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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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In continuing to examine the methods and motives of unknown individuals in the ongoing attempt to discredit and embarrass Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) member Calvin Braxton, Sr., several things are worth noting.

At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned that six of the seven members of the LSPC, including Braxton, may be serving on the commission illegally and others before them may not have been legitimate appointees, as well.

It’s not enough that LouisianaVoice was sent anonymous letters by someone with a bent for getting Braxton thrown off the commission, but it also appears from the timing of a report critical of Braxton’s behavior following his daughter’s DWI arrest that the report’s author may well have been coerced into filing the report.

There is also the question of how did the legal counsel for the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) wind up with an internal report? The LSTA is a private organization connected to the Louisiana State Police (LSP) only by virtue that its membership is comprised of active and retired state troopers. The LSTA has no input, or at least should have no involvement in LSP internal investigations other than disciplinary matters involving state troopers.

To recap briefly, Braxton’s daughter was arrested for DWI, speeding, improper lane usage and open container violation on Dec. 5, 2015. According to an official report filed by Troop E Commander, Capt. Jay D. Oliphant, Jr., Braxton subsequently demanded that Oliphant transfer the trooper, Jayson Linebaugh, to New Orleans for 60-90 days to “get his mind right.”

Oliphant explained the only reason a trooper would be assigned to New Orleans would be to supplement the New Orleans Police Department in an ongoing criminal enforcement detail. Assignment to New Orleans would be done only in such event, “certainly not as punishment for arresting his daughter,” the report said.

But the timing of the report, as well as all three anonymous “tips” about the matter received by LouisianaVoice, is terribly suspect.

In February, Braxton objected to the adoption of the commissions January meeting minutes as written because the proposed minutes did not fully summarize key points raised in the January meeting about campaign contributions made by LSTA through its director, David Young.

In a matter of weeks, the “tips” began arriving in the email box as well as the post office box of LouisianaVoice. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/26/determined-effort-to-discredit-lspc-members-reveals-self-righteous-hypocrisy-vindictiveness-of-state-police-association/

Then, on July 15, the commission chose active trooper Thomas J. “TJ” Doss, the LSP representative on the commission as its President. Braxton, however, nominated then-Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston and subsequently cast the only vote for Grafton. Grafton refused to vote for himself and cast his vote for Doss, who did not reciprocate the courtesy when he voted for himself.

All of which evokes the question of timing in the glut of anonymous “tips” as well as a not-so-anonymous letter by LSTA legal counsel Floyd Falcon to Gov. John Bel Edwards requesting Braxton’s removal from LSPC.

That letter was dated July 11, just three days before the LSPC’s July 14 meeting. Falcon’s letter also asked Edwards to bar Braxton from participating in or voting on commission matters.

Not only is the timing of Falcon’s letter, as well as his very possession of Oliphant’s report, more than a little suspicious, but the date of Oliphant’s report, as well, raises eyebrows.

And that should be key issue.

Oliphant, like Braxton, is from Natchitoches and he is said to be on friendly terms with both Braxton and Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Victor Jones. Oliphant’s report quoted Braxton as claiming that Sheriff Jones had experienced problems with Trooper Linebaugh and also wanted the trooper removed from Natchitoches Parish after Linebaugh had also arrested Jones’s son for DWI in August 2015. Jones, Oliphant said in his report, denied having any problems with Linebaugh.

Oliphant’s report was DATED JUNE 2, 2016. All contact between Oliphant and Braxton occurred between the Dec. 5, 2015, date of his daughter’s arrest and Dec. 14, 2015—more than six months after the arrest of Braxton’s daughter and nearly six months after the last communication between Oliphant and Braxton.

So why the six-month wait before writing a report?

There are several questions that should be asked of everyone concerned:

  • Was Oliphant coerced to write the report about his friend?
  • Was he deliberately placed in a precarious position between friends Braxton and Sheriff Jones?

Most important of all, however, is this:

  • Why the six-month wait before writing a report?
  • Why is there no report from Linebaugh himself?
  • How is that Falcon came to be in possession of the June 2 report in so short a time as to be able to pen his letter (with the report attached) only nine days later? (Perhaps he has the same “anonymous” sources as LouisianaVoice.)

