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Archive for the ‘Retirement’ Category

It’s no wonder the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) decided to give the boot to Leon “Bucky” Millet and three other retired members of LSTA. It seems that the retirees, particularly Millet, have been asking questions that are making the LSTA and the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) members extremely uncomfortable.

And their questions are a helluva lot more intelligent than the answers the commission has offered.

Oddly enough, all the questions Millet has peppered the commission with over the past several months seem to leave LSPC legal counsel Taylor Townsend especially oblivious—even as the meter keeps ticking on his legal fees for attending meetings while contributing nothing of substance.

But one commission member, Lloyd Grafton of Ruston, has zeroed in on the problem even if his colleagues have not and in doing so, broached a subject the others would apparently rather not discuss—apparent misleading testimony at last August’s meeting from State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

LouisianaVoice, meanwhile, has come in possession of a recording of a meeting of an affiliate troop meeting at which LSTA Executive Director David Young received a much tougher grilling than he did from commission members. Throughout the 16-minute recording, Young is questioned as to how the checks were written and who authorized the budgeting of money for contributions before anyone even knew who the candidates would be in any given race. At one point, Young was advised to have an audit conducted of LSTA expenditures. The questioning of Young, it appeared from the tone of the voices on the recording, was anything but friendly.

Millet, of Lake Arthur, has regularly appeared at monthly meetings of the commission to challenge the association’s political contributions and the commission for its failure, on advice of Townsend, to act on the contributions.

Millet has repeatedly said the contributions, decided on by the LSTA board, each of whom are state troopers, are a violation of commission rules prohibiting political activity by troopers.

The commission—and Townsend—just as consistently, has responded by saying LSTA is a private entity and David Young is not a state trooper, meaning the commission has no jurisdiction over the association.

Never mind that the contributions were made by Young with checks drawn from Young’s personal account and he in turn would be reimbursed by the association for “expenses.”

And never mind that the decisions of who to support and to whom checks would be contributed were made by LSTA board members, each of whom is a state trooper.

Millet again raised that issue at the commission’s November meeting. “This commission allowed mike Edmonson and command staff to get out of control,” he said. “The citizens of Louisiana deserve better. The agency I was so proud of has deteriorated to such a point that the LSTA has voted to excommunicate four members (retirees), including yours truly. There is no criteria for termination of membership. Most members who voted weren’t born when I retired from LSP.”

Commission Chairman T.J. Doss interrupted Millet to say, “There’s nothing pending before the commission that we can address. If you think something, please let us know.”

That’s when Grafton waded into the fray.

“We have no authority over LSTA but we do have authority over individual troopers who are being paid by the State of Louisiana. Troopers are prohibited from political activity. I know what our counsel said about LSTA. State troopers are not supposed to be giving political contributions to politicians.

“What I see in this whole process is a corrupting policy that is going on and is guaranteed that this association of state troopers is going to become more corrupt as time goes on as they invest money and continue to wallow in politics. That’s why we have a civil service for state troopers.”

Doss again attempted to interrupt. “Correct me if I’m wrong; we not discussing political contributions….”

“Let me finish,” Grafton shot back. “Any time you give money to politicians, you allow yourself to become corrupt. You cannot have protection of civil service and give money to politicians because you have given up that protection at that point in time. That’s why civil service was created. In Louisiana, we want to have it both ways: ‘Oh, I’m protected by civil service. I get equal protection under law.’ But you can’t because you’ve already made a choice. That is corruption and that’s where we are today.

“People who come to us, and I’m talking about the top administration of state police and they say, ‘Approve this lieutenant colonel position. It won’t cost you a dime more.’ Then I turn around and (the new lieutenant colonel slot) has gone from $125,000 to $150,000. Somebody is not being honest. This commission is a stepchild. That’s not our role. Our role is oversight, not undersight. We are to look and decide if something is fair or not. When it’s not, we say it’s not.

Commission member Jared J. Caruso-Riecke said, “My colleague’s rant notwithstanding, we have two lawyers here and another (Monica J. Manzella) who sits on this commission, but she’s new so I won’t put any pressure on her (apparently forgetting that commission member Eulis Simien, Jr. also is an attorney), so tell me, do we have jurisdiction over LSTA?

When told the commission did not, he then tried to compare LSTA to the Knights of Columbus. “If we’re being asked to go after the Knights of Columbus, I’m not gonna do it. I’m not gonna open up this commission to a civil lawsuit.”

