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Archive for the ‘Politicians’ Category

It was Memorial Day weekend in Baton Rouge last year, the weekend of the BAYOU COUNTRY SUPERFEST that had country music fans flocking to LSU’s Tiger Stadium. LSU subsequently cancelled its contract with promoters and this year’s event will take place in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

But this story isn’t about Bayou Country Superfest.

It was several hours after the final performance of one night of the three-day event, around 3 a.m., in fact, that a black SUV was pulled over by a Baton Rouge police officer at the corner of Perkins and Acadian, only a few blocks south of I-10.

The officer, a member of the city’s DWI Strike Force, suspected the driver of driving while impaired, perhaps even intoxicated. In the SUV was a woman, a blonde. She was not the driver’s wife; she’s a brunette.

The driver, violating all protocol, exited his SUV and started toward the officer who, alarmed, is said to have pulled his weapon just before recognizing the driver as a high-ranking member of the governor’s administration.

Instead of escalating, as the situation could easily have done, the driver was inexplicably allowed to proceed on to his destination, driving that black SUV. He was not arrested, issued a citation or even asked to submit to a field sobriety test and the matter was quickly hushed up. Even the city officer, when asked about the incident, denied it ever happened. But later, when asked about the incident by a fellow officer, rather than deny it occurred, said instead, “I can’t talk about that.”

Yet the stories continue to persist nearly nine full months after the stop that the officer denies ever took place. LouisianaVoice was even given the officer’s name by no fewer than eight different, independent sources. At least when Bobby Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater was pulled over for DWI, there was no attempt to keep the arrest quiet and he paid his fines and court costs for the offense. The only thing that raised eyebrows was when State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson showed up and gave him a ride home—a courtesy no ordinary citizen sans political connections would likely be accorded.

Who made the decision to allow the driver to go on his way? It’s unlikely the officer would have assumed the responsibility for such a decision fraught with all kinds of downsides on his own. That would mean there had to be an order from up the chain of command within the Baton Rouge Police Department. The question then, is at what level of the command was the decision made, mid-level or from the very top?

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie is probably on his way out. At least that’s the indication given by former State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome who was recently elect Baton Rouge’s new Mayor-President and inaugurated on Jan. 2, though Dabadie appears to be fighting to keep his job.

This is not to say Dabadie was ever even aware of the stop but if (and of course, at this stage, that’s a very speculative if)…if he is the one who put the kibosh on the stop and potential arrest of the state official, both men need to go. Immediately.

If he had any records of the pullover expunged from the police log, he could be found guilty of injuring public records under Louisiana R.S. 14:132 and he conceivably could face imprisonment. At any rate, if any records of the stop were destroyed on his watch, he must be held accountable for destruction of public records.

If records were never tampered with, then somewhere there is a paper trail that still exists, perhaps by now buried somewhere in the bowels of the BRPD.

LouisianaVoice is continuing to investigate the matter. We’ll let you know if anything develops. If not, the story probably will evaporate as did the ghost stop of a black SUV at 3 a.m. during the 2016 Bayou Superfest.

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The Louisiana State Police Commission may have placed on its agenda for Thursday’s meeting an item to go into “executive session for discussion of professional competence” of commission Director Cathy Derbonne but an option that rests with Derbonne could put commission Chairman T.J. Doss behind the proverbial eight ball.

Doss is the State Police member on the commission. The remaining six members are appointed by the governor from each of the state’s Congressional districts.

Besides the item to enter into executive session, a separate item calls for “consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.”

The entire proceeding, however could blow up in the faces of commissioners should Derbonne exercise her option to insist that all discussion be held in open session. Legally, she is entitled to make that call and if she does, there could be egg on the faces of Doss, Jared J Caruso-Riecke, et al.

In something of a plot twist, the web page of the State Police Commission was down briefly Wednesday night. Efforts to go onto the PAGE resulted in a message that the web address could not be accessed. The page was back online, however, after about 20 minutes.

