisianaVoice that feeds our exasperation. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a member of the media or a state agency, the fact is the vast majority of the cases are quietly ignored until they go away. Ignored, that is unless it’s some hapless inner city resident caught with a couple of joints or a civil servant fudging her timesheets because her agency’s budget has been cut to the bone, forcing shortcuts on her so she can maintain an overburdened caseload.

In those cases, justice is swift and severe.

But for those in positions of power and influence, it’s quite another story.

Only in Louisiana would a sheriff under federal indictment for beating defenseless prisoners and turning vicious dogs on them and who even threatened a federal prosecutor have the gall to petition the courts to give him his gun back. (Well, perhaps Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio would be so brazen, but we digress.)

http://addictinginfo.org/2016/07/20/violent-sheriff-who-threatened-federal-prosecutor-wants-gun-back-because-hes-scared-video/

Nowhere is Louisiana’s chronic case of legal periodontitis more evident than with the state’s “gold standard of ethics” presented to us way back in 1984. Because of his gutting state ethics laws, the Louisiana Ethics Commissions by all appearances is unable to collect more than $1 million in fines and penalties it has assessed against 248 political candidates. These candidates run the gamut—from sheriffs to current and former legislators and a member of the Board of Elementary and secondary Education.

Thank you, Bobby Jindal.

Jindal’s ethics reform was of such a high “gold standard” that it removed all enforcement powers of the Ethics Board and handed those duties to an administrative judge appointed by the governor—in this case, Jindal. The reform had the effect of making ethics enforcement just another political animal controlled by the governor in the same fashion as the Office of Inspector General, neither of which now have any real powers.

Ten of the 11 Ethics Board members immediately resigned in protest.

Perhaps it was only coincidence, but just 10 days after taking office—and before Jindal introduced his ethics reform bill—he was himself hit with a $2,500 ethics fine after failing to report that the Republican Party of Louisiana spent $118,265 on direct mail to promote his successful 2007 candidacy.

http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2008/01/jindal_to_pay_ethics_fine.html

Jindal spokesperson at the time, Melissa Sellers, said Jindal would pay the fine to avoid a public hearing. The only trouble was, she said his campaign would pay the fine, an ethics violation in itself. Ethics Commission regulations prohibit the use of campaign funds for personal expenses, including ethics fines.

Political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport remembers the backroom dealings in drafting the ethics reform of 2008. “By way of my pro bono consulting for the old Ethics Board, I knew details of what House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Terrytown), Rep. (later Senator) Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe), Jindal’s Executive Counsel Jimmy Faircloth, Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell, and Ann Wise were concocting,” he would later write.

The new laws bestowed upon Wise, an unclassified employee serving at the pleasure of the governor, the responsibility of selecting administrative law judges who would hear and rule on future ethics cases. “She was, in fact, working with Tucker, Gallot, Kostelka, and one Jindal insider identified her as one of the first people Tucker brought aboard their operation,” Stonecipher said. “At the time all of this was going on, Bobby refused to meet with Hank Perret, Chairman of the Ethics Board, with whom I was working. Under pressure, Jindal finally agreed to a half-hour meeting but would not meet without Teepell there and (Jindal) ultimately used the thirty minutes to command the discussion—never allowing it to approach what Hank was there to tell him,” he said.

“The top players and designers (Tucker, Gallot, and Kostelka) had (at the time discussions were ongoing) active and serious ethics charges against them winding through the system,” Stonecipher said (emphasis added). “Tucker had two charges and Gallot had seven. When the smoke cleared after the new laws took effect, each of them beat the rap in all cases.” Stonecipher said the top political reporters in Louisiana were informed all those details. “None of them ever wrote a story,” he said. “My articles which went to them were never acknowledged.”

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/09/rep_rick_gallots_ethics_charge.html

http://www.thegramblinite.com/news/view.php/396049/Appeals-court-upholds-Gallot-ruling

So Gallot, Chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee and a key Jindal ally in pushing for changes in the state’s ethics laws, was the subject of seven conflict-of-interest charges involving his legal representation of a company in business dealings with Grambling State University and the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors on which his mother was simultaneously serving.

Ethics Board Chairman at that time Frank Simoneaux of Baton Rouge (he was not re-appointed by Jindal when his term expired) called the Gallot case the first real test of state ethics laws since the Jindal reforms went into effect.