If any public official attempts to bring pressure on a law enforcement official in retribution for the arrest of a family member, that should be reported immediately—as in the same day, not six months down the road when memories may begin to cloud about details. And there should be a report from the trooper directly involved in the incident.

By everything LouisianaVoice has been able to learn about Oliphant, he is a super straight cop who goes strictly by the book. One former law enforcement official who knows both Oliphant and Sheriff Jones said Oliphant was “honest and completely above-board, a poster child for what law enforcement should be. If he wrote and signed the report, it most likely happened just the way he said.”

But even the strongest can be subjected to pressure when it’s applied in the right place (like a subtle, even unspoken threat to job security or promotions) by the right people in the right position of authority.

That in turn raises these questions:

  • Who is in a position to apply such pressure?
  • And who would have the most to lose from a rogue commission member who refused to go along to protect wrongdoing?

For the time being, those questions will be left to conjecture. But the answer can most probably be found in a very small cadre of players.

Meanwhile, there is another minor controversy brewing over the legitimacy of six of the seven board members (Doss, we assume, is elected by a vote of classified state police officers, according to the Louisiana State Constitution).

The remaining six members, one from each Congressional District, are appointed by the governor.

Article X, Part IV, Sec. 43(c) of the 1974 Louisiana State Constitution says of nominations for APPOINTMENT TO LSPC:

The presidents of Centenary College at Shreveport, Dillard University at New Orleans, Louisiana College at Pineville, Loyola University at New Orleans, Tulane University of Louisiana at New Orleans, and Xavier University at New Orleans, after giving consideration to representation of all groups, each shall nominate three persons. The governor shall appoint one member of the commission from the three persons nominated by each president.

Of course we made the requisite public records request of LSPC to learn if such nominations were received. The request was for such nominations dating back to January 2003. But the LSPC RESPONSE went even further, back to Aug. 7, 2002 with its letter seeking three nominations from Dr. Kenneth Schwab, President of Centenary College in Shreveport.

Schwab responded on Jan. 15, 2003, with only one nomination, that of Joseph Cage, Jr.

There were other four other letters to Dr. Scott Cowen, President of Tulane University in New Orleans, on June 4, 2003; to Dr. Norman Francis, President of Xavier University in New Orleans on June 8, 2004 and again on Oct. 6, 2005, and to Dr. Joe Aguillard, President of Louisiana College in Pineville, also on Oct. 6, 2005, but none after that date. There were no responses to those letters.

So, at least for the past 13 years, only one of the six university presidents has made even a single nomination for one vacancy on the commission.

Members serve staggered terms of six years per term but are prohibited from serving more than two and one-half terms, or 15 years.

With at least four governors, including Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco, Bobby Jindal and now John Bel Edwards never having received the constitutionally-required three nominees for each vacancy—and the LSPC has experienced considerable turnover in membership during that period—none of the present membership with the exception of Doss is legally serving.

The question now is what can—or will—be done about it? Does this quirk make all actions of the commission, including the hiring of special legal counsel Taylor Townsend, null and void? What about all the trooper appeals of disciplinary matters that have come before the commission down through the years? Some of those who were disciplined and appealed a decade or more ago have probably retired by now. What about per diem paid all those illegitimate commission members for attending meetings over at least the past 13 years?

That requirement of the State Constitution was put in there for a reason and should have been followed to the letter.

Obviously, that was not the case.

 

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Somebody wants a piece of Calvin Braxton and they’re willing to go to great lengths to extract their pound of flesh—even to the point of sending anonymous emails and letters to LouisianaVoice in an effort to use this medium as a vehicle on which to ride him out of town.

There also is a seven-page letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards from a Baton Rouge attorney “respectfully” requesting that charges be brought against Braxton and that he be removed from office.

Braxton is President of Natchitoches Ford-Lincoln as well having interests in several other automobile dealerships and businesses in the Natchitoches, Leesville and Marksville areas.

http://natchitochesford.com/

https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearchDetails.aspx?CharterID=342154_7Q83

He also is a member of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) which hears appeals of disciplinary action taken against Louisiana State Troopers and which recently conducted a sham investigation of political activity by the board of directors of the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA, not to be confused with LSPC) that one commission member said appeared to be “something suspect.”

And that, apparently is the crux of the vendetta against Braxton.