Millet reminded Caruso-Riecke that while both the Knights of Columbus and LSTA are tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, the Knights of Columbus membership is made up of a cross section of the population while the LSTA membership is comprised exclusively of state troopers and retired troopers. Nor did Caruso-Riecke acknowledge that the LSTA board of directors is made up of only state troopers who made the decision to make the political contributions.

The bureaucratic shuffle was a perfect example of officials talking circle logic in an effort to avoid confronting the real issue. Except they weren’t very good at it, thanks to the anemic efforts of Chairman Doss.

“If what has happened doesn’t alarm you as commissioners, I don’t know what will,” Millet said.

Grafton then asked, “Do we have any authority over salaries? Did I hear Col. Edmonson say (in August) if we approve this new position (the promotion of Maj. Jason Starnes to lieutenant colonel and bestowing the title of deputy superintendent and chief accounting officer upon him), it won’t cost any more money? I understood him to say it won’t cost any more money. That means no raise. Yet my understanding is, he got a $25,000 raise. We did not approve any raise. It looks to me as if the administration doing as it pleases and we’ll get the word in some point in time. What part am I saying that is absolutely wrong? Did he say he wouldn’t get a raise? I don’t see a board member here who heard that.”

Simeon said, “That’s not an accurate reflection of what was said.”

“I know what I heard,” Grafton said.

At that point, members around the table suggested pulling up the recording of that August meeting and if what Grafton said was accurate, to get Edmonson back before the commission to explain the pay increase.

Commission Executive Director Cathy Derbonne told commissioners that Edmonson did indeed testify that the newly-created position would not cost State Police any additional funds.

In an effort to recover the high ground, Doss said, “We govern classified positions and we create unclassified positions but don’t govern them.

Derbonne said, “We create and we can take away. How can we create an unclassified position and not have control?”

“We have no authority over unclassified positions.”

Derbonne said, “We have jurisdiction only over classified positions that fall within pay grid. We cannot pay someone outside pay grid unless they come before the commission for approval.”

When LouisianaVoice reviewed a recording of that August, the revelations were damning to Doss and other supporters of Edmonson and showed that at least one commissioner, Grafton, was paying attention and not simply going through the motions.

In his appearance before the commission to request creation of the new position, Edmonson quite plainly said that he proposed moving Starnes into the position formerly held by JILL BOUDREAUX, but in a newly-created unclassified position. “We’re not creating any additional funding issues, no additional money,” Edmonson said. “He will be the CAO. No new funds will be needed. It is not my intention to even ask for that.”

It doesn’t get much plainer than that, campers.

At least Grafton was listening when it mattered.

Now let’s see how long he’s allowed to remain on the commission.

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LouisianaVoice’s disdain for the State Ethics Board has been no secret since Bobby Jindal gutted the board’s power only days after taking office in 2008, causing the board’s membership to resign as a group.

But even the toothless Ethics Board did what Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, paid thousands of taxpayer dollars to conduct an investigation, could not do, according to a Thursday (December 8) newsletter from none other than the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA).

Almost a year to the day after LouisianaVoice broke the STORY on December 9, 2015, of illegal campaign contributions made by LSTA through its executive director and lobbyist David Young, the Ethics Board imposed a $5,000 fine on LSTA for its clumsy manner of funneling more than $45,000 in campaign contributions to various candidates over a period of several years.

LSTA is a tax-exempt organization and is allowed to make political contributions but the manner in which it did so has raised major legal issues and may even have prompted a federal investigation, LouisianaVoice also learned.

While the Ethics Commission has yet to issue a formal announcement of the fine, word was received via a newsletter sent to LSTA members.

At the same time, word was learned for the first time of a federal investigation of LSTA, presumably also over the association’s method of making the prohibited contributions. In the paragraph immediately below word of the fine the newsletter said: “Federal Grand Jury—Nothing new to report.”

The newsletter also announced for the first time the troop-by-troop vote to oust four retired troopers who lodged the initial complaint about the political contributions:

Louisiana Board of Ethics complaint – The Ethics Board has completed its investigation and has ruled against the LSTA. The LSTA was fined $5,000.00 on how political contributions were made in the past.

Federal Grand Jury – Nothing new to report.

Troop A made a motion to remove LSTA members (REDACTED), Blaine Matte, Leon “Bucky” Millet, and Tanny Devillier and for each member to be voted on separately. Troop L seconded the motion.