Another case pending at the time was that of Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre. He was charged with a conflict of interest because he was part-owner of Smart Start of Louisiana. He was accused of using his office for financial gain by selling ignition interlock devices to drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated.

It’s interesting to note that neither Webre nor Gallot denied the facts laid out in the charges. Instead, each invoking a statute of limitations in claiming that the board had only one year to file the charges while ethics board attorneys said the time limit for prescription was two years.

In November 2009, a panel of three administrative judges dismissed the charges against Webre.

So, to recap:

  • Jindal’s campaign paid his fine for him.
  • Webre was exonerated.
  • Kostelka, Tucker and Gallot all “beat the rap.”

Tucker was chosen Speaker of the House during Jindal’s first term.

And Gallot?

Well, he went on to be elected to the State Senate and on Tuesday (July 26), he was unanimously chosen by the University of Louisiana System as the new President of Grambling State University. To be fair, though, at least his mother no longer sits on the board.

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/education/article_d8c82986-5350-11e6-b653-a7be43e9ff0c.html

For now, Louisiana appears to be stuck with a real albatross: A State Ethics Board that is powerless to collect more than $1 million ethics fines from those 248 candidates, some of them dating as far back as 25 years. The amount represents an average fine of $4,252 per candidate, though of that 248, there were 20 who had fines in excess of $10,000. Of that 20, six had fines of $20,000 or more; four were on the books for $30,000 or more and one was for $41,440.

Of the $1,054,487 in fines assess since 1991, only $57,665, or a scant 5 percent, has been paid, records show.

Court records show that in the majority of cases, fines assessed prior to 2015 that have gone unpaid have resulted in the filing of lawsuits by the Board of Ethics and in many of those cases, judgments against the individuals have resulted.

To be fair, the recipient of that $41,440 levy, James Fahrenholtz, has paid nearly half ($19,342) of his fine. That’s not to say Fahrenholtz, a former member of the Orleans Parish School Board doesn’t have other problems. In an unrelated matter, he was arrested in April 2015 for theft of a lobbyist’s iPad tablet.

Besides Fahrenyholtz, those owing $10,000 or more include:

  • Donald Pryor, former candidate for Orleans Parish Registrar (paid $1,757 to date);
  • Albert Donovan, former legal counsel to Gov. Edwin Edwards and a candidate for Secretary of State: $31,000 (paid $5,453 so far);
  • Gary Wainright, former candidate for Orleans Parish District Attorney: $30,200 (paid nothing on assessment);
  • Percy Marchand, former candidate for State Representative: $26,660 (paid nothing to date);
  • Thomas Robichaux, candidate for Orleans Parish School Board: $20,060 (paid $800);
  • James Perry, candidate for State Representative: $18,060 (paid nothing);
  • Edward Scott, candidate for U.S. Representative: $17,380 (paid nothing);
  • Robert Murray, candidate for State Representative: $17,080 (paid $160);
  • Jason Wesley, candidate for East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council: $16,000 (paid nothing);
  • Isaiah Marshall, candidate for East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council; $14,600 (paid $1,240);
  • Patrick Tovrea, candidate for Jefferson Parish School Board: $14,220 (paid nothing);
  • Joel Miller, candidate for Washington Parish Sheriff: $12,360 (paid nothing);
  • Melva Vallery, office unknown: $12,000 (paid nothing);
  • Marvin Frazier, candidate for Sabine Parish Sheriff: $11,800 (paid $4,031);
  • Myron Lee, candidate for State Representative: $10,900 (paid nothing);
  • Sandra Hester, candidate for Orleans Parish School Board: $10,660 (paid nothing);
  • Remic Darden, office unknown: $10,600 (paid $350);
  • Thelma Brown, candidate for East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council: $10,000 (paid nothing);
  • Ali Moghimi, candidate for Monroe Mayor: $10,000 (paid nothing).

Other notable personalities hit with ethics fines and the amounts paid on their fine include:

  • State Rep. John Bagneris: $4,680 (nothing paid);
  • Livingston Parish Council Chairman Ricky Goff: $1,760 (nothing paid);
  • State Rep. Michael Jackson: $2,000 (nothing paid);
  • Former U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister: $1,260 (nothing paid);
  • Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Ernest Wooton: $2,000 (nothing paid);
  • Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Kyra Orange Jones: $2,500 (nothing paid).

Here is a complete list of UNPAID fines assessed by the Board of Ethics

In January, the Ethics Board staff drafted an opinion on former Commission of Administration Kristy Nichols and her job as a lobbyist for Ochsner Health System which typically, was not adopted by the full board.