Interestingly, the funneling of more than $40,000 in campaign contributions by the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) through its executive director produced only a sham of an investigation by a political ally of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Natchitoches attorney and former State Sen. Taylor Townsend was hired under a $75,000 contract to “investigate” the contributions which were approved by the LSTA board of directors, comprised of state troopers, and laundered through LSTA Executive Director David Young. Young made the contributions, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Edwards, by writing checks on his personal account and then submitting expense invoices to the association.

Townsend, obviously taking his marching orders from up the food chain, declined to include as part of the evidence an audio recording of a meeting of troopers concerned about the contributions at which it was acknowledged that the LSTA violated the restrictions against state troopers becoming active in political campaigns, including making contributions. Townsend also failed to follow protocol in submitting a written report of his findings and instead, made only a verbal recommendation that “no action be taken.”

Townsend likewise has been silent on the issue of the manner in which commission members were appointed. When there is a vacancy, the commission chairman is required to notify the university president in that congressional district to solicit names for nominations from which list the governor makes his appointment.

Derbonne’s major transgression appears to be that she did her job, including notifying the governor’s office of the requirements for member appointments and of commission members who, like the LSTA, violated ethics rules by making political contributions while sitting on the board. Three members ultimately resigned because of that issue.

So, bottom line, what we have here is a failure to communicate (apologies to the late Strother Martin of Cool Hand Luke). An attorney who is a crony of the governor shirks his duty to the job for which he was contracted but still collects his fees and stands in good stead with the commission while Derbonne followed the dictates of her job and finds her job is on the line.

Way to go, guys. You should really feel good about yourselves. Eulis Simien, I really thought you had more integrity than to let yourself be manipulated by Doss and Edmonson.

Every time I hear Doss talk, I wonder how it feels to have Edmonson’s hand up his backside.

Calvin Braxton, you’ve already seen what can happen when you cross Mike Edmonson, but you’re going along with this fiasco anyway?

Monica J. Manzella, I’m really not that surprised; after all, you negotiate contracts with the State Police on behalf of the City of New Orleans. No conflict there.

Jared J Caruso-Riecke, Mike Edmonson obviously owns you.

Donald Breaux, we know where your loyalty lies with your special LSTA-1 license plate on your car.

You’re all a real piece of work.

How can Simien and Caruso-Riecke (appointed June 6) and Manzella (Oct. 11), who between them, have barely a year’s experience on the board, make any kind of intelligent judgment call as to the competence of Derbonne? The answer is, they can’t; they can only rely on the manipulations of Edmonson and Doss.

And that $75,000 investigation by Taylor Townsend only to get a verbal “I recommend no action.” It’s a damn good thing you weren’t heading up the investigation of the previous commission executive director DEBRA JOHNSON. Even the Office of Inspector General nailed her for felony theft, fraud, and malfeasance in office.

If anyone in this tragicomedy should be called to the carpet for misappropriation of funds, it should be Townsend. I could’ve done what he did for a measly five bucks and a beer from the bar run by LSTA over at the State Police training facility in Zachary.

We can only hope Derbonne will exercise her rights and make them do their dirty work out in the open for everyone to see.

And if you think firing a single employee—for no other reason that she insists on doing the right thing despite what Edmonson wants—will make your problems disappear, you’re so very wrong.

If you think LouisianaVoice has been a pain in the ass so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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Attorney General Jeff Landry is a busy man.

Since taking office a year ago, he apparently has personally made 35 arrests and announced nine other arrests by his office for such crimes as child pornography, elder fraud, Medicaid fraud, workers comp fraud, public corruption, and even for attempted murder.

I don’t know if he packs heat on those arrest sorties. Shoot, I didn’t even know the State Constitution gave him actual arrest powers. Just shows how little I know, I suppose.

Obviously, he was too busy fighting Gov. John Bel Edwards to take an active role in bringing those other nine to justice but his crack investigative teams were certainly up to the task.

