Archive for the ‘State Agencies’ Category

“Just because a cat has kittens in the oven doesn’t make them biscuits.”

It’s a quote attributed to Malcolm X, reprised by Kelsey Grammer in an episode of the number one sitcom Frasier, but actually has its origins in New England. It means, “Just because you were born here, it doesn’t make you one of us.”

It could just as easily be updated to apply to State Superintendent of Education John White’s lame explanation of a settlement of a lawsuit by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) against citizens James Finney, a technical college math instructor and Mike Deshotels, a former educator and past executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

White was quoted in the Baton Rouge Advocate as saying the ruling by 19th Judicial District Judge Janice Clark “merely resolved what had been a conflict between two laws” because federal law instructed the department not to release data that could be used to personally identify a child while state law mandated the disclosure of all public records.


Bull feathers.

Department legal counsel Joan Hunt said in a Wednesday email to members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) that a declaratory judgment was sought to resolve “tension” between free disclosure of public records and protection of student information according to federal law.


Neither Deshotels nor Finney ever requested information that would identify a single student.


And John White knew that. Period.

Since becoming Superintendent of Education in January 2012, White has made a career of stalling on compliance with public records requests if not denying them outright.

LouisianaVoice was once forced to sue white over public records and won an award of $2800 ($100 per day for each day delayed per request), plus court costs. The only downside of that judgment was that White was not held personally liable, meaning the $2800 and court costs were picked up by Louisiana taxpayers.

But in suing two Louisiana activist citizens (who admittedly had been something of a nuisance to White with their monitoring of the department), White reached a new low in attempting to avoid being held accountable for the manner in which he runs the department.

His lawsuit, in terms of disgraceful acts, ranks right down there with those judges in Monroe who sued the Ouachita Citizen, a newspaper in West Monroe. The newspaper’s sin? It made public records requests of the court.

Do we detect a disturbing trend here? You bet we do. The Louisiana Department of Education, district courts, and other public bodies have virtually unlimited financial resources at their disposal and most, like the Department of Education, have in-house legal counsel like Joan Hunt. They can initiate lengthy—and costly—legal action against any citizen and people like John White and district judges don’t have to pay a penny of the costs of litigation, courtesy of Louisiana taxpayers.

Private citizens do not enjoy that same advantage. It’s not a level playing field. And even if the public body does not sue, it can drag its heels on compliance, forcing the citizen making the request to either give up or enter into expensive legal action with no guarantee the court will uphold the public’s right to know.

At last Monday’s hearing, Judge Clark let it be known that her patience was wearing thin with public officials who attempt to hide behind legal maneuvers in an attempt to avoid compliance with the law.

The LDOE attorney opened by saying the department had “informal guidance” from the federal government that “we do not have to comply with FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests.”

Perhaps sensing the mood of the court, the state withdrew its demands for attorney fees from Deshotels and Finney, adding that “only two people are interested in the data.”

Judge Clark said it was an “improper purpose” to deny information to the public as a retaliatory action.

“Counsel should meet and work this out,” she said. “The public (meaning the court) takes a dim view of public officials using public resources to delay compliance with public records laws.”

Deshotels attorneys J. Arthur Smith and Chris Shows met outside chambers for more than two hours with LDOE attorneys but were unable to arrive at an agreement on the release of the requested documents.

When informed of the continued impasse, Judge Clark, visibly angry, said, “I am issuing a subpoena for John White to be in court at 9:30 tomorrow (Wednesday) morning for cross examination.”

When White got word of that, it was something akin to Moses coming down from the mountain with the 10 Commandments. Suddenly minds came together and miraculously, there was accord and LDOE agreed to three stipulations which settled the suit filed in April by White and the department against Deshotels and Finney. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/education/article_536e2fac-b5e2-575c-87f6-1a991bf0f455.html?sr_source=lift_amplify

The first stipulation mandates that the suppression of data in the economically disadvantaged and English language learner or English proficiency sub-groups of the Education Department’s multi-stat reports is not in compliance with the Louisiana Public Records Act.

The department agreed not to suppress student enrollment data in responding to requests made under the act in the second stipulation.

The final stipulation says requested data will be made available to the public dating back to 2006.

Deshotels said the declaratory judgment filed against him and Finney was never about clarifying the legal issues relative to certain public records and student privacy as claimed by White.

Instead, he said White’s action was “purely an attempt to discourage citizens from seeking to independently research the claims and conclusions made by White and his staff.” “If citizens are forced to face legal challenges and high legal fees for seeking public records, the Department can continue to manipulate and spin what should be factual information about the operation of our schools.”

Sadly, Judge Clark’s ruling will do little to expedite timely compliance with future public records requests to other state agencies.

Even as this is being written, former commissioner of administration Kristy Nichols has already cost the state more than the original judgment against her in another lawsuit by LouisianaVoice.

LouisianaVoice received a pittance in a lawsuit in which the Division of Administration (DOA) under Nichols had dragged its heels for more than three months on several separate public records requests.