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_22f710cd-dda5-5b79-9545-db933add8f6e.html

That opinion said state law would prohibit Nichols from advising Ochsner on any matter involving the Division of Administration (DOA) until October 2017. It also said she could not deal with legislators who handle the state budget (and that should include all 105 representatives and 39 senators because they all must vote on the state budget.

http://www.ethics.la.gov/AgendaAttachments/27389/PublicAgendaAttachment.pdf

Rather than making a definitive decision, which was—and is—its responsibility, the Louisiana Board of Ethics boldly postponed action—at the request of Ochsner—until February.

Well, February has come and gone and the Ethics Board has yet to post anything online and we are now back to our original lament: Nothing gets done.

 

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Call it the summer doldrums or whatever you wish. The truth is there hasn’t been much political blog activity—from any of us.

It’s not that there is a dearth of news to report; between killings by cops, killings of cops, terrorist attacks, political accusations, political promises that border on fantasy, e-mail scandals and plagiarized speeches, there’s more than enough to go around. But somehow, we’ve become inured, victims of a malady we can only identify as scandal fatigue for lack of a better term.

But LouisianaVoice, with the help of a couple of volunteer researchers, is working on a project that should generate considerable readership interest—unless, of course, readers are also victims of the summertime lethargy that seems to be at least somewhat contagious.

But we’d be less than honest if we didn’t admit we get pretty discouraged when we expose wrongdoing—some of it even criminal in nature—on the part of elected and appointed officials and nothing is done about it.

What more needs to be done, for example, than to point out the illegal use of campaign funds for such personal use as season tickets to sporting events, luxury car leases and even paying ethics violation fines and personal federal income taxes from campaign funds? Yet, nothing is done.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/05/17/improper-spending-of-campaign-funds-appears-to-be-the-rule-rather-than-the-exception-in-louisiana-random-check-reveals/

What more needs to be done than to publish official investigative reports of a state trooper having sex in his patrol car while on duty to bring severe disciplinary action down on that officer?

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/10/04/you-couldnt-time-an-egg-with-this-guy-state-police-lt-has-sex-twice-on-duty-once-in-back-seat-of-patrol-car-still-on-job/

It took LouisianaVoice weeks and many stories before official action was finally taken against a state trooper who went home to sleep during his shift so that he could work his second job the next day before he was finally fired. And even though we revealed that his supervisor allowed this practice to go on for years, the supervisor was simply transferred—even after we published audio recordings of that same supervisor refusing to accept a citizen’s complaint after he had denied refusing the complaint.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/11/gift-cards-for-tickets-payroll-chicanery-quotas-short-shifts-the-norm-in-troop-d-troopers-express-dismay-at-problems/

After we ran a story about a legislator, who made thousands of dollars by purchasing stock in a company he knew was going to be approved for a major program with the Department of Education, that legislator was re-elected.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/27/senate-education-chairman-appel-purchases-discovery-stock-week-before-company-enters-into-state-techbook-agreement/

When we outed Frederick Tombar III, the $260,000 per year director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation, over his sexually explicit emails sent to two female employees, he promptly resigned only to turn up at Cornerstone Government Affairs, a consulting company headed by former Louisiana Commissioners of Administration Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater.

https://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/page/9/

When we ran the story of a clerk in Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe with ties to powerful attorney and banking interests who was failing to show up for work, both the Louisiana Attorney General the Office of Inspector General punted on their investigations.

When a north Louisiana contractor sued the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development over attempts by DOTD employees to extort payoff money from him, he won more than $20 million. Instead of paying up as it should, however, the state simply said it doesn’t have the money to pay the contractor who was forced into bankruptcy by the department’s criminal activity. Yet, no one at DOTD was fired, much less prosecuted.

http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/local/2015/12/04/contractor-wins-20m-suit-against-dotd/76813444/

Department of Public Safety Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux twerked the system by taking an incentive buyout for early retirement that netted her an extra $59,000. She promptly promoted herself and came back to work the next day at a salary bump. Ordered to repay the $59,000 by then Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, she never did.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

But a caseworker for the understaffed and overworked Office of Children and Family Services was arrested with all the appropriate posturing and chest-thumping by law enforcement officials—including State Police—for payroll fraud after allegedly falsifying reports on monthly in-home visits with children in foster care.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/13/dcfs-funding-slashed-necessitating-driveway-visits-but-overworked-caseworker-is-arrested-for-falsifying-records/

The lesson here is obvious: if you’re politically connected, you can scarf off $59,000 with no repercussions but if you’re a lowly civil servant striving to meet impossible work demands brought about by budgetary cuts, you’re SOL. It’s not that we condone the payroll falsification, but justice should that should be administered evenly and blindly—but somehow never is.