  • (REDACTED TO PROTECT RETIREE): Troops B & C voted no, Troops A, D, E, F, G, L, & HQ voted yes. (Troop I and the Retiree Representative were absent for the board meeting) Motion passed 7-2.
  • Leon “Bucky” Millet: Troops B & C voted no, Troop E Abstained from voting, Troops A, D, F, G, L, & HQ voted yes. Motion passed 6-2.
  • Tanny Devillier: Troops B & C voted no, Troop E Abstained from voting, Troops A, D, F, G, L, & HQ voted yes. Motion passed 6-2.
  • Blaine Matte: Troops B & C voted no, Troop E Abstained from voting, Troops A. D, F, G, L, & HQ voted yes. Motion passed 6-2.

A letter will be sent to all four members who have been removed from the organization advising of such.

The cowardly action to revoke the membership of the four troopers who served honorably only serves to underscore LSTA’s determination to:

  • Silence the voice of dissenting opinion within the organization, a course that flies in the face of the law enforcement organization’s oath to protect the rights of citizens, including the First Amendment right of free speech;
  • Throw a cloak of secrecy over LSTA’s agenda and its actions;
  • Facilitate the transformation of LSTA’s mission from a benevolent organization to one with significant political clout.

LSTA laundered the political contributions by having Young write personal checks to candidates, including more than $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards. Young would then submit an invoice for “expenses” equal to the amount of the contributions so as to conceal the true source of the campaign contributions—LSTA members who are active and retired state troopers but who are prohibited by law to engage in political activity.

Upon learning how the contributions were laundered through Young’s personal bank account, Edwards returned his contribution but Jindal apparently did not.

Young subsequently admitted to the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), the state police equivalent to the State Civil Service Board, but which has oversight only of state police, that the method was employed as a means of circumventing state law which prohibits political activity by individual state troopers.

LSPC eventually voted to retain former State Senator Townsend, now a private attorney in Natchitoches, to conduct an investigation of the contributions and to report back to the commission. Instead, after a cursory investigation, Townsend declined to submit a written report and recommended verbally that no action be taken.

His failure to find enough evidence against individual members of (LSTA) was nothing short of a shameful whitewash, given the thousands of dollars the questionable investigation cost Louisiana taxpayers.

When LouisianaVoice made a public records request for Townsend’s report and a copy of a key audio recording of a meeting of one of the affiliate members of LSTA at which it was openly admitted that the organization had “violated the law,” Townsend responded that there was no report and that the recording was “never entered into evidence,” and therefore was not a public record.

Because of the manner in which Townsend’s “investigation” received such superficial treatment, skeptics immediately speculated that the probe was quashed from a higher authority, possibly by Edwards himself. State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who is closely allied with the LSTA leadership, was reappointed by Edwards who in turn, is closely tied to Townsend.

But the sham of an investigation by Townsend takes on even more significance in light of the message sent by the Ethics Commission’s action and raises serious questions about the wisdom of engaging an ally of the governor for such a politically explosive matter as illegal contributions.

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Attention State Civil Service employees:

·       There’s no money available for your pay raises for what now, the fifth straight year? The sixth? I’ve lost count.

·       The Office of Group Benefits, by the way, will be increasing your monthly health premiums again.

Attention State Troopers:

·       Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the necessary documents clearing the way for pay increases as much as 8 percent for you—this in addition to last year’s two pay increasing totaling some 30 percent.

·       And by the way, Gov. Edwards’ signature also clears the way for annual guaranteed pay increases of 4 percent per year for State Police.

The State Police Commission (LSPC) will meet on Thursday (Oct. 13) to make it official.

Attention Department of Public Safety police officers:

·       You are not included.

·       Meanwhile, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson’s hunt continues to identify the DPS malcontents who have the audacity to complain about being repeatedly left out in pay raises. Keep your heads down, guys.

The commission also will consider stripping away some of the duties of the commission executive director, according to the commission agenda published on its Web page. This is an obvious effort for Edmonson to seize more power through his puppet, Commission President/State Trooper T.J. Doss. http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/b713f7b7dd3871ee86257b9b004f9321/0449c2895409d86986258027004fff12/$FILE/10.12.16%20Revised%20Agenda%20(October%2013,%202016).pdf

LouisianaVoice also has learned that the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) is actively considering amending its by-laws to give it authority to purge its rolls of certain of its members, namely a couple of state police retirees who have questioned certain association activities.

