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Archive for the ‘Retirement’ Category

The shakeup continued at Louisiana State Police (LSP) Friday afternoon with the reduction in rank of former Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s top aid and heir-apparent and the promotion and reassignment of two others, according to the email below that was sent out to all LSP personnel:

From: Rhonda Fogleman On Behalf Of Deputy Secretary
Sent: Friday, March 31, 2017 2:45 PM
To: _DPS_Personnel
Subject: Transfer & Promotion Effective March 31, 2017
Importance: High

The following personnel changes are made effective at close of business on Friday, March 31, 2017:

Major Mike Noel transferred and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Interim Assistant Superintendent/Interim Chief of Staff

LTC Charlie Dupuy transferred and reassigned as Major, Command Inspector, Training

Major Frank Ducote transferred and reassigned as Major, Command Inspector, Patrol Operations/Region I

Authority of:   Colonel Kevin Reeves, Superintendent

In another development, LouisianaVoice has learned that Lt. Stephen Lafargue has resigned his position as trustee for the Louisiana State Police Retirement System. He was considered one of six Edmonson supporters on the board which will take up Edmonson’s retirement later in April.

Dupuy, once the odds-on favorite to eventually move into Edmonson’s position, was implicated in that October trip to San Diego by Edmonson and 16 subordinates to see Edmonson receive a national award. The four who drove to San Diego via Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon did so in the state vehicle assigned to Dupuy.

Maj. Noel, who previously served as a command inspector for the Gaming Division, will take over as lieutenant colonel in the position of Interim Assistant Superintendent and Interim Chief of Staff to Col. Kevin Reeves who assumed Edmonson’s duties last Saturday.

Noel, a veteran of 27 years with LSP was earning $140,900 as a major but will receive a significant pay increase to $161,300 as lieutenant colonel as he takes over the day-to-day operations of LSP.

Those at LSP who are familiar with Noel told LouisianaVoice he was a good choice for the position. “He’s an excellent choice,” said one trooper who asked not to be identified. “He’s even-handed and has a great disposition. Col. Reeves couldn’t have picked a better person for the job.

Ducote’s reassignment to the position previously held by Reeves was described as a lateral transfer. He presently earns $140,900.

Dupuy, on the other hand, will realize a significant reduction in pay to $140,900 from his current level of $161,300 as he returns to the position he held at the State Police Training Academy before being tapped by Edmonson as his chief of staff.

It may not be the last change at LSP as Reeves settles into his position One State Police insider said the transfer of Dupuy could signal that the Reeves appointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Noel appointment are permanent instead of interim and that more demotions, transfers and retirements could be in the offing.

Others who might yet be transferred to other positions include Master Trooper Thurman Miller, Lt. Col. Jason Starnes who now presides over the Management and Finance Section, and Trooper T.J. Doss who currently serves as the State Trooper representative and as chairman of the Louisiana State Police Commission. Doss has been considered by some as Edmonson’s plant on the commission. Doss, from Ruston, has been TDY’d (assigned temporary duty) to Baton Rouge and presently resides at the State Police Academy.

The shakeup at LSP has been a long time coming as the agency has been buffeted by one damaging story after another—all reflecting on Edmonson’s leadership and administration of some 1,500 troopers statewide.

The San Diego trip was the tipping point as Edwards seemed determined to stick by his decision to reappoint Edmonson following his election in 2015 despite the controversy swirling around LSP. Edmonson had the support of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association which had endorsed Edwards in his runoff against former Sen. David Vitter.

Even before the San Diego trip, there were disciplinary problems, illegal campaign contributions and other issues that proved to be a source of constant embarrassment to the governor.

LSP is currently under investigation by the Division of Administration, the Legislative Auditor’s Office, and the FBI, all of which eventually forced Edwards to make the decision to allow Edmonson to announce his retirement, which took effect March 24.

When Edwards appointed Reeves to succeed Edmonson, there was speculation within the department that Edwards had prevailed upon Reeves to retain Dupuy as chief of staff to mollify the sheriffs but with Dupuy’s demotion and transfer, that now appears not to have been the case.

LSP public information officer Maj. Doug Cain said Reeves has had a busy first week in his new leadership role. “He’s been meeting with (Department of Public Safety) unit heads and senior staff within LSP in an effort to communicate his agenda for the department.”

Maybe it’s just us, but it seems a lot of meetings weren’t necessary to know there is a real problem at LSP. But the first step in resolving problems is to first acknowledge them.

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It must be nice when you can get the rules written just for you.

There must come a time when even the most disinterested, blasé, apolitical person living has to look up from whatever else occupies his interest and say, “Wait a damned minute. This just ain’t right and we’re not gonna do it.”