The stories we have written about the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry and what the board does to dentists to destroy their practices and their very lives are horrific. Some of the investigative tactics and the retributions against defenseless dentists are sadistic at best and criminal at worst. Yet the board is allowed to continue its practices unchecked.

And as recently as May 2, we have the announcement from Gov. John Bel Edwards of the appointment of TERRENCE LOCKETT of Baton Rouge to the Louisiana Auctioneers Licensing Board. His appointment was made despite his being ordered in 2013 to pay $600 in penalties for his failure to file lobbying expenditure reports from March-December 2011 and his second-offense DWI in April 2014, which was reduced to a first-offense DWI.

http://gov.louisiana.gov/news/gov-edwards-announces-boards-and-commissions-appointments-5-2

By now, you’ve probably detected a trend.

It’s more than a little frustrating to see these transgressions reported, to know they are seen by those in a position to do something, and yet see these same ones in charge do nothing—or do so little as to make any discipline meaningless.

LouisianaVoice over the next few days will examine ethics fines that have gone uncollected for years, critical legislative audits of state agencies about which nothing seems to get done, and campaign contributions and lobbying activity that fortify the positions of special interests while diminishing to virtual insignificance the influence and interests of Louisiana’s citizens.

And nothing gets done.

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It’s really interesting—and disappointing—to see how the very ones charged with enforcing our laws can be so condescendingly smug about getting away with actions they have to know—but can’t bring themselves to admit—are wrong from a legal, moral and ethical standpoint.

To no one’s surprise, the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) is both capitalizing on what it terms as “civil unrest” and crowing about the outcome of Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC).

But the association’s braggadocio was careful to cloak an ongoing effort for yet another pay raise (the third in just over a year) in a carefully worded, three-sentence explanation.

And the election of a new commission president could present a whole set of new problems.

To bring you up to date, the LSPC accepted the recommendation that no action be taken in any investigation of wrongdoing by state troopers responsible for (a) making the decision to actively support political candidates with campaign contributions and (b) laundering the money through the bank account of LSTA Executive Director David Young. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/14/expectations-of-state-police-commission-report-on-lsta-campaign-contribution-probe-dies-with-a-pitiful-whimper/

The Code of Governmental Ethics, Section VIII of R.S. 18:1505.2 (B) lists the making of contributions or loans “through or in the name of another” as a prohibited practice. http://ethics.la.gov/Pub/Laws/cfdasum.pdf

That’s pretty specific and clear-cut. And that prohibition is equally applicable to boty civil service employees and state police, even though the two answer to different boards—state employees to the State Civil Service Commission and state troopers to the LSPC.

And if the LSPC cratered to pressure from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, with the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards serving as the official conduit, there are other ongoing investigations and one of those investigating agencies, the FBI, is not likely to succumb to pressure from the sheriffs or Edwards.

The State Ethics Board also has been asked to look into the contributions laundered by LSTA to a number of statewide political candidates since 2003, including Bobby Jindal and Edwards, both of whom received $10,000 from the association. Edwards has since returned his contributions to LSTA.

Here’s the text of an email from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn that went out Friday morning, the day after the LSPC unanimously accepted the recommendation of commission attorney Taylor Townsend that no action be taken on the investigation:

From: Hillary Moses <hmoses@latroopers.org>
Date: July 15, 2016 at 10:53:37 AM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: A Message from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn

Members, 

During this time of civil unrest, please remain vigilant in keeping yourselves and your families safe.  I only wanted to take a few moments to inform you of a few details regarding yesterday’s Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) meeting.  Most of you are aware that, many months ago, certain individuals alleged that LSTA members and David Young were guilty of misconduct related to political activity.  The LSPC began an investigation into the LSTA based on these allegations and assigned attorney Taylor Townsend to conduct the investigation.  The LSTA cooperated fully, and Mr. Townsend acknowledged his appreciation of our cooperation when he released his findings in yesterday’s public meeting.  Mr. Townsend stated that the LSPC has no authority over the LSTA or its Executive Director, facts that were previously acknowledged.  Mr. Townsend further declared that no individual trooper was guilty of misconduct. The commission then voted unanimously to take no action and announced the matter closed.  