Commission regulations, like State Civil Service regulations governing state employee activity, prohibit state troopers from participating in political campaigns by endorsing, campaigning for, or making contributions to candidates. Those regulations were put into effect as a trade-off to protect state employees from being pressured into supporting a particular candidate or incumbent at the risk of losing state employment should the wrong candidate win.

But members of the association Board of Directors, as evidenced by an audio recording of one of the association’s affiliate members—a copy of which LouisianaVoice has experienced considerable resistance in obtaining—made the decision to funnel its campaign contributions through association Executive Director David Young. Young wrote more than $45,000 in personal checks to various candidates, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Gov. Edwards, over a period of several years and was “reimbursed” by the association for his “expenses” on behalf of LSTA.

https://www.latroopers.org/about

Young told the commission in February that the contributions were structured in that manner because there were “questions regarding the ability of a state employee to make a contribution. So in order to avoid any of that, if I make a contribution as a non-state employee, there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.”

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_ffd5d5d3-e12a-575a-8b44-d4079c73bb30.html

The only problem with that circular logic is that the money eventually still came from the individual troopers in the form of membership dues and that was what raised the objections by several retired members of LSTA in the first place.

Braxton has been something of a thorn in the side of the LSTA as well as other members of the LSPC. In that same February meeting, Braxton objected to the approval of the January minutes because the minutes as proposed did not adequately or accurately summarize some of the key points raised about the contributions in January.

He became a marked man from that point on and it didn’t help when at the July meeting, he nominated member Lloyd Grafton of Ruston as the new commission chairman. He cast the lone vote for Grafton as Thomas J. “T.J.” Doss, the State Police representative on the commission, was elected.

http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/b713f7b7dd3871ee86257b9b004f9321/85d048928ae51fa086256e9a004cc8e8?OpenDocument

Now Doss, a state trooper, must preside over appeals by fellow state troopers and could conceivably be called upon to investigate or rule on disciplinary matters involving his superiors which could cause a serious conflict of interests.

But the effort to oust Braxton, or to at least make him uncomfortable, started long before his nomination of Grafton. In fact, it started just about the same time he questioned the minutes of the January meeting back in that February meeting.

It began with an email to LouisianaVoice in which it was claimed—without any documentation—that Braxton had threatened a state trooper over the trooper’s arrest of Braxton’s daughter for driving while intoxicated.

That was followed by an anonymous letter postmarked July 5 in which the writer, in longhand, began by extolling the efforts of LouisianaVoice “to expose the corruption and dishonesty that permeates some of our Louisiana agencies—most notably La. State Police.” The writer at least gets credit for a smooth diversionary tactic.

After blowing smoke up our toga, the writer went on to describe how he/she likes to eat out often but “It’s amazing (and shocking) what one can overhear in a restaurant while waiting for companions to arrive. More amazing is that people are stupid enough to bandy about sensitive matters (and names) in public places.”

The writer, who signed the letter “Citizen Chicken” because of not feeling “comfortable enough to sign my name,” went on to say in the two-page letter how he/she “recently heard snatches of a conversation that…made me suspect State Police was the topic.”

Apparently hearing with amazing clarity in a crowded restaurant, the writer described the discussion as touching “on some official who was throwing his weight and position around and threatening folks. Seems this official’s daughter wad been picked up for DWI. ‘Braxton’ contacted the troop and reportedly told them that they had better hope they never came before him on disciplinary charges.”

The conversation, the writer said, conveniently “quieted then” and no more was heard.

“I believe what I heard was clearly a report of intimidation by someone who (I later discovered) was a commissioner of LSP.”

Wow! That’s really a thorough summation of an incident about which the writer could only pick up “snatches.” It would appear the writer might have a rewarding career as an investigator for the Attorney General or the Office of Inspector General or perhaps even some federal agency.

The really weird part is while Braxton is from Natchitoches, the letter’s envelope was postmarked Baton Rouge.

Before I go any further, it should be pointed out that if Braxton did indeed try to browbeat or intimidate a state trooper over doing his job, he should be called on the carpet for that. There’s no excuse for that type of behavior, which would appear to be documented by more official documents than an anonymous letter which I’ll get to momentarily.