LouisianaVoice calculated DOA owed some $40,000 in penalties for non-compliance but was awarded less than $2,000, plus costs and legal fees, by the court. Even then Nichols appealed the decision. And although the court held Nichols personally liable, meaning she alone was responsible for the penalty, the state is picking up the tab for that appeal, which partially upheld the district court ruling.

Nichols, still not satisfied, and still not paying a cent of the legal costs (though LouisianaVoice is paying its legal costs, applied for writs to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

As of this date, the state has spent far, far more than the penalty imposed on it in trying to avoid paying the penalty and LouisianaVoice has spent more than it will ever be awarded, provided the Supreme Court even upholds the lower court.

And while the obvious question is: Is throwing good money after bad a wise way to spend state funds? An original penalty of less than $2000 has now cost the state several times that in defense costs and the tab is still running.

And John White’s obfuscating dribble notwithstanding, that’s what Louisiana citizens are faced with in trying to hold its state government accountable.



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Trying to write about Troy Hebert, former director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), without getting mired down in controversy is a little like trying to run in knee-deep mud.

Likewise, attempts to make sense of it all is akin to trying to interpret a paint factory explosion as an expression of avant garde art.


It’s long past time to move on. Hebert is no longer conducting his misrule at ATC and he’s going about as far in his bid for U.S. Senator as Bobby Jindal did in his equally comical quest for the Republican presidential nomination. But flies have experienced less difficulty escaping from spider webs than we have in moving past the saga of Hebert et al.

It’s no longer a matter of LouisianaVoice writing about Troy Hebert; now it’s sub-factions sending messages back and forth, accusing each other of lying, threatening lawsuits, and still more anonymous sources coming forward with new information. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/09/20/fbi-agent-says-hebert-cleared-of-corruption-n-o-publication-way-off-in-identifying-our-story-source/

We no sooner pose our story about New Orleans attorney and former State Sen. Julie Quinn’s three-page letter to New Orleans CityBusiness demanding a retraction of its story about Quinn’s alleged representation of clients before ATC in applications for liquor licenses than we received copies of documents appearing to refute all of Quinn’s refutations.

This time, rather than offer denials of Facebook postings or legal representation, this unknown person, using the synonym “Sherlock Holmes” (not too terribly original), sent a screenshot of a Facebook post Quinn said she did not send. Also included were documents indicating that Quinn may have indeed represented clients in liquor license application matters.

Here is the complete text of that email:

From: Sherlock Holmes [mailto:] Sent: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 3:28 PM To: azspeak@cox.net Subject: Julie Quinn is LYING to you


In your September 20, 2016 article you reported that LA attorney and former state senator, Julie Quinn told Louisiana Voice that she had never represented a client before ATC and quoted her as stating “I don’t do liquor licenses and I have NEVER in my career represented a single client in a liquor permit matter” (emphasis added).

Interestingly, in the letter to City Business from Quinn’s law partner, Mr. Alsterberg, (that you have attached to your October 4, 2016 article) he states: “…in fact, throughout her entire career, Ms. Quinn has only assisted a single client in this type of matter [alcohol licensing], which occurred four years ago on behalf of a restaurant located in the warehouse district, not a bar located in the French Quarter.”

Based on these two contradictory statements, it is clear that Ms. Quinn LIED  to you. 

Also, the attached emails, articles and Facebook post provide irrefutable evidence that Ms. Quinn, and now her law partner, continue to lie about her business dealings involving the ATC and also about her Facebook activity. I WONDER WHAT SHE IS TRYING TO HIDE????

Julie Quinn has represented (or held herself out to state governmental officials and the media as representing) at least 6 clients in ATC related matters between Jan 2013 and March 2016 including: a business in Grand Isle that was operating under a previous owner’s permit; a French Quarter business that had its permit revoked and had a bad reputation in the area for being a location frequented by prostitutes, panderers, johns, and were multiple arrest for drugs and weapons were made; and 3 French Quarter strip clubs.   

The attached documents also show that Quinn did in fact do more than “post links to two articles” on her Facebook page and that she did in fact make a Facebook post insinuating that “she just killed a politician.”  As you will see, the Facebook post provided were made in near proximity to your article about the FBI investigating Troy Hebert.

In addition to his email message, “Sherlock” also included DOCUMENTS that included copies of the Facebook screen shot, emails that alluded to representation of clients applying for liquor licenses, and news stories citing Quinn as the source of a Facebook post of a cartoon about confessing to killing “a politician.”

With stories in the queue about a significant court ruling on public records, flood recovery efforts and potential a judicial conflict of interests on the part of a Baton Rouge judge, this should be the final word in the sordid saga of Troy Hebert.

But it probably won’t be.

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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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“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



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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The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday at 11 a.m. to consider confirmation of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reappointment of Mike Edmonson as State Police Superintendent just as a complaint has been filed with the State Police Commission by a retired state trooper.