In regard to the proposed rule changes affecting the Louisiana State Police pay plan, Rodney Hyatt testified on behalf of the department.   After some debate, Rodney and TJ Doss, our representative on the Commission, successfully persuaded the Commission to table this matter until the next LSPC meeting.  This was done to allow the department time to ascertain the effects of the rule change and make any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.    

Lastly, by vote of the six Commission members, TJ Doss was elected as Chairman of the LSPC.  Please join me in congratulating TJ.  He has proven to have the motivation and ability to lead the LSPC.  To have the other Commission members recognize his ability and leadership is an enormous, well-deserved compliment.  Thanks to all members who took time to attend yesterday’s meeting, and thank you to those who continue to support the LSTA.  The many phone calls, messages, and words of encouragement mean more than you know.  Please feel free to share this information with members who may not have an e-mail address separate from the department. Thank you, and stay safe. 

Jay 

Way to go, guys. You pulled a fast one. It’s not enough to get away with it, but you have to top it off with bombast and swagger—just to show you can. Real class. But you might do well to remember two applicable quotes: It ain’t over ’til it’s over (Yogi Berra) and Pride goeth before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

If you read O’Quinn’s email carefully, you may have noticed two other things worth reexamination.

The e-mail skimmed over (we think deliberately) the testimony of State Trooper Rodney Hyatt with the two sentence explanation that Hyatt and commission member Thomas J. Doss, himself a state trooper, persuaded the commission to table an unspecified matter for 30 days to allow times to ascertain effects of a new rule change and to make “any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.”

That unspecified matter was a pay plan, adopted last November giving troopers an automatic yearly 4 percent pay hike but rescinded last month because any rule that affects wages or hours can go into effect only upon the governor’s signature—and that signature has never been provided. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

It was Doss who insisted that a new rule eliminating the longevity pay plan be tabled for 30 days. His motion was a transparent effort to send signals to the LSTA to step up its lobbying efforts with the governor’s office to get Edwards’ signature on last November’s pay plan, effectively killing the substitute plan. Eight months apparently was not sufficient for Doss and Hyatt; they need another 30 days, it seems.

Even as state civil service employees have gone without pay increases for five years or longer, state police have already received pay raises over the past 18 months totaling as much as 50 percent for some troopers.

The proposed longevity pay plan, which gives automatic yearly pay raises (that other state employees have been denied) aside from any merit increases, could give the impression that state police under its present leadership are just a tad greedy.

Obviously that’s not applicable to all state police officers—just those at the top who are attempting this as a means of consolidating power by buying the loyalty of the rank and file troopers. It was no accident that Thursday’s LSPC meeting was attended by nearly two dozen troopers from headquarters.

It was also Doss who was chosen as the new President of LSPC. The only dissenting vote was cast by Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches who nominated and voted for Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston.

With the killing of the LSTC money laundering investigation and the 30-day delay on adopting a substitute to the proposed longevity pay plan in order for the LSTA to gets its ducks (read: politicians) lined up, the election of Doss as the new president was the perfect trifecta for Mike Edmonson.

The commission’s Web page contains the traditional mission statement:

Our mission is to provide a separate merit system for the commissioned officers of Louisiana State Police. In accomplishing this mission, the program administers entry level law enforcement examinations and promotional examinations; process personnel actions; issue certificates of eligibles; schedule appeal hearings on disciplinary matters on a monthly basis and pay hearings when necessary. Review, develop and implement State Police Commission rules, perform investigations, review contracts, review and accept or denies performance appraisal programs, and issues general circulars and transmittals. To enable the Office of State Police to meet the staffing needs in a timely fashion by hiring and promoting the best qualified applicants. 

So now the following questions must be asked:

  • Could there be a conflict of interest in his serving as president of the commission that is charged with performing investigations of wrongdoing and ruling on appeals of disciplinary matters?
  • What will happen should State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson come under investigation by the commission?
  • What will be Trooper Doss’s position should one of his fellow troopers—a close friend—come under investigation for some transgression?
  • How will Doss handle appeals from trooper friends disciplined by Edmonson? Will he support his friends or go against his commander?

These are serious questions that someone should put to the State Board of Ethics.

In the seven years that Doss has served as a full-time trooper, he has received pay increases totaling 36.5 percent—from $37,500 to $59,000.