Here are some sample headlines to stories released by his overworked public information office:

You have to admit that’s a pretty impressive laundry list of activity by Landry who, in addition to running hard for governor, must also dispense legal advice to various political subdivisions of the state as well as doling out consumer tips about how to ward off con artists and various scams.

Oh, I almost forgot: He also is personally rescuing New Orleans from its ongoing crime wave by busting a few individuals for pot possession. Apparently he’s been watching that classic 1936 film REEFER MADNESS that warned us about the homicidal/suicidal effects of Marijuana.

In case you don’t wish to watch the entire riveting movie, here is a short TRAILER to the film.

Here are some comments made by Landry in those news releases:

  • “Our office will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of making our communities safer,” said General Landry. “We will do all that we legally can to bring child predators to justice.”
  • “Medicaid fraud robs much-needed services from our State’s vulnerable,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry.  “Our award-winning fraud detection and prevention unit will continue working hard to uncover, investigate, and arrest criminals who defraud Medicaid.”
  • “Our office is on the front lines investigating, arresting, and educating to help stop the awful occurrence of seniors being targeted and preyed upon by scammers,” said General Landry. “We want to help Louisiana’s people avoid falling victim to mortgage, contractor, charity and other types of frauds commonly perpetrated on senior citizens.”
  • “Our office will investigate and apprehend those who exploit our State’s children,” said General Landry. “We will continue to bring child predators to justice.”
  • “I have an unwavering commitment to protect our children, and my Cyber Crime Unit will keep working tirelessly to investigate and arrest those who have exploited children,” said General Landry. “We will continue to use all resources at our disposal to apprehend and prosecute child predators.”
  • “My office and I will do all that we legally can to protect our State’s children from predators,” said General Landry. “We will continue to work with all law enforcement partners to catch child predators and bring them to justice.”
  • “My Cyber Crime Unit works around the clock to investigate and arrest child predators,” said General Landry. “We remain focused on these efforts in an attempt to prevent innocent children from being exploited.”
  • “Our office will continue to be a model agency in arresting illegal criminals and stopping them from exploiting our State’s children,” said General Landry. “We will keep working closely with our local, state, and federal partners to make our streets safer by bringing child predators to justice.”

But here’s the best one, assuming you like cruel jokes:

“As Louisiana Attorney General, I will do all I can to end public corruption,” said General Landry. “The federal government has had to step in many times to help enforce these laws and protect the public. The federal government should not, and will not, be alone in this mission under my administration.”

“Under my watch, we will enforce state ethics laws and not just rely upon the federal government to take the lead on this issue,” continued General Landry. “The people of Louisiana should know government officials, elected and appointed, are accountable for their actions.”

You gotta love that, given how we thought all this time the State Ethics Commission was responsible for enforcing state ethics laws with those fines that are never collected.

From the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE:

  • The task force made 11 arrests in New Orleans between October and December, his office said. Those arrests included six counts of marijuana possession, three counts of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, one count of illegal possession of a firearm and one count of illegal possession of a stolen vehicle. They also included four counts of producing and distributing fake drugs.
  • During the same three months, NOPD made a total 5,463 arrests, the department said.

Kinda going after the low-hanging fruit, aren’t you General? Not to mention pissing off the local law enforcement types with your headline-grabbing tactics for doing basically nothing.

And from the Baton Rouge MORNING ADVOCATE:

  • While he did not rule out a run for governor, Landry, 46, said he remains focused on his current job. He said he “despises people” who use one political office as a stepping-stone to the next. (Emphasis added.)

And of course, in the interest of being ever-vigilant on behalf of Louisiana’s citizens, he blocked John Bel Edwards when the governor attempted to retain some attorneys to sue oil and gas companies over the wreckage inflicted on the state’s coastal marshes. Granted, the attorneys Edwards wanted to hire were high-dollar but with one exception, they also had impressive success records in prior litigation against the oil industry.

