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Archive for the ‘State Fire Marshal’ Category

LouisianaVoice has been informed that State Fire Marshal Butch Browning has been summoned to a meeting in the governor’s office next week.

There was no immediate indication what that meeting will be about but if the report is accurate, there are a couple of items the administration may wish to ask Browning about:

  • Why did the office of State Fire Marshal (SFM) spend $4,649 in May 2015 to “up fit” the office’s special food service trailer for the purpose of supporting “events and emergencies with equipment for field food services when necessary,” but when the August 2016 flood struck South Louisiana, SFM agents say they had to fend for themselves because that food service trailer was nowhere to be found?
  • Why did the SFM spend $4,900 in May 2015 as a deposit for LR3 Consulting of Baton Rouge to create a website for Louisiana Firefighter Proud when Louisiana Firefighter Proud is a private entity not affiliated with any state agency?
  • Why is it that the SFM claims to have no record of purchasing drones for $7,500 each from a New York vendor when SFM agents insist they were purchased and training records for at least one SFM deputy lists an eight-hour course in drone training and safety compliance?

LouisianaVoice has attempted—unsuccessfully—to obtain answers to these questions.

When I inquired into the 10 washers and 10 dryers and the drones, I received the following response from the SFM’s legal department:

From: (Name redacted by LouisianaVoice)
Sent: Thursday, August 17, 2017 9:11 AM
To: Tom Aswell <azspeak@cox.net>
Subject: PRR: Louisiana Voice Request dated 8/8/17

Mr. Tom Aswell

PRR: Louisiana Voice Request dated 8/8/17

SFN: 00000-77

Dear Mr. Aswell:

With regard to the email below, your request to view ten clothes washers and dryers, the Office of State Fire Marshal has no washers and/or dryers at 8181 Independence Blvd., Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  

Additionally, in your request you asked for receipts for four drones from B&H of New York at approximately $7,500 each. No such documents exist.   

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.   

Best Regards,  

(Name redacted by LouisianaVoice)

Office of State Fire Marshal

8181 Independence Blvd.

Baton Rouge, LA 70809

So, if those washers and dryers are not at 8181 Independence Blvd. (SFM headquarters), where exactly are they and why can’t I be allowed to view them?

I posed that follow up question to the SFM’s office but have yet to receive a response.

It took a former employee of the SFM to clear up that little mystery. The washers and dryers, he explained, were not purchased but leased from Broad Base Service and Rentals in Harvey for $4,999.99, one cent below the minimum purchase amount that requires quotes from vendors. They were rented, he said, to wash the uniforms of deputies working the August 2016 flood of South Louisiana. The September 6 transaction date would seem to substantiate that explanation.

That same individual said he, too, had heard that Browning had been notified to appear at the governor’s office next week.

He also said no one at SFM is minding the store as concerns purchases on the state credit card. “You’re on the right track in checking those credit care purchases. There is absolutely no control over the expenditures in that office.”

I did receive a response to some of other public records requests, namely training certificates for four deputy fire marshals.

Without naming the individuals, I can say that some of the training courses appear to have little to do with inspections of amusement rides, boilers, nursing homes, hospitals, jails, or mobile homes, all of which are part of the SFM’s responsibilities.

In other states, each of those areas would be assigned to deputies specifically trained in those respective areas but in Louisiana, deputies under Browning are “cross-trained,” meaning they are expected to be proficient—and certified—in all inspection disciplines.

In examining the record of one deputy, I found a certificate for an eight-hour course in “Law Enforcement Chaplaincy” from an organization identified on his certificate as Compassion Ministries.

While this is by no means meant to disparage a deputy’s faith, there appears to be little connection between that certificate and building, ride, boiler or fire inspections or investigations.

I also found certificates for all four for such courses as ethics, preventing sexual harassment and defensive driving. As one who has taken each of these courses during my 20 years with the state, I can attest to their absolute uselessness—with the possible exception of the ethics course, which is only slightly more comprehensive. Still, those courses appear to be of little benefit to a SFM deputy working in the field, investigating fires, inspecting buildings, rides, and boilers.