But never fear. If past is indeed prologue (William Shakespeare: The Tempest), his seat on the commission is the fast track to lucrative promotions.

We have already begun a dangerous descent on a slippery slope and that slide must be reversed. Too often and for too long we have benignly looked the other way when we are confronted with unethical, immoral and illegal behavior by our public officials.

It is no longer sufficient to simply smile and say, “Well, that’s just Louisiana politics as usual.”

It may well be politics as usual, but it’s time for the citizens of this state to unite and demand one simple thing of our public officials:

Do the right thing. Not because we say so, but because it IS the right thing. Better yet, do it when no one is looking. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.

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“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

–Alexander Pope

The so-called “investigation” by the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) into the laundering of campaign money by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) through the association’s executive director turned into a major sham that only served to reinforce the old adage that crap flows downhill.

But the good news is state civil service employees may now pursue a method whereby they can make their own heretofore verboten political campaign contributions.

Hyped for two weeks as an investigation that would “name respondents” for the association’s deliberate circumvention of state regulations prohibiting political activity on the part of individual state troopers, the “report” of Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, hired to conduct the investigation and to make recommendations back to the commission, was a major dud in every respect.

His recommendation at Thursday’s (July 14) meeting: Do nothing. Punt. Abdicate the commission’s responsibility.

The term “deliberate” is not used lightly here. It was, after all, LSTA Executive Director David Young, in whose name more than $45,000 was contributed to various political candidates, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, who told the commission that the campaign contributions were made through him in order that “there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.” Young said he wrote the checks, dating back to 2003 and the association would reimburse him. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/15/louisianavoice-exclusive-at-long-last-it-can-be-disclosed-that-the-reason-for-all-the-problems-at-state-police-is-us/

For two weeks, word has circulated that Townsend’s report would name names and would be sharply critical of the association’s practice.

There is even word of an audio tape at a contentious meeting of association members from Troop I in Lafayette at which it was disclosed by association representatives that LSTA officers made the decision as to whom would receive campaign contributions.

That tape was never mentioned in Townsend’s brief “report” on Thursday (July 14). Nor were any names given as those directly responsible for the decision to contribute campaign money to candidates.

Instead, Townsend said the commission has no jurisdiction over the association or over Young. While that was an accurate assessment openly acknowledged before Townsend was ever brought on board, it was also acknowledged prior to his being hired that the association did have investigative and disciplinary powers over individual state troopers found in violation of state law. And while Townsend was quick to absolve the commission of any responsibility for Young and the association, he conveniently neglected to bring up the commission’s responsibility for enforcement of laws and regulations when individual state trooper actions are involved.

Because the LSTA is a 501(c) non-profit charitable organization, it is free, under certain restrictions, to make political contributions. So, by having Young make personal contributions in his name and then filing an expense report, the LSTA conveniently bypasses state law by funneling money to political candidates through Young.

Carrying his verbal report to its obvious conclusion, state civil service employees may need no longer worry about a similar prohibition against their making campaign contributions. All they have to do is form an association and get IRS approval of their status as a 501(c).

Of course, while state police have received two recent pay increases totaling 50 percent in some cases (and, by the way, they still want more), state civil service workers have been routinely denied even their paltry 4 percent annual merit increases for more than five years now, so they, unlike their fortunate state trooper counterparts, could hardly be expected to afford to make token campaign contributions.

So, the question is how is it that an investigation which only a couple of weeks ago seemed almost certain to result at least in suspensions for identical infractions that forced three of the LPSC members to resign since April was suddenly rendered impotent? https://louisianavoice.com/2016/04/14/two-more-members-of-lspc-quit-over-political-contributions-while-pondering-probe-of-lsta-for-same-offense/

To find the answer to that, one must go right to the top—the man who ran on the strength of his West Point Code of Honor.

It was John Bel Edwards who reappointed State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, most likely solely on the strength of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association insistence.

Asked by LouisianaVoice on Oct. 27, 2015, at 10:57 a.m. (before he took the oath of office) what his intentions were regarding the reappointment of Edmonson Edwards professed he had no intentions either way:

Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.

 

Tom Aswell

LouisianaVoice

 

From: John Bel Edwards

Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:50 PM

To: Tom Aswell  

Subject: Re: QUESTION

 

I don’t intend one way or the other

Being as charitable as possible, we now are forced to speculate that Edwards was being less than truthful at the time.