Even though Edmonson has been superintendent for eight years, going back to the beginning of the Bobby Jindal administration, his reappointment for another term must be meet the approval of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee just as other gubernatorial appointees must pass muster with the committee.

Butch Browning’s reappointment as State Fire Marshal was confirmed by the committee last week.

The Edmonson confirmation hearing on Tuesday stands as the most controversial of all appointments by Edwards despite his having already served eight years as superintendent.

That’s because of reports of inconsistent and uneven discipline meted out for certain offenses to only token punishment for offenses ranging from abetting underage gambling to quotas for DWI arrests to payroll fraud to stalking by a trooper to a state trooper having sex in his patrol car while on duty—all documented by LouisianaVoice.

All those revelations came on the heels of LouisianaVoice’s story in 2014 about an attempt orchestrated by Edmonson to pad his retirement by about $30,000 a year despite his having locked in his pension years earlier.

Generous retirement benefit boost slipped into bill for State Police Col. Mike Edmonson on last day of legislative session

That attempted came when Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) slipped an amendment onto SB 294 by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) during the closing minutes of the 2014 legislative session. Morrell’s bill originally was a benign bill dealing with procedures for formal, written complaints made against police officers. Thirty-seven senators and 90 members of the House, including then-Rep. John Bel Edwards, voted in favor of the amendment.

Reps. John Bel Edwards and Kevin Pearson will request investigation of Edmonson retirement amendment source

And now comes retired State Trooper Scott Perry with his official complaint to the State Police Commission over the appointment of Maj. Jason Starnes as Interim Undersecretary of Management and Finance.

The problem with his appointment is that Starnes’s estranged wife, Tammy, is Audit Manager for LSP and Jason Starnes, with his promotion, will supervise her department.

Between them, the two earn more than $225,000 a year. Jason Starnes is paid $129,000 per year and Tammy receives $96,600.

While nepotism laws would seem to prohibit such an arrangement, and while it certainly appears to be unethical, there appears to be a loophole that has been cited in numerous opinions by the Ethics Board. That exception says if the employee, in this case, Tammy Starnes, has been in her position for a year or more, it is permissible for an immediate family member to supervise her.

When Tammy Starnes initially joined LSP after transferring from another state agency, her $92,900 salary at the time was $11,700 more than that of Jason Starnes and was in charge of monitoring LSP’s financial transactions, including those of her husband but now their lines of authority are reversed.

Jason Starnes, in addition to his $129,000 salary, also reportedly is receiving free housing, courtesy of LSP, according to one source.

Since separating from his wife, he is said to be living on the state dime in the LSP Training Academy VIP quarters.

Louisiana Title 42 covers the Code of Governmental Ethics. Part II, Section 1111 A(1) of Title 42 says in part, “…No public servant shall receive anything of economic value, other than compensation and benefits from the governmental entity to which he is duly entitled, for the performance of the duties and responsibilities of his office or position.”

Free living quarters would certainly fall under the description of economic value.

Depending on whether or not the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee has the cojones to give Edmonson’s record something other than a cursory look, the debate over his nomination could spark lively debate.

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) is the only senator to vote against Riser’s amendment to Morrell’s SB 294 two years ago and she chairs the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Adding to the intrigue, if indeed there is to be any intrigue with Edmonson’s nomination is two other members of the committee are….Morrell and Riser. And Morrell would be justified if he was still smarting from Riser’s hijacking of his bill two years ago.

Given that Edmonson was originally appointed by Republican Bobby Jindal, it’s somewhat interesting that the committee is made up of four Democrats and three Republicans.

On the other hand, his nomination for reappointment now comes from a Democratic governor, which could put the four Democrats in an uncomfortable position of having to oppose a fellow Democrat’s nomination.

The bottom line, however, is that Edmonson is neither the fair-haired boy of the Republicans or the Democrats; he is the creation of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, one of the most powerful political influences in the state.

Make no mistake about that. It was the Sheriff’s Association that dictated that Jindal appoint Edmonson, who’s only qualification was his experience as an LSP public information officer. One former law enforcement official said unless an appointee has experience supervising personnel, there is no way he can be qualified to lead an entire department, especially one as large and far-ranging as LSP.

The association’s only criteria was the appointment of someone they could control.

And they got him.

But it would not be unprecedented for the committee to at least ask probing questions. Committee members threatened to withhold confirmation of Bruce Greenstein as Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals in 2011 if he didn’t reveal the name of CNSI, a company he formerly worked for, as winner of a huge DHH contract. And after being grilled over his dealings with with the Regents in a fiber optics projects involving eight Louisiana research universities, Ed Antie of Carencro abruptly withdrew his name for consideration for a seat on the Board of Regents.

Here are the names and email addresses of the members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee:

After Tuesday, we will know for certain if the committee members have the courage to make difficult but morally correct decisions or if they will collapse in the proverbial puddle at the feet of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

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