Conversely, there were courses listed in that make it appear that Browning is attempting to turn the fire marshal’s office into a full-blown police force on a par with State Police:

  • Drug enforcement training (16 hours);
  • Narcotics investigations (48 hours);
  • Hostage negotiation (four hours);
  • Military police training (a five-month course);
  • Traffic radar operation (four hours);
  • Advanced criminal patrol tactics (eight hours);
  • Chemical weapons familiarization (four hours);
  • Use and handling of stringer spike strip systems (one hour);
  • Shotgun familiarization (four hours);
  • Drugged driver detection (four hours)
  • Chemical testing for intoxication (16 hours);
  • Police driving (24 hours);
  • Taser certification (four hours);
  • Unspecified FEMA training;
  • Introduction to cultural diversity.

By contrast there were courses that seemed to be a bit more relevant, though the four deputies whose records we reviewed did all not seem to have the advantage of taking the same courses:

  • Effective Investigation and Testimony (three hours);
  • Investigating Fatal Fires (four hours);
  • Commercial Building Code Fundamentals;
  • Hazardous Materials Awareness (four hours);
  • Firestop Seminar (three hours);
  • Sprinkler Seminar (three hours)
  • National Electrical Code Seminar (16 hours);
  • Scientific Method of Fire and Explosion Investigation (three hours);
  • Electrical Safety (three hours);
  • Residential Electrical Investigation for the Fire Investigator (24 hours);
  • Post Blast Investigators School (40 hours);
  • Critical Thinking Solves Cases (four hours);
  • Investigating Natural Gas Systems (three hours);
  • Investigation of Commercial Kitchen Fires (eight hours);
  • Residential Natural Gas Systems (three hours).

While there were records of only four deputies to review, it seemed odd that for a department stressing cross-training as does the SFM, there were no courses listed in boiler inspections, amusement ride inspections, nursing home or hospital inspections, or mobile home inspections for any of the individuals.

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There have been some curious hires at the State Fire Marshal’s office which have attracted the attention of LouisianaVoice.

Two in particular: former State Rep. Bryan Adams and Dean Smith.

Of the two, Adams raises the most questions.

There is no question that Adams, unlike Smith, possessed experience in firefighting, having served as Chief of the Terrytown 5th District Volunteer Fire Department for 31 years, from 1982 to 2013.

But when he resigned from the Louisiana House of Representatives in July 2016 after four years, seven months in office to take a position as Deputy Chief-Investigations with the State Fire Marshal’s office, he was already working simultaneously as Customer Service Manager for Ferrara Fire Apparatus of Holden, a company that had extensive dealings as a major vendor for the Fire Marshal’s office at a whopping $120,000.

That, combined with his position as State Representative, might raise eyebrows. As a member of the Legislature, he had a vote on the budget for state agencies, including that of Fire Marshal, which did business with his employer. CLICK HERE.

He was elevated to Fire Chief on January 2 of this year but his salary did not change. He remained at the Fire Marshal’s office for only another month after that, until February 12, when he went to work for the Department of Revenue at a salary of $71,300, a drop of almost $49,000 in salary. He recouped some of that lost salary on June 19 of this year when he went to work as Executive Director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board at $91,000 per year (CLICK HERE).

Bryan Adams

Begin Date End Date Agency Job Title Biweekly Pay Rate
6/19/17 Present CRT-Office of the Secretary Executive Director $3500.00 (6/19/17 to present)
2/13/17 6/18/17 DOR-Department of Revenue Executive Staff Officer $34.30/hour (2/13/17 to 6/18/17)
1/2/17 2/12/17 DPS-Office of the State Fire Marshal Fire Chief 4615.39 (1/2/17 to 2/12/17)
6/24/16 1/1/17 DPS-Office of the State Fire Marshal Deputy Chief-Investigations 4615.39 (6/24/16 to 1/1/17)

So, who is Dean Smith?

No, not the legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach who passed away in February 2015.

We’re talking about the Dean Smith whose last day as police captain for the Pontchartrain Levee District was January 27, 2017, not quite seven months ago and who went to work as a Fire Chief for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (SFM) three days later at a cool $85,000 per year.

Nothing in his background would seem to qualify him as Fire Chief.

The Louisiana Civil Service Department says Dean Smith began working for the Pontchartrain Levee District as a Police Captain on July 1, 2010 at a salary of $61,000 per year.

On March 12, 2012, he was designated as a Police Captain A and on October 1, 2015, his salary was $71,000 and remained at that level until his departure on January 27 of this year. Three days later, with no professional experience to qualify him for his Fire Chief position, his salary jumped by $14,000 per year, to $85,000.