I attempted to talk to Braxton about this at the July commission meeting but members had been already instructed in an executive session earlier in that meeting not to talk to the media and Braxton complied with that, even to the point of walking away from me.

But even as the commission as a body—and the LSTA legal counsel—choose to ignore or even justify the attempted circumvention of rules regarding the campaign contributions, it’s interesting to see the determined backdoor effort to bring down Braxton for his alleged lapse in judgment and abuse of his position—if, of course, that is in fact what happened.

On the heels of that anonymous letter, LouisianaVoice received another anonymous, unmarked envelope containing a five-page official State Police Incident Report.

That report, submitted by Troop E Commander Capt. Jay Oliphant, Jr., described the Dec. 5, 2015, early morning stop of a Ford truck on LA. 494 and the DWI arrest of Braxton’s daughter. She subsequently submitted a breath sample which showed a blood alcohol concentration of .139%. A reading of .08 percent is considered intoxicated under state law and the driver was arrested for first offense DWI, for speeding 68 mph in a 55 mph zone, improper lane usage and an open container violation.

Oliphant said in his report that he contacted Braxton later on Dec. 5 “as a courtesy” and advised him of the arrest and that Braxton accused the trooper, Jayson Linebaugh, of targeting “a select group of individuals, maybe even him or his family,” according to the report.

The report also claimed that Braxton said “he might not help Trooper Linebaugh if he gets in a bind on the job, which requires him to appear before the Louisiana State Police Commission” and that he “was not through” with the matter.

A week later, on Dec. 12, Oliphant’s report said, Braxton called him and demanded that Trooper Linebaugh be reassigned to New Orleans for 60 to 90 days to “get his mind right.” Oliphant said he advised the only way a trooper would be assigned to New Orleans would be to supplement the New Orleans Police Department in an ongoing criminal enforcement detail, but “not as punishment for arresting his daughter.”

As it turns out, that anonymously sent copy was not the only copy of Oliphant’s report that LouisianaVoice received.

A routine public records request was made of Gov. Edwards’ office for any correspondence from LSTA attorney Floyd Falcon pertaining to Calvin Braxton and the governor’s office promptly emailed a copy of that report prefaced with a two-page letter from Falcon addressed to Edwards and dated July 11, 2016. That was just three days prior to LSPC’s most recent meeting at which the “investigation” of the campaign contributions was conveniently swept under the rug with the recommendation by LSPC special counsel Taylor Townsend that no further action be taken on the matter.

Townsend, who holds two state contracts through LSPC totaling $75,000, received taxpayer funding to conduct an “investigation” for which there is no final written report. There are those, including Commission members, who would like to see what they got for their money.

Townsend, it should be noted, also has contributed $10,000 to Edwards’ campaigns.

Falcon, in his letter, itemized ways in which he said Braxton “abused his position,” and ended by requesting that Edwards “immediately have specifications of charges prepared and served on Calvin W. Braxton, Sr. and that after a public hearing that he be removed from office for cause. We suggest he not be allowed to participate or vote on Commission matters until these charges are resolved.”

While LouisianaVoice in no way condones Braxton’s actions if events did come down as described in Oliphant’s report. His actions, if true, are inexcusable. But Falcon’s letter is itself a pretty bold position from a legal representative of LSTA which certainly abused state regulations against participating in political activity, the pitiful excuse for a thorough “investigation” notwithstanding. There can be no defense of that “investigation”—the conclusion of which left one commission member wondering “if someone could start an association of state employees, appoint himself as executive director, collect membership dues and make political contributions in his name and then be reimbursed with members’ dues.” Civil Service regulations, like those of the LSPC strictly prohibit such political activity but, of course, a silly little matter like a state law didn’t deter LSTA.

You can read Falcon’s letter and Oliphant’s accompanying report in their entirety HERE

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In his message in the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry’s Winter 2010 Bulletin, retiring board President Barry Ogden said in the third paragraph from the bottom of page 4 of the bulletin: “Every time a licensee gets sanctioned they always explain it as the board was on a witch hunt… or they are power hungry…. This is all bogus, and I ask you whether your would sign a consent decree if you thought we were wrong? I don’t think so.”

http://www.lsbd.org/Bulletins/Bulletin2010.pdf

It’s pretty obvious why: The board holds the life or death power over dentists’ livelihoods. They can, on a whim, render years of costly education useless, destroying careers in the process.