And why not? Obviously pumped by the sham “investigation” of the association leadership’s decision (in open violation of state law) to contribute to political campaigns, including those of former Gov. Bobby Jindal and current Gov. Edwards, the LSTA is feeling pretty confident that it can do whatever the hell it wants with complete impunity.

The commission, you will recall, hired Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, a former legislator, to conduct an in-depth investigation into the decision of certain LSTA leaders to become actively involved in political campaigns by having the LSTA executive director make the contributions in his name and then reimbursing him for his “expenses.” The action, nothing other than money laundering, was cleared by Townsend after he apparently got his marching orders from Edwards who didn’t want any embarrassment after reappointing Edmonson after becoming governor.

Townsend, a major supporter of Edwards and who helped head his transition team after he was elected, subsequent to his quiet recommendation of “no action” regarding the LSTA campaign contributions, was rewarded with appointment to the legal team pursuing legal action against the oil industry to force it to restore the state’s wetlands damaged by drilling. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_354f2c5c-8cc9-11e6-8564-5bb2846bb2e6.html

Townsend, instead of submitting a written report as most investigations require, simply told the commission he recommended “no action,” and the commission complied with no comment. Townsend even admitted he did not admit a recording of an LSTA chapter meeting in which is was admitted that the LSTA violated the law into evidence.

So now that the LSTA has survived that mini-scandal, it wants to rid its membership of retirees who dared question the association’s activities.

One of those retirees, Bucky Millet of Lake Arthur, has become a real burr under the commission’s and the LSTA’s saddles and the LSTA officers desperately want him out. He has attended every commission meeting for nearly a year now and is scheduled to attend Thursday’s meeting. Even worse than attending the meetings, he asks questions and that’s something the State Police hierarchy doesn’t particularly like. 

If the LSPC follows form, it will retreat into yet another executive session where it can discuss a course of action out of earshot of the public.

LouisianaVoice will be there.

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On August 13, Eliska Lynch and husband Bill lost their Denham Springs home to devastating floods that cause billions of dollars in damages in Southeast Louisiana.

On August 31, she was notified—by mail—that she had lost her job as a bookkeeper for the Parochial Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). http://www.persla.org/

PERS is a public defined benefit pension plan which provides retirement benefits pursuant to Act 205 of 1952.

The system provides for two separate retirement plans—one designed for employers not participating in Social Security and one for those who remained in Social Security, according to the RERS Web page. http://www.persla.org/history.htm

The system provides benefits to all Louisiana parishes except Orleans, East Baton Rouge and Lafourche. Additionally, agencies who are wholly or partially funded with parish funds may participate in PERS.

Apparently, according to the two-page notifying her of her termination, Lynch did not perform sufficiently at her new position of bookkeeper, a position into which she had been moved when the former bookkeeper retired.

According to Lynch, however, she was fired because she wanted to return to her former position of benefits analyst but that job had been filled by Cari Hill, the daughter of PERS Assistant Director Becky Fontenot.

Lynch said when she complained of nepotism, she subsequently received the letter from PERS Administrative Director Dainna Tully informing her of her termination.

In her letter—and in an interview with LouisianaVoice, Tully indicated that Lynch had voluntarily accepted the bookkeeping position. In her letter to Lynch—provided to LouisianaVoice by Lynch—Tully said Sullivan trained Lynch for three weeks before conducting her first interview for a benefits analyst to fill Lynch’s former position. In all, she said, Sullivan worked six weeks with her. She also said the PERS audit team worked with Lynch for three days in an unsuccessful effort to provide “additional training tutelage” for her new position.

Lynch, however, said she never encountered any criticism of her job performance until she broached the nepotism issue of Hill’s being supervised by her mother, which Lynch says constitutes nepotism. http://employeeissues.com/nepotism.htm

Not so, said Tully. “She (Hill) answers directly to me. All employees answer to me.”

That may well be. Many agency heads are micro-managers. That, theoretically, at least would make all employees equal in the agency head’s eyes. But in the words of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, some are more equal than others.

And in most agency organizational charts, Hill would certainly be under the direct supervision of Fontenot, her mother, a clear violation of Louisiana’s ethics laws governing nepotism.

  • 1119. Nepotism
  1. No member of the immediate family of an agency head shall be employed in his agency.