Edmonson was Bobby Jindal’s boy so why would Edwards feel obligated to keep him on? The LSTA even drew the line and said no to Edmonson’s request to have the association write a letter to Edwards recommending his reappointment.

Well, before he was Bobby Jindal’s boy, he was the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association’s boy. The Sheriffs’ Association wanted him to stay around because he is easily controlled and manipulated by the sheriffs.

The Sheriffs’ Association endorsed Edwards when the outcome of his runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter was still in doubt. He needed that endorsement and the condition that went with the endorsement was that Edwards would keep their boy on. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/16/lsp-unable-to-locate-sergeants-critical-letter-warning-of-danger-edmonson-is-reappointed-by-gov-elect-edwards/

And don’t forget that Daniel Edwards is Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish—and an influential member of the Sheriff’s Association—and probably has more than a little influence with his brother, the governor.

Consequently, anything that might implicate—or even embarrass—Edmonson would, by extension, embarrass Gov. Edwards and the Sheriffs’ Association. Accordingly, the report by former State Sen. Taylor Townsend had to be watered down or even killed.

In short, everyone simply circled the wagons.

And that’s now what we were led to expect from one who espouses the West Point Code of Honor.

(Note to self: Stop expecting.)

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Business Wire, an online business news publication and part of Warren Buffett’s vast Berkshire Hathaway Company, posted an interesting story on Tuesday (July 12) that, thanks to our friend and sometimes contributing writer Stephen Winham, prompted LouisianaVoice to dive into our ubiquitous resource of public records.

What we found was of considerable interest.

It seems that our former governor was/is not above accepting generous campaign contributions from those doing business with the State of Louisiana.

But we knew that already as evidenced by the scores of stories we’ve posted on this site about his cozy financial relationship with vendors.

But then on Tuesday, Business Wire posted a story from Katy, Texas, announcing that Cotton Holdings, Inc. “is pleased to announce that it has added Bobby Jindal, the 55th Governor of the State of Louisiana, to the Board of Directors.”

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160712006179/en/Cotton-Holdings-Elects-Bobby-Jindal-Board-Directors

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Lots of politicians retire from office only to (a) join some lobbyist firm at an enormous salary, (b) join the public speaking circuit at incredibly high fees, or (c) join some corporate board of directors at an obscenely huge salary.

Former presidents George Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton capitalized in a big way on the speaking tour, pocketing millions of dollars. Former President Gerald Ford accepted high-paying positions on the boards of 20th Century-Fox, Primerica, and American Express. Gen. Douglas MacArthur joined the Rand Corp. board after being fired by President Truman.

Truman, on the other hand, refused to play the game. He consistently rejected offers to make commercial endorsements, to engage in lobbying, or to accept “consulting fees.” Offered a position on a corporate board, he is said to have tersely replied, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the president, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.”

The accuracy of that quote has never been verified, but he did write in his 1960 book, Mr. Citizen: “I turned down all of those offers. I knew that they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman, the person, but what they wanted to hire was the former President of the United States. I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and the dignity of the office of the Presidency.”

Not so, apparently, with “Mr. Ethics,” the man who claims to have given Louisiana the “gold standard” of good government.

Here’s what Pete Bell, founder and CEO of Cotton Holdings, had to say about his firm’s newest director:

“Having known and worked with Bobby (first name basis, wouldn’t you know?) over the past several years, I am very pleased to now have him join the board as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company…I am confident that Bobby’s vast expertise and depth of knowledge of government, coupled with his extensive commercial experience (what!!!???), will add tremendous value to the company and, ultimately, our shareholders.”

Jindal’s “extensive commercial experience” consists of approximately 11 months’ employment with McKinsey & Co. It’s the only time he has worked in the private sector in his entire life. Bobby must have crammed a lot of his “extensive commercial experience” into those 11 months.

Cotton Holdings Board Chairman Naveen Bhatia added, “We are excited to expand the board of Cotton with another world-class director with specific domain expertise and who will continue to drive the growth of our various businesses. Whether it is his experience in attracting $60 billion of private capital to Louisiana, including the petrochemical industry which is a growth engine for Cotton, or his operational expertise across our business lines, our board and management are looking forward to having a problem solver (snicker, chortle, guffaw) of Bobby’s caliber joining the team and assisting in our continued goal of maximizing shareholder value.”