Dean Smith

Begin Date End Date Agency Job Title Biweekly Pay Rate
01/30/17 Present DPS-Office of State Marshal Fire Chief $3269.23 (1/30/17 to present)
3/5/12 1/29/17 Pontchartrain Levee District Police Captain A $2744.80 (10/01/15 to 1/29/17)

$2639.20 (10/1/14 to 9/30/15)

$2537.60 (10/1/13 to 9/30/14)

$2440.00 (10/1/12 to 9/30/13)

$2346.40 (3/5/12 to 9/30/12)

7/01/10 3/4/12 Pontchartrain Levee District Police Captain $2346.40 (7/1/10 to 3/4/12)

Smith was a volunteer fireman in Gonzales when Browning was Fire Chief there and the two are close friends, often joining each other on motorcycle rides.

Smith was also an Ascension Parish deputy sheriff at one time. While in that capacity, he had a gun to discharge accidentally, striking a prisoner in the spine and rendering him a paraplegic. He left the sheriff’s office after that, was elected a justice of the peace and eventually resigned to work for the levee board.

Irony of ironies, we are informed that one of the current duties of the man who once accidentally shot and paralyzed a man is to serve as firearms instructor for the Fire Marshal’s office.

Despite holding down a critical job like Fire Chief, it’s impossible to reach Smith by telephone because, you see, he has no phone extension at the Fire Marshal’s office. None. Nada. Nil. Zip. Attempts to call him on two separate occasions by LouisianaVoice met with explanations that he had no extension but that a message would be given him to return the call.

Of course, he never did.

Wanting to know just what it was that Smith did to earn his $85,000, we emailed State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, the man himself. He should know, after all:

From: Tom Aswell [mailto:azspeak@cox.net]
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 1:07 PM
To: ‘butch.browning@la.gov’ <butch.browning@la.gov>
Subject: FW: DEAN SMITH

Mr. Browning:

How long has Dean Smith worked for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal and why does he not have a phone extension?

What, exactly, is his title and what are his duties?

You will notice our email was sent at 1:07 p.m. last Friday. Minutes later we received a receipt showing that Browning had read our email at 1:08 p.m.

_____________________________________________
From: Butch Browning [mailto:Butch.Browning@la.gov]
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 1:08 PM
To: Tom Aswell <azspeak@cox.net>
Subject: Read: FW: DEAN SMITH

Your message

To: Butch Browning
Subject: FW: DEAN SMITH
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 1:07:24 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada)
was read on Friday, August 11, 2017 1:08:01 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada).

But Browning never answered our inquiry, so four hours later, at 5:12 p.m., a follow-up email was sent but alas, he must’ve already started his weekend for he never opened that message:

From: Tom Aswell [mailto:azspeak@cox.net]
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 5:12 PM
To: ‘butch.browning@la.gov’ <butch.browning@la.gov>
Subject: FOLLOW UP

I received the receipt showing that you read my previous email but you didn’t respond. You should know that it isn’t in your best interest to ignore me when I ask valid questions. And those were valid questions I asked before.

Not a threat, just friendly words of advice.

As we said, Butch, not a threat. But legitimate inquiries should never be ignored. As the slogan at the top of our web page says, “It is understandable when a child is afraid of the dark but unforgivable when a man fears the light.” The tactic of ignoring inquiries has never worked. It will not make us go away; quite the opposite, in fact.

So, to learn just what else besides teaching firearms safety does a Fire Chief at SFM do to earn his $85,000, we were forced to turn to other sources, current employees in the Fire Marshal’s office, both of whom said Smith and Browning are pals from way back.

One of those says Smith was hired to oversee the non-existent SFM fleet of boats. Well, it shouldn’t too difficult for a Fire Chief with no apparent firefighting experience to watch over boats that don’t exist.

He also cooked jambalaya for attendees at a firefighters’ conference held in Houma the weekend of July 19-22. Oh, well, at least there most likely was some fire involved with that.

If that conference could somehow be deemed an emergency, perhaps that might justify the use of the SFM’s special service trailer. The trailer was “up-fitted” in May 2015 from 5 Alarm Fire Apparatus of Raceland at a cost of $4,649 “for USAR emergency field food service cooking during emergencies.” The Fire Marshal’s office said at the time the expenditure was necessary, that the office “has no way of supporting USAR events or emergencies when they take place. This up-fit cooking trailer will now support events and emergencies with equipment for field food services when necessary.”