B.(1) No member of the immediate family of a member of a governing authority or the chief executive of a governmental entity shall be employed by the governmental entity.

Who may be held liable for a violation of §1119?:

In addition to the agency head and the agency head’s immediate family member(s) hired in violation of §1119, the following persons may also be held liable for a willful violation of the nepotism restrictions:

Member of the governing authority (Hill);

Public employee having the authority to hire and fire the employee (Tully);

Immediate supervisor of the employee (Fontenot).

After leave time was applied, Tully said in her letter, Lynch’s official date of termination was Sept. 14—one month and a day after floodwater swept through her home and reducing her household belongings and two vehicles to a mound of worthless debris at the edge of the street.

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Once again, and for the sixth consecutive year, State Civil Service employees are being forced to go without a pay raise.

And on the heels of this, the Office of Group Benefits is raising premiums by about 7.5 percent.

But not to worry: what Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Mike Edmonson couldn’t accomplish two years ago via what was literally a last-minute amendment to an obscure legislative bill, State Police Maj. Jason Starnes has done for him—and for himself and other high-ranking troopers, as well.

The tactic was pulled off so quickly and with such surprise that it could be considered a variation of the old smash and grab move where you strike suddenly, grab what you can and make a fast getaway.

Edmonson got a healthy salary increase of $43,100 (32 percent), from $134,350 to $177,450, effective Aug. 1, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Edmonson says several sheriffs, national guard officers and some State Police majors were making more than he did and that the increases were needed to make state police salaries more competitive.

But Edmonson also receives free housing, meals and furnishings, free butler, cooks and lawn care (courtesy of prisoners of the Louisiana Department of Corrections), a state vehicle and fuel—all at taxpayer expense.

So, just how competitive does he need to be?

Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy also got a 14.5 percent raise, from $140,900 to $161,300, a jump of $20,400.

Starnes, promoted to LSP Chief Administrative Officer on Aug. 15, received a $21,850 (17 percent) raise, from $128,900 to $150,750.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning received a raise of $33,500 (32.2 percent), from $104,000 to $137,500.

The Baton Rouge Advocate, which broke its story an hour before ours went up and which cited the same sources (State Civil Service), listed two other LSP Deputy Superintendents who received raises: Glenn Staton and Murphy Paul, who got raises from $140,890 to $150,752 (7 percent). http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_4b9471c4-76e0-11e6-ab44-ffb987ff581f.html?sr_source=lift_amplify

It’s also worth noting here, since we’re talking about getting the records from Civil Service, that The Advocate also made a request to LSP for the records on Sept. 1 and The Advocate is still waiting. It’s not certain when The Advocate made its request to Civil Service but LouisianaVoice made its request to Civil Service about 3:30 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 9) and the records were produced within an hour. LSP, meanwhile, was busy doing the Kristy Nichols Shuffle, i.e. delaying providing the most basic of information. The Advocate story said the official LSP position was that it was still checking for redactions. Paraphrasing former New Orleans and Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Jim Mora, we can only respond with incredulity, “Redactions?! REDACTIONS?! Are you kidding me? REDACTIONS? Don’t talk to me about redactions! We’re not thinking about redactions; we just want basic information.”

Starnes, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the LSP ranks, apparently is the one who usurped legislative intent by signing off on the raises of Edmonson, Dupuy and Browning, each retroactive to Aug. 1.

http://www.forward-now.com/2014/08/09/louisianavoice-tracks-careers-of-key-edmonson-associates/

You’ll remember that in 2014, in the closing minutes of the regular legislative session, State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) tacked an amendment onto a bill that would have given Edmonson an additional $50,000 or so in retirement benefits. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/11/generous-retirement-benefit-boost-slipped-into-bill-for-state-police-col-mike-edmonson-on-last-day-of-legislative-session/

Here is a copy of Amendment 4, which was passed but subsequently struck down in Baton Rouge state district court pursuant to a lawsuit filed by State Sen. Dan Claitor. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=911551&n=Conference

Earlier this year, the Legislature, through passage of House Bill 1, set the salaries of statewide elected officials and the governor’s cabinet members. Edmonson’s salary, like that of the governor, was set at $134,400.

But thanks to even more creative maneuvering by Edmonson (he continues to insist he had nothing to do with that retirement gambit but it’s our contention the amendment didn’t write itself and since it applied only to Edmonson and one other trooper….well, you do the math), certain select LSP personnel are getting generous pay bumps over and above last year’s two separate raises that amounted to 30 percent or more across the board.