Headquartered in Katy, Cotton Holdings is an infrastructure support services firm which provides property restoration and recovery construction, roofing, consulting, temporary workforce staffing and housing and culinary services to public and private entities throughout the U.S. in support of disaster events and complex work environments of the petrochemical and oil and gas industries, the Business Wire news release says.

CORPORATE REPORT

So, how is it that Cotton founder Pete Bell has “known and worked with Bobby over the past several years”?

That’s what we at LouisianaVoice wanted to know and rule number one is to always follow the money. Rule two: see rule one.

Well, it turns out that Cotton had a couple of pretty nice CONTRACTS with the State of Louisiana. Together, the two contracts totaled more than $2.2 million.

The larger of the two contracts was for $1.965 million but we were unable to check the dates of that expired contract since the state’s Web page for state contracts would not allow access to the details of that contract. The smaller contract, however, for $295,453, did allow access and revealed that the contract was for just 22 days in 2006. It called for mold remediation in a building at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.

In checking campaign finance records, we also find that four Cotton BOARD OFFICERS’ campaign contributions to Jindal’s state political campaigns totaled more than $29,500 between January 2007 and October 2012—after the smaller of the two contracts was awarded, it should be noted. But even though Jindal had no hand in awarding at least one of the contracts, classified employees are prohibited by the State Ethics Commission from accepting the smallest of gifts from vendors, so why should that same rule not apply to elected officials?

Records reveal that Bell contributed $5,000 on Oct. 8, 2009. CFO Bryan Michalsky and COO Randall Thompson gave $5,000 each the following day. Two weeks later Bhatia chipped in $5,000 to go with the $4,000 he gave on Sept. 5, 2007; the $3,000 contributed in cash and an additional $1,594.28 in in-kind contributions (food for a campaign event) on Oct. 25, 2012, and $1,000 on Jan. 31, 2007.

Because we are unable to access the larger contract to determine the beginning and end dates, it is impossible to determine whether that contract or the campaign contributions came first.

The campaign contributions aside, has Jindal hung a “For Sale” sign on the governor’s office as he did several state agencies during his tenure? Apparently so.

Unlike Truman, he has shown no reluctance in capitalizing on and profiting from his eight disastrous years as governor. Even as the bankrupt state struggles to overcome his wholesale carnage and to provide needed services to its citizens, this self-anointed paragon of virtue finds ways to reap financial rewards for himself. We submitted a request to Cotton for his salary as the company’s newest board member but to no one’s surprise, there was no response. Funny how eager Cotton was to get the announcement out on Bobby’s appointment but is suddenly silent on his compensation package.

How many other board positions has Jindal accepted since leaving office? How many others will he accept in the future? Who knows? We’ve already seen that he is a shameless opportunist. Cotton may well be not the only corporate entity eager to bring Jindal on board to prostitute the office of governor; it may just be the only one to make a public announcement.

We will probably never see another congressman like former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, who holds the record for the longest tenure as House Speaker (17 years), started out in the Texas Legislature. He was a member of the Steger, Thurmond and Rayburn Law Firm at the time and while serving, he refused to accept fees from clients with interests before the legislature because he said was a servant of the people of Fannin County. Later, as a member of Congress, a wealthy oil man delivered an expensive horse to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham, Texas. Though only the two men and a Rayburn staff member knew about it, Rayburn promptly returned the horse. He always paid his own travel expenses—even on a trip to the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning the canal.

When he died in 1961, his entire estate was valued at just under $300,000, most of which was land he owned. The amount of cash that he had in various checking accounts was just over $26,000. Compare that to Jindal, who became a multi-millionaire during his brief, three-year stint in Congress and who owns home in a gated Baton Rouge community valued at almost a million dollars.

All of which should make each of us sit back and wonder whatever became of the idealistic, patriotic concept of public service? Why do our elected officials—Billy Tauzin, Bennett Johnston, Bob Livingston, Richard Baker, John Breaux (to name only former Louisiana politicians)—use their positions of public trust as a springboard to greater wealth and power as professional lobbyists whose duty it seems to be to work for the enrichment of their corporate clients as opposed to the benefit of their former constituents?

Worse yet, why do we as the taxpaying citizens allow it? Why is it there has been no groundswell of public sentiment for strict, binding laws prohibiting the seamless transition from congressman to paid corporate whore?

We didn’t create the monster but we certainly allowed our representatives to worship at the altar of greed and influence and to grow into the destructive agents they have become.

And now you can add your knight in tarnished armor, Piyush Jindal, to that ever-growing list of non-official hogs at the public trough.

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