They probably also made good use of the 30-gallon roll-around combo set (complete with paddles for stirring the jambalaya) purchased in January 2015 from Krazy Kajun Cookware for $895.

But, despite the apparent critical need for an $85,000 per year Fire Chief, Boat Watcher and Jambalaya Cook, he doesn’t have a telephone extension at the Fire Marshal’s headquarters in Baton Rouge even though that’s where he works reports to collect his salary.

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Word from inside the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (LOSFM) is that state auditors have come calling and are taking a close look at agency expenditures.

Without being privy to any specific findings by the Legislative Auditor’s Office, it’s a pretty safe bet that the bean counters are going to find that the LOSFM likes to worm its way around the rules by making multiple purchases in amounts that fly—barely—under the radar, as it were, of minimum amounts for which quotes are required.

Other expenditures that might be questioned by auditors include meals at Mike Anderson’s Restaurant, purchases from a grocery store, a seafood market, a deli, a cookware outlet, association memberships and convention fees,

The  LOUISIANA PROCUREMENT CODE (LPC: that would be R.S. 39:1551-1755 for whoever is wearing military medals at LOSFM these days] does not require competitive bidding for purchases that are $5,000 or less. Purchases that are greater than $5,000, and up to $15,000, require quotes from at least three vendors by telephone, fax or other means. (emphasis ours.)

LouisianaVoice recently spent the better part of a week poring over and scanning stack upon stack of purchasing records by the fire marshal’s office. Several years’ worth of receipts, no less.

If LOSFM is an indication, the so-called state budgetary crisis is largely a myth and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, erstwhile State Treasurer, was correct when he said the state didn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. (Kennedy, alas, not knowing when to call it a day, would go on to talk about drinking weed killer and quoting a mysterious Louisiana adage known only to him about how we should love one another but should also carry a handgun).

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning apparently makes a lot of photocopies and prints volumes of documents, judging from the toner purchases made by his office. But those notwithstanding, it became fairly obvious from our findings that Browning, his second in command, Brant Thompson, and other top honchos like to split their purchases so that they fall just under that magical mystical $5,000 amount.

We even stumbled across one purchase of $4,999.99 on September 6, 2016, from Broad Base of Harvey for the purchase of 10 washers and 10 dryers for the agency’s laundry trailer. Apparently, they learned well from the Jindal administration which would issue state contracts for $49,999 so as to avoid the laborious approval of the old Office of Contractual Review, a requirement that kicked in at $50,000 and above.

LOSFM also liked a well-dressed agent. In 2015, it spent $33,490 with Guidry Uniforms of Lafayette, with at least three of those purchases being in increments of $5,000 and another for $5,000.01 (oops).

On April 7, 2015, the fire marshal’s office spent $2,558.59 with Guidry’s and immediate recorded another purchase that same day for $685.83. Six days later, on April 13, another $5,000 was spent with Guidry’s, all apparently without benefit of the required three quotes as there were no such quotes provided along with the receipts.

In 2014, records were found for expenditures with Guidry’s of $4,531.53 (September 15) and $5,000 (November 14). Another $17,600 was spent at Guidry’s in 2016, including individual purchases of $1,069 on March 31 and payments on outstanding invoices of $4,932.67 in April 12 and $2,517.61 in April 20.

“Agencies should maintain documentation of each quote received,” the state law says. “Procurement amounts may not be artificially divided in order to circumvent the LPC.” (emphasis ours) Quotes may be taken by telephone, facsimile or other means. The quotes must, however, be in writing if the price exceeds $5,000. Awards shall be made to the lowest responsive quotation.