Or, as Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the classic movie Network would say: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Just when you think you heard the last of Mike Edmonson, the erstwhile Superintendent of State Police, he comes back to haunt us and taunt us.

Remember way back in 2014 when LouisianaVoice first made you aware of SB 294, signed into law by Bobby Jindal as ACT 859? The bill, authored by Sen. Jean-Paul J. Morrell (D-New Orleans),  appeared only to deal with procedures for formal, written complaints made against police officers.

But thanks to a little back room deal between Edmonson Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy and State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia and an announced candidate for State Treasurer), a last-minute amendment was tacked onto that bill that, contrary to verbal assurances to legislators that the bill would cause no financial impact, would have actually given Edmonson an additional $50,000 or so in retirement income.

Thanks to a timely anonymous letter informing us of the amendment, we were able to break the story and the resulting furor over that was such that State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) filed suit in 19th Judicial District Court to block the raise that Edmonson was already being forced to disavow. District Court Judge Janice Clark threw out the law.

Why?

Because Edmonson voluntarily and of his own free will chose some years earlier to lock his retirement in at $76,000 by entering into the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) while he was still at the rank of captain. That decision, which is considered irrevocable, locked in his retirement at a rate based on his captain’s pay while netting him a higher salary at the time.

But now he’s back and because of a rather complicated quirk in the law—applicable, apparently, only to State Police—it appears he will get that extra retirement income after all—not $76,000 as dictated by his decision to enter DROP way back when, but $128,559, according to Jim Mustian’s Baton Rouge ADVOCATE online story.

Here is the way Retirement says it’s calculated, according to one retired Trooper:

Act 1160 relative to the re-computation of the pre-DROP benefit and the pre-DROP final average compensation applies to you if (1) you participated in DROP on or before June 30, 2001, 2) continued in state police employment after participation in DROP without a break in service, and (3) remained in such continuous employment on or after July 1, 2001. These special provisions do not apply to members who retired on or before July 1, 2001.

If You Entered DROP With 25 Years or More of Hard State Trooper Service:

Pre-DROP Benefit – If you meet the criteria set forth in (1), (2), and (3) above, and you entered DROP with 25 years or more of hard state trooper service, you are eligible for a re-computation of your pre-DROP benefit at 3 1/3% multiplied by the number of years of service to your credit prior to your effective date of participation in DROP, and further multiplied by your final average salary as computed when you entered DROP.

Post-DROP Benefit – Your post-DROP benefit will be calculated at 31/3% multiplied by the number of years of service to your credit after DROP participation, and further multiplied by your final average compensation. The final average compensation used will be the average determined at the beginning of DROP, or, a new current final average if you worked for an additional 12 or 36 months (based on your hire date).

If You Entered DROP With Less Than 25 Years of Hard State Trooper Service:

Pre-DROP Benefit – If you meet the requirements stated above and you entered DROP with less than 25 years of hard state trooper service, you may also be eligible for a re-computation of your final average compensation based on your hard 25th year of trooper service (or your highest 12-month average if you have not reached your 25th year) for the purpose of determining your new pre-DROP benefit. This re-computation of the final average salary will be based on any 12-month period of service (but limited to the first 25 years) while a member of LSPRS regardless of hire date.

Post-DROP Benefit – Your Post-DROP benefit will be calculated at 3 1/3% multiplied by the number of years of service to your credit after DROP participation, and further multiplied by the greater of 1) your final average salary as determined when we recomputed your pre-DROP benefit, or 2) your current final average compensation based on a 12-month average regardless of hire date.

The sum of any re-computed pre and post DROP retirement benefit shall not exceed 100% of your current final average compensation.

For purposes of determining the average compensation based on the first 25 years, (1) “state trooper service” does not include military service purchased, actuarially transferred service, or reciprocally recognized service, or any form of purchase of service credit, and (2) “average salary” does not include overtime, expenses, clothing allowances, or any remuneration resulting from military service.

If you are eligible for a re-computation under Act 1160, this does not change the amounts credited to your DROP account. The re-computation is for the monthly benefit amount you receive upon retirement only.

Got it?

Didn’t think so.

But the overriding question that’s impossible shake is this: If this rule existed, why was it necessary back in 2014 to try and sneak the benefit increase through the legislature as an amendment to an otherwise harmless bill?

Something doesn’t pass the smell test here and when you take a look at the makeup of the State Police Retirement System’s Board of TRUSTEES, six of whom are either active or retired State Troopers, the odor doesn’t get any better.

The bottom line here is this:

Whether or not special provisions are in place for State Troopers to circumvent the irrevocable provisions of DROP, if the State Police Retirement System’s Board of Trustees goes forward with giving Edmonson this $128,559, every single state employee who ever opted to enter DROP at any time should retain legal counsel and go after the additional retirement funds to which he or she is entitled.

 

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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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