Edmonson said last year that pay raises would not be going to troopers of ranks higher than major but with this latest round, which went into effect on Aug. 1, that promise appears to have been conveniently forgotten—as was Edmonson’s salary, supposedly set by HB 1.

The whole affair appears to have stemmed from Edmonson’s determination to promote Starnes. He first attempted to move him into the position of Interim Undersecretary to succeed Jill Boudreaux who retired (for a second time) earlier this year. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/02/29/dps-undersecretary-jill-boudreaux-retiring-for-real-this-time-6-years-after-taking-incentive-buyout-at-governors-directive/

But retired State Trooper Bucky Millet filed a formal complaint, claiming the appointment was illegal. The move, Millet’s complaint said, was in violation of Rule 14.3(G), which says:

  • No classified member of the State Police shall be appointed, promoted, transferred or any way employed in or to any position that is not within the State Police Service.

Edmonson subsequently pulled the appointment. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

But last month Edmonson came before the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), the equivalent to the State Civil Service Board, with a proposal to create a new classified position, Chief Administrative Officer, apparently with the same duties and powers as the unclassified—and still vacant—Undersecretary position.

On Thursday (Sept. 8) of this week, the formal approval of the new position came before the LSPC, which immediately went into an illegal executive session.

Upon emerging from that closed-door session, Townsend recommended no action on Millet’s complaint and explained away Millet’s complaint by claiming Edmonson never actually appointed Starnes because that can only be done by the governor. Townsend failed to explain how the “non-appointed” Starnes’ appointment was posted briefly on the LSP Web page before quietly being taken down after Millet filed his complaint.

First of all, LSPC legal counsel Taylor Townsend (who has become a major disappointment as a $75,000 contract investigator who twice in as many “investigations,” has recommended no action by the commission  while conducting no interviews and without introducing any pertinent recordings in his possession and writing no reports of his “findings”) said the executive session was to discuss “personnel matters” when in fact, the smart money says it was to discuss the legality of Edmonson’s move. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/09/08/calling-out-the-hayride-pseudo-investigations-backdoor-contracts-and-executive-sessions-cloistered-in-subterfuge/

Here are the guidelines for an executive session to discuss “personnel” matters:

La. R.S. 42:17 Exceptions to open meetings

  1. A public body may hold an executive session pursuant to R.S. 42:16 for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person, provided that such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, before the scheduled time contained in the notice of the meeting at which such executive session is to take place and that such person may require that such discussion be held at an open meeting. However, nothing in this Paragraph shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract. In cases of extraordinary emergency, written notice to such person shall not be required; however, the public body shall give such notice as it deems appropriate and circumstances permit.

The closed-door meeting was illegal on at least three levels:

  • To our knowledge, there was no discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health” of Starnes.
  • If that was what was discussed, the commission again violated the law by not complying with the requirement that “such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.” By failing to notify Starnes, he was denied the opportunity to say whether or not he desired a closed meeting.
  • Moreover, the public meetings law says, “Nothing…shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract.”

Besides Townsend, the commission has one other full-time attorney who sits at the table during LSPC meetings. Between the two, someone should advise the commission of it legal obligations when trying to conduct its business away from the eyes and ears of the public.

Here’s the short version: Guys, there’s no app for that.

But then it was Townsend who in August attempted to tell LouisianaVoice (incorrectly, it was pointed out to him at the time by LouisianaVoice) that the commission was not required to give a reason for an executive session. And this from a man who once served in the Louisiana Legislature where our laws are written.

For Mr. Townsend’s enlightenment, here is that law:

La. R.S. 42:16 Executive Sessions

A public body may hold executive sessions upon an affirmative vote, taken at an open meeting for which notice has been given pursuant to R.S. 42:19, of two-thirds of its constituent members present. An executive session shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempted from discussion at open meetings by R.S. 42:17 (see above-quoted statute); however, no final or binding action shall be taken during an executive session. The vote of each member on the question of holding such an executive session and the reason for holding such an executive session shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting. Nothing in this Section or R.S. 42:17 shall be construed to require that any meeting be closed to the public, nor shall any executive session be used as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of R.S. 42:12 through R.S. 42:2 (Emphasis added).

 

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