Other apparent split purchases made without obtaining the required three quotations:

  • Tri-Parish Communications of Baton Rouge: March 10, 2015 ($1,870.75), March 16 ($1,876 and $382.80), March 18 ($107.80 and $148.30), March 19 ($232.85) and March 24 ($274.85 and $359.85) for a total of $5,253.20.
  • Louisiana Office Solutions of Baton Rouge: January 14, 2016 ($269.32), January 21 ($2,668), and January 22 ($2,828) for a total of $5,765.32.
  • Preferred Data Voice Networks of Baton Rouge: April 5, 2016 ($1,873.60), April 12 ($3,248.80), April 19 ($4,970.80) for a total of $10,093.20 with all three purchases precisely one week apart (clever).
  • Quality Lapel Pins of Littleton, Colorado (we’ll have more on them later): February 21, 2016 ($3,569), March 9 ($3,569—yep, identical amounts in two separate purchases barely two weeks apart), and March 30 ($1,040) for a total of $8,178 over a span of five weeks.
  • Quality Lapel Pins: June 27 ($4,862), July 13 ($921.02), and July 18 ($1,828.20) for a total of $7,611.22 purchased over a period of three weeks.
  • Goodyear Commercial Tire of Baton Rouge: March 26, 2015 ($3,484.17) and March 30 ($2,677.43), a total of $6,161.60.
  • Ferrara Fire Apparatus of Holden: December 11, 2014 ($4,985), December 12 ($2,747.52), and December 22 ($2,190.14), a total of $9,922.66.
  • Ferrara Fire Apparatus: April 2, 2015 ($3,784.38) and April 8 ($1,712.16), a total of $5,496.54.
  • Ferrara Fire Apparatus: March 18, 2016 ($4,828), April 14 ($3,196 and $1,164), and April 26 ($4,342), a total of $8,702 (grand total of split purchases: $24,121.20). Additionally, LOSFM had individual purchases from Ferrara of another $10,321 in the years 2014-2016, including one purchase of $4,985, just $15 below the amount requiring quotations.
  • Teeco Safety of Shreveport: November 6, 2014 ($4,731.50) and November 14 ($4,994.50), a total of $9,726.
  • Teeco Safety: December 5, 2014 ($3,979.30) and December 11 ($3,248.32), a total of $7,227.62.
  • Teeco Safety: February 13, 2015 ($3,525, $564.30, and $711.76) and February 19 ($546), a total of $5,347.06.
  • Teeco Safety: November 6, 2015 ($2,763), November 12 ($4,763.14), and November 16 ($1,413.96), a total of $8,940.10.
  • Teeco Safety: December 18, 2015 ($3,606.79 and $179.76) and December 22 ($2,601.31), a total of $6,387.86.
  • Teeco Safety: September 9, 2016 ($4,587.96), September 14 ($3,433.92), and September 30 ($1,919.76), a total of $9,941.64. LOSFM also made individual purchases of $4,941.98 on October 30, 2014, and $4,777.80 on April 8, 2015, and had three purchases totaling $4,804 in December 2016.

Documents provided by LOSFM indicated that an occasional quotation was obtained from Teeco prior to purchases, but there were no quotes from other vendors.

Besides the four purchases of $5,000 each from Guidry’s and the $4,999.99 from Broad Base, the fire marshal’s office also chalked up at least a dozen one-time purchases that fell just below the $5,000 amount requiring quotations. Those purchases ranged from $4,000 to $4,900, $4,990 and $4,999—all without benefit of quotations.

That $4,900 expenditure was for a deposit to LR3 Consulting for creation of the “Louisiana Firefighter Proud” website. The State of Louisiana has IT personnel to perform such tasks.

Over a relative short span, from May 9 to September 22, 2016, LOSFM spent $9,600 at Best Buy on such items as juice boxes, computer and video cable, and other computer-related equipment.

Another $8,754 was spent on association memberships and sponsorship fees for conventions, records show. Those included:

  • $1,300 for 2015 memberships in the Merchant International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI);
  • $1,875 for 2016 memberships in the Louisiana IAAI;
  • $1,175 for 2017 IAAI membership;
  • $1,404 for 2015 membership in the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA);
  • $700 for sponsorship of the Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA) 2015 convention;
  • $750 for sponsorship of the LMA 2016 convention;
  • $800 for sponsorship of the LMA 2017 convention;
  • $750 for sponsorship of the Louisiana Police Jury Association (LPJA) 2017 convention;

On December 3, 2015, LOSFM employees were treated to a Christmas meal at Mike Anderson’s Seafood Restaurant at a cost of $2,195. Another $1,014 was spent at LeBlanc’s Food Stores and $126.62 was dropped at Tony’s Seafood Market & Deli in January 2016, and $479.85 was spent at Jason’s Deli in April 2016.