But he said he “despises people” who use one political office as a stepping-stone to the next.

Didn’t a recent governor also insist he had the job he wanted—until after his re-election, when he openly and unabashedly chased an elusive Republican presidential nomination?

Between the ineptness of the Ethics Commission, the Office of Inspector General, and the Attorney General’s office, I’m reminded of the story about the baby chick questioning his mother about how he came to be:

BABY CHICK: Mom, was I born?

MOTHER HEN: No, you were hatched from an egg.

BABY CHICK: Was the egg born?

MOTHER HEN: No, the egg was laid.

BABY CHICK: Are people laid?

MOTHER HEN: Some are, but others are chicken.

The point here being maybe they’re all just a little chicken when it comes to enforcing ethics laws.

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Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) promises to be a bloodbath with number-one coward (there are six cowards on the commission, so we are forced to give them numbers) T.J. Doss leading the way—running interference, as it were, for his boss.

The agenda for Thursday’s 9 a.m. meeting includes two significant items:

  • Executive session for discussion of professional competence of Director of State Police Commission (Cathy Derbonne);
  • Consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.

While there was no immediate indication what precipitated this sudden move, rest assured that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s DNA is all over it.

There’s no guarantee, of course that Derbonne’s fate has already been decided and that the “discussion” and “consideration” are mere formalities (read: B.S.)—but that’s where the smart money is.

Here is a copy of an ANONYMOUS-LETTER LouisianaVoice received last Saturday, which apparently was also sent to Derbonne:

Actually, perhaps coward may be the wrong term. A better description would be incompetent, backstabbing, rubber-stamping, salivating lap dogs—owned, wormed and neutered by Edmonson. Did I leave out trained? Sorry.

Like the letter (apparently written by an active Trooper who works at State Police Headquarters in Baton Rouge) says, “The senior command—that would be Edmonson, Jason Starnes and Charlie Dupuy—does not take kindly to not having the LSPC rubber stamp their desires.”

That sentence was likely in reference to an issue raised by the only member with any spine, LLOYD GRAFTON of Ruston. Grafton, a couple of meetings back complained that the commission had been misled by Edmonson when he told commission members the promotion of Starnes to lieutenant colonel so he could take on the financial duties of retired JILL BOUDREAUX (even though he has no background in accounting or finance) would not result in additional costs. “Then I turn around and (the new lieutenant colonel slot) has gone from $125,000 to $150,000. Somebody is not being honest,” Grafton said.

To a member, the remaining five members (Monica Manzella was not yet on the board at the meeting in question)—Doss, Jared J Caruso-Riecke, Donald Breaux, Calvin W. Braxton, Sr., and Eulis Simien, Jr.— went conveniently blank, professing to have no memory of Edmonson’s comment but Derbonne told the commission that he did indeed make that claim.

(An audio recording of the meeting obtained by LouisianaVoice via a public records request confirmed Grafton’s recollection of Edmonson’s testimony as well as Derbonne’s assertion.)

At that point, Doss and the Feeble Four switched their arguments to whether or not, LSPC had any authority over setting salaries. Derbonne’s response was the commission had no authority to exceed the State Police pay grid but that it did have the authority to approve the promotion of Starnes—based on Edmonson’s assurance that no additional cost would be incurred.

Perhaps that anonymous letter should also have pointed out that Edmonson and his lackey commission don’t like to be shown up by facts or to have their flawed collective memories refreshed when it becomes and embarrassment to them.

That, Ms. Derbonne, is apparently an unforgivable sin.