LouisianaVoice has shown in previous posts how the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry has run roughshod over dentists. We have revealed board actions ranging from levying draconian fines for minor board rules infractions to initiating devastating reprisals against whistleblowers and those who otherwise resist its strong-arm tactics.

But in examining the case of Slidell dentist Dr. Kenneth O. Starling, it becomes even more evident that the Dentistry Board for decades has operated a white collar extortion scheme that rivals any protections racket run by mobsters in New York, New Jersey or elsewhere.

Strong accusation? Indeed. But what’s more, the board has been allowed to do this at will, unabated and unrestrained by those who appoint the board members. And that would be whoever happens to occupy the governor’s office.

Due process? Fugetaboutit. Innocent until proven guilty? Not even an option. Burden of proof? Don’t want it, don’t need it, can’t use it.

To be sure, some of Dr. Starling’s troubles were of his own making. He had a drinking problem that first placed him in the board’s crosshairs. He freely admits that and has never made an issue of it.

But then, as it often does, the board smelled not alcohol, but blood.

And, like any other rapacious animal, sensing weakness on the part of its prey, it moved in for the kill.

In early 2010, he was called before the board for his “habitual indulgence of the use of drugs, narcotics, and intoxicating liquors” in violation of state statutes and for failing to notify the board of three driving while intoxicated convictions.

The statute was a catch-all one and while it could be interpreted that he was simultaneously abusing narcotics and/or other drugs, he insists he was not. The term “habitual indulgence,” however, seemed accurate enough in light of three DWIs. “I did abuse alcohol and I did receive three DWIs,” he said in a recent interview with LouisianaVoice. “I own them and I acknowledge that fact.”

On March 5, 2010, Starling signed a consent decree in which he agreed to “reimburse the board costs” of $350 and to pay a fine of $8,000 to the board. In addition, a five-year suspension of his dental license was stayed (waived) in favor of a five-year probationary period provided he satisfactorily completed an approved rehabilitation program.

A third major stipulation of the consent decree was that Starling would surrender “all controlled dangerous substance prescribing privileges.” That meant just what it said: he could not prescribe medications during the five years he was on probation.

So, with the consent decree signed, his $8,000 fine paid, and his DEA card (his only authority to issue prescriptions) cancelled for five years, he shuttled off to his new residence for six months at the Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center 200 miles away in Rayville in Richland Parish in Northeast Louisiana. http://www.palmettocenter.com/

And that’s when his real problems began.

During his exile in Palmetto, three other dentists rotated with each other to fill in for Starling. The three on occasion prescribed pain medication like Vicodin and Lortab to patients.

Those were perfectly legal because it was they, not Starling, who issued the prescriptions.

Except because they were written on prescription pads from his dentist office, the pharmacies filling the prescriptions, instead of looking at the signature on the prescriptions, looked at the letterhead on the pads and entered Starling’s name as the prescribing dentist. That information was entered into a data bank used by pharmacists as a deterrent to doctor shopping by those addicted to pain killers.

And that’s where Camp Morrison entered the picture and things got unbelievably complicated for Starling at the hands of a Board of Dentistry that had already long been drunk on power.

Morrison was a private investigator who was issued eight contracts by the Board of Dentistry totaling more than $1.46 million. Even more puzzling was how Morrison, a private contractor, warranted free office space in the board’s suite of offices on the 26th floor of One Canal Place in New Orleans—for which the board pays $4,700 in monthly rent.

Beginning with a $45,000 contract in 1997, all but one of his contracts were of three-year durations. His final contract, for $110,000, was for only 10 months, from September 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. https://wwwcfprd.doa.louisiana.gov/latrac/contracts/expiredSearchResults.cfm?view=A

Out of the blue and based on an “investigation” by Morrison, Starling was accused by the board of dispensing prescription narcotics against the terms of his probation.

Starling said it would have been impossible for him to issue prescriptions with no DEA identification card, so he said he asked Morrison how he got his information. “He said, ‘I had a hunch and I looked it up,’” he quoted Morrison as replying.