On January 21, 2015, $895 was spent at Krazy Kajun Cookware for the purchase of a 30-gallon roll-around combo set, including the pot and accompanying paddles—apparently to compliment the purchase later that year (May 18) of a special service trailer for “emergency field food service” to support USAR events/emergencies. (A quick Google search of USAR came up with U.S. Army Reserve and Urban Search and Rescue.)

But that pales in comparison to more than $62,000 spent by the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office between May 2014 and September 2016 on such things as badges, ribbons, plaques, coins, medallions, stadium cups, lapel pins, and decals—all without benefit of obtaining quotations. A couple of those nudged right up against that $5,000 limit:

  • $5,000 with Quality Lapels and Pins in February 2016, $7,138 in two purchases of identical $3,569 on February 21, 2016 and again 16 days later, on March 9, and $4,862 on June 27;
  • $4,617 from Rebel Graphics of Baton Rouge in June 2016, and
  • $4,997 with Action Flags of Baton Rouge (no invoice date).

There was no indication if any of those purchases were for military medals to be worn by Browning.

 

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More proof that when leaders are unhappy with the message, they shoot the messenger as the obvious solution:

“I hear the State Fire Marshal’s office may be going to terminate several employees (this) week based on their (the employees) not being loyal to the agency and (State Fire Marshal Butch) Browning. There is actually a DPS (Department of Public Safety and Corrections) rule that says you have to be loyal.”

That’s the message LouisianaVoice received from one of its sources over the weekend.

If true, it gives credence to the expression that no good deed goes unpunished.

The overall administrative mood at the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (LOSFM) has been more than a little surly since our initial STORY last week about unqualified personnel being forced to investigate possible arson cases.

With already interviews with a half-dozen sources under our belt, other sources began coming forward with claims of shortcomings in the INVESTIGATION of a fatal fire scene in St. Tammany Parish.

Also called into question was the investigation of several nursing fires in Simmesport and the arrest of an employee, who was not even at work during all but one of the fires, on some 75 counts, including cruelty to the infirm and attempted murder. An Avoyelles Parish grand jury is scheduled to investigate that case beginning on Thursday.

LouisianaVoice has since been asked to look into the circumstances of yet another Avoyelles Parish CASE in which a local firefighter was arrested in connection with the death of his wife of 10 months in a house fire. His trial is next month.

LOSFM administrators took immediate action to confront the problems with the St. Tammany and Simmesport cases by calling in employees from the field and grilling them about whether they had talked to LouisianaVoice. Among the tactics employed in improving investigative methods were threats of polygraph tests and further interrogation.

And now there are those pesky loyalty issues which appear to have placed employees’ jobs in jeopardy.

Apparently, it’s the DPS Trump card, if you’ll forgive a bad pun.

But when the so-called “loyalty rule” is invoked, it’s important to ask: to whom is this “loyalty” due?

We have not seen the rule requiring loyalty but it would be assumed that it was intended to require loyalty to the agency, DPS, and to the principles to which it espouses—namely justice administered on a fair, equitable, and impartial basis.

If that’s the case, it would seem a pretty steep hill to climb to prove disloyalty on any employee.

But if it’s loyalty to the guys in the corner offices, namely Browning, Fire Chief Brant Thompson and other top brass (whether laden with unwarranted military medals or simply blessed with protectors in high places), that’s another story.

We’ve heard the stories of LOSFM employees being reassigned to remote districts or being forced into resignations after revealing problems to management, it’s difficult to see how leadership at LOSFM warrants loyalty from anyone other than those who literally owe their jobs to Browning—those cronies brought in at higher pay grades than veteran employees.

Loyalty in exchange for political benefaction should not be a requirement of any job in government. That’s the very reason the Department of Civil Service was enacted during the second administration of Jimmie Davis.

Whistleblowers most often come forward reluctantly and after all other avenues of rectification have been exhausted.

But another reason the honchos at LOSFM might want to reconsider any rash decisions to clean house of so-called “disloyal” employees is that terminated employees, now disgruntled (as opposed to gruntled?), might feel free to open up even more to LouisianaVoice and other media outlets.

And that, guys, is the elephant in the room that you seem to be ignoring.

 

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“If you find that we’re doing something wrong, I hope you’ll let us know.”

—Louisiana State Office of Fire Marshal Chief Brant Thompson, to LouisianaVoice publisher Tom Aswell several weeks ago after learning we were examining expenditures of the fire marshal’s office.

“Oh, we will, Brant. You can count on it.”

—Our response.

 

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