Basically, here is what LouisianaVoice has learned in covering LSPC during the past year:

  • The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA—not to be confused with LSPC, which is the state civil service equivalent that investigates state trooper wrongdoing and hears appeals from disciplined troopers) laundered political campaign contributions through its executive director—in apparent violation of state ethics rules prohibiting campaign contributions from individual troopers. The decision to make the contributions, by necessity, had to have been approved by members of the LSTA board;
  • An “investigation” of the contributions by LSPA hit an abrupt dead-end when Gov. John Bel Edwards pal Taylor Townsend was hired at $75,000 to get to the bottom of the campaign contribution controversy. He promptly declined to submit a written report to the LSPA and instead, made a verbal recommendation that “no action” be taken, a recommendation only too quickly approved by the commission;
  • LSTA operated a bar that served alcohol at the State Police training facility in Zachary where prisoners are also housed, an apparent violation of state law prohibiting the sale and/or the consumption of alcohol at correctional facilities;
  • Former LSPC member William Goldring, who RESIGNED last April after it was revealed he had made political contributions while on the board (a state ethics violation), is owner of an alcohol distributorship in New Orleans, CROWN BEVERAGE, that sold liquor to LSTA for the bar, a cozy business relationship that could also be considered an ethics violation;
  • LSPC member Monica Manzella is a New Orleans attorney who serves as Legal Counsel for the City of New Orleans. As such, she negotiates and approves all Local Area Compensated Enforcement (LACE—a program is run by some district attorneys in the state to pay State Troopers for traffic enforcement, including DWIs) contracts between the city and State Police, contracts that determine what rate is paid the troopers (see above re: ethics);
  • Manzella was never nominated for her position on the commission by a university president as required by state law—even though LSPC and the governor’s office had been notified of this discrepancy with other members well before her appointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards;
  • J. Doss, a rank and file State Trooper, is Chairman of the commission and as such, would be called upon to take the lead in any investigations of State Trooper transgressions—including any investigation that might arise involving his boss, Edmonson, a questionable incestuous arrangement at best.

Here are a couple of STATE-POLICE-CONTRACTS approved by Manzella in her capacity as legal counsel for the City of New Orleans.

Given the multiple ethics breaches, the naked power grab being attempted by Edmonson through his rubber stamp commission and the numerous serious administrative blunders documented on this site, Gov. Edwards needs to seriously consider cutting his losses now before Edmonson causes him irreparable political damage and embarrassment down the road, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association be damned.

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What’s the difference between Evangeline and Terrebonne parishes?

Apparently only about 120 miles, judging from the manner in which the respective sheriffs’ offices ignore and abuse the constitutional rights of their citizens.

Where the U.S. Justice Department recently issued a report highly critical of the practice of “investigative arrests” in Evangeline, the First Circuit Court of Appeal has ruled unconstitutional a raid carried out by the Terrebonne Parish sheriff last summer because he didn’t like what a blogger said about him.

And, LouisianaVoice has learned, the Terrebonne sheriff and others are targets of a federal investigation over other business dealings of the sheriff’s office.

Following the filing a federal lawsuit filed against Sheriff Jerry Larpenter last August, the anticipated second shoe has now fallen on several other leading business and political leaders of Terrebonne Parish.

The fallout stems from an ill-advised—and unconstitutional—warrant and RAID executed against a Houma police officer on Aug. 2 over no greater offense than criticism of the sheriff’s department on a local Internet blog.

It now has spilled over to a general indictment of Gordon Dove and the parish government’s relationship with a local insurance agency.

Wayne Anderson, a former deputy sheriff and currently a Houma police officer, and his wife, Jennifer, filed suit on Aug. 10 against Larpenter over the raid carried out on their home by sheriff’s deputies and now have amended Parish President Dove and others into the lawsuit.

The latest AMENDED PETITION adds as defendants:

  • Dove, individually, and in his official capacity as President of the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government;
  • Anthony J. Alford, individually, and in his official capacity as President of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District Board of Commissioners;
  • The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • The Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, and
  • The Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District.

The blog, ExposeDat, began posting critical stories of Dove and Larpenter in early July, prompting the illegal raid on the Andersons’ home. While unconstitutional, the raid did have the apparent effect of successfully causing the blog to be taken down, thus infringing on the First Amendment that protects free speech.