The only problem with that is that Morrison, who has no DEA credentials, had no legal authority to access the data bank. “He had to have accessed the information by obtaining someone’s DEA card,” Starling said. “That’s a flagrant violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal offense. He also ran me through the DEA data base and the FBI data base.

“He had a hunch and he looked up information that was not only illegal, but inaccurate as well,” he said. “I have never had any prescription drug issues.”

In Massachusetts, a doctor named Bharani Padmanabhan has filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Attorney General in federal court for “illegally trawling through the state prescription drug monitoring program.”

http://maurabrokecfaa.com/

DOWNLOAD CASE # 1:15-CV-13297-NMG

Besides the prescriptions written by the three substitute dentists—verified in at least one case by a March 18, 2010, letter from a Walgreens pharmacist—six of the 10 prescriptions Morrison accused Starling of writing illegally were actually written prior to Starling’s surrender of his DEA card at the end of October 2009.

So it turns out that six prescriptions were written legally while Starling still held his DEA card and the remaining four in question were written by substitute dentists working to keep his office open while he was in rehab.

Starling, of course, did what anyone in his position would do. He fired off a letter to Morrison. “Since my voluntary surrender of my DEA license, I have neither written, nor authorized to be written, nor called in, any prescriptions for controlled substances,” he wrote.

Besides including a copy of the letter from the Walgreens pharmacist, he named the substitute dentists who wrote prescriptions for each of the patients cited by.

“I was under the understanding that without a DEA license, no prescriptions could be filled under my old DEA number,” he wrote.

And here’s where things really got dicey.

On Nov. 5, 2013, the Board of Dentistry sent Starling a letter inviting him to a December 6 conference of the board’s Disciplinary Committee “relative to your request for reconsideration of adverse sanctions.”

Those sanctions proposed an additional fine of $20,000, plus $850 in costs to cover Morrison’s error-laden “investigation.” Among the erroneous allegations was the claim that Starling wrote a prescription for 300 tablets of Hydrocodone when in reality, it was for a much weaker dosage of 300 mls. (about 60 teaspoons) of the medication in liquid form.

That Dec. 6 conference was attended by committee Chairman Blackwood, Drs. David Melancon and Wilton Guillory, Jr., and independent counsel Arthur Hickham, Jr.

The minutes of that meeting read, in part:

“The Disciplinary Committee of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry finds that the application for reconsideration of an adverse sanctions filed by Dr. Kenneth Starling does have substantial merit. (Emphasis added.)

In a separate letter to the Board of Dentistry, Starling enclosed copies of patient records that showed signatures of substitute dentists on the dates on which Morrison accused him of writing the prescriptions. “I did not see any patients during the dates I was incarcerated in St. Tammany (Parish) or in treatment at Palmetto treatment center and no prescriptions were written by me during this time.

“I ask that the Board take all of this into consideration and I humbly ask for a reconsideration of sanctions imposed in relation to the second consent decree.”

And it was that last sentence, however, that spelled doom for Starling at that Dec. 6 committee meeting. A “reconsideration of sanctions” would necessarily mean a rescission of the $20,000 fine and the $850 in costs.

And the board was having none of that.

With the Dentistry Board, money trumps justice. Every time.

The very next day, on Dec. 7, the full board met and besides approving pay raises and per diem payments and other expenses to themselves, and despite the Disciplinary Committee’s decision that Starling’s application had “substantial merit,” voted unanimously to deny Starling’s application for reconsideration.

Starling was called in and Blackwood pushed the newest consent decree toward him and instructed him to sign it.

So, even though the Disciplinary Committee recommended consideration of Starling’s application, the full board not only denied the application on the following day, but also had the consent decree already drawn up, obviously in advance of the board’s decision.

It was a kangaroo court and the fix was in.

The consent decree not only called for him to pay $20,850 in fines and costs, but to again surrender his DEA card, attend AA meetings, enter into group therapy, undergo addiction counseling, re-enter Palmetto, and to agree to five years’ probation.

Starling balked and Blackwood, he said, spat “Sign the G—d—m consent decree.”

Realizing that Blackw00d and the board held all the cards, Starling signed.

Justice, or more accurately, the board’s idea of justice, was served and the Starling’s bank account was $20,850 lighter.

And the citizens of Louisiana were safer, thanks to the diligence—and greed—of the State Board of Dentistry.

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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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