But in the interim, Larpenter, who was quoted as saying, “If you’re gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I’m gonna come after you.”  did just that. Executing a warrant signed by State District Judge Randy Bethancourt instead of the “Duty Judge,” who the latest legal filing says should have reviewed and considered the warrant.

Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Glynn Prestenbach Jr., who took the warrant application to Bethancourt for his signature, since said he “just did what (Terrebonne Parish District Attorney) and Jerry (Larpenter) told him to do,” the Andersons’ amended petition says.

Following the raid, law enforcement personnel arrived at the Plaintiffs’ residence, the petition says. Anderson was informed he was being placed on administrative leave indefinitely and was the subject of an internal affairs investigation for failing to uphold the law and for engaging in conduct unbecoming of a law enforcement officer. Anderson was stripped of his badge, his duty weapon, his law enforcement commission card and his marked patrol unit—all in full view of the Andersons’ neighbors, action that they say has caused embarrassment and harm to their reputations.

Bethancourt denied the Plaintiffs’ Motion to Quash, finding the defamation statute to be sufficiently broad to allow him a “look-see” to determine if the evidence wrongfully seized contained defamatory statements. Writs were taken to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals which quashed the search warrant on August 25 and ruled that the search and seizure (were) unconstitutional.

The amended petition accuses the defendants of conspiring together “to initiate unjustified and factually and legally baseless criminal proceedings against the plaintiffs. The Defendants lacked probable cause and/or any viable legal justification to initiate the said proceedings. The Defendants acted maliciously and as a consequence of these actions, the Plaintiffs suffered deprivation of their liberties and have sustained damages,” the petition says.

“Defendants Gordon Dove, Jerry Larpenter and Anthony Alford all met and/or discussed a jointly accepted and agreed upon the illegal plan discussed hereinabove,” it says. “Sometime immediately after a July 11, 2016, article entitled ‘You Scratch Mine & I’ll Scratch Yours’ was published on the website that detailed the business dealings between the Defendants, Defendant Dove allegedly announced to the entire Synergy Bank4 Board of Directors that he was going to shut the Exposedat website down and that he was having subpoenas issued. Defendant Anthony Alford lodged his criminal complaint within three days of the article’s publication.”

Once Alford filed his complaint, Larpenter wasted no time in initiating an investigation by his office by instructing Prestenbach to immediately conduct an investigation, the Andersons claim. “Prestenbach did as instructed and immediately met with and interviewed Alford. Prestenbach also sought by subpoena records from Facebook relating to John Turner (an alias used by Anderson), and within a period of five days obtained information relating to various IP addresses. Prestenbach searched the IP addresses and noticed that they were assigned to a corresponding AT&T account. Prestenbach then subpoenaed records from AT&T to identify the IP addresses that corresponded to the Facebook posts of John Turner.”

On or about August 1, 2016, Prestenbach received and reviewed the documents which had been subpoenaed from AT&T. These records revealed that the computer used to send the various posts was located at the Plaintiffs’ home address. Prestenbach immediately contacted Larpenter and advised him of the results of his investigation including the fact that the address obtained was the residence of Wayne Anderson, who was a police officer for the Houma Police Department. Larpenter allegedly told Prestenbach to stand by for further action. Later,

TPSO Detective Kody Voisin called Prestenbach and advised him that he had spoken to Defendant Larpenter who wanted a search warrant issued, and that he [Larpenter] had spoken to Terrebonne District Attorney Joe Waitz who also agreed to continue the investigation and obtain a search warrant. HERE is Prestenbach’s report as well as threads from Facebook postings.

The question that must be asked and the issue that must be determined at this point is by what authority did Larpenter obtain the Facebook and AT&T records? Who issued the subpoena for that information? If the search warrant was unconstitutional, it would seem that the subpoena seeking the private records would be as well.

The amended petition is seeking actual and punitive damages, court costs and attorney fees.

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