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Archive for the ‘State Police’ Category

“LSU police chief retiring next month; national search on tap,” said the HEADLINE in the June 9 Baton Rouge Advocate.

But don’t look for that “national search” to extend far beyond the corporate limits of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And don’t be surprised if an old familiar name is quietly named the new chief.

We don’t want to announce his name just yet, but his initials are Mike Edmonson.

That same day, a Baton Rouge TV STATION announced that current LSU Police Chief Lawrence Rabalais was being forced out after it was learned that his department racked up $1.2 million in overtime pay last year for his 80-person staff.

In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that comes to about $15,000 per person in overtime pay but don’t carve that in stone because some apparently were not getting their share. Records obtained by New Orleans television investigative reporter Lee Zurik, working in conjunction with Baton Rouge station WAFB-TV, showed that two LSU police captains made more than Rabalais in both 2015 and 2016 from logging hundreds of hours of overtime. In 2016, one of those captains made $64,800 in overtime while the other pulled down $61,800 in overtime pay. In another case, an LSU officer made $56,200 in overtime pay, which was nearly $5,000 more than his base pay of $51,300.

Rabalais will be stepping down from his $127,800-a-year job, effective July 5, the school announced. LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard, III said Maj. Bart Thompson would serve as interim chief until a permanent successor is named. “We will begin a national search for his permanent successor and put together plans for a transition plan in the near future,” Ballard added.

When asked if the retirement was voluntary, he said, “Our policy is to not comment on personnel matters, but there have been no terminations at the police department.”

Well, no, when you can pressure someone into resigning or retiring, firing becomes a moot point and administrators can walk away without having to invoke the ugly F-word.

“We will begin a national search for his permanent successor and put together plans for a transition plan in the near future,” Ballard added.

The timing of the Rabalais announcement is more than a little suspect, to say the least.

Something just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Don’t take that as a defense of Rabalais. He certainly had sufficient baggage with the Helen Haire matter to warrant a change. It’s just that the university had the perfect opportunity to cut its losses when her sex discrimination suit wound up costing LSU big bucks after he was named chief over her. Instead, the school waited for an obscure issue like overtime to make its move.

One might then asked why, then, did LSU suddenly take action?

LouisianaVoice has learned that Edmonson, for nine years Superintendent of State Police until his lax managerial practices finally caught up with him in San Diego last October, is near the top of a very short list of candidates for the job.

Don’t be too surprised if he does indeed get the job. In Louisiana politics, the Peter Principle—the theory that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in his or her current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role—is in full effect.

Edmonson’s position prior to being named by Bobby Jindal to head Louisiana State Police was that of public information officer for LSP and as bodyguard for LSU football coaches—and he was very good at those because his duties primarily involved schmoozing those in a position to help his career along.

Unfortunately for Louisiana, that did not translate to effective leadership of the entire agency. In a state where administrators are chosen not for their ability but for their political connections, it is not only the norm but the expectation that mediocre people will occupy the positions of greatest power and influence. The more power and influence to wield, the greater the demand for mediocrity.

And nowhere in state government—and the emphasis is on nowhere—are political influence and inflated egos more prevalent than on the campus of Louisiana State University, aka the Ole War Skule.

It’s almost enough to make one wonder if, when the chance to bring Edmonson into that tight little clique that is LSU presented itself, LSU officials decided to jump at the opportunity and to belatedly “address” the Rabalais problem.

Oh, surely not.

LouisianaVoice was first with the STORY on March 10 that Edmonson was gone from the State Police and the official CONFIRMATION came five days later, on March 15. We also were consistently first on dozens of accounts of Edmonson’s controversial tenure as Louisiana’s top cop for more than four years until other media were finally forced, albeit reluctantly, to begin following the story, and then stepping in to politely accept the credit for his ouster.

Some of the events at which officers have worked overtime were understandable. Besides more than 130 LSU athletic events and Bayou Country Superfest, a three-day music festival held in Tiger Stadium for the past several years, there was the 2016 flood event in Baton Rouge last August and the police shootings of 2016. In the latter case, all police patrols went from one- to two-person patrols, thereby doubling the need for officers on all shifts. There also was the 2014 ice storm, and other crisis or emergency situations; fundraisers on campus;  events held by student organizations; work at other LSU facilities, and others.

Certainly it was a mere coincidence that Rabalais was told to clean out his desk at LSU so soon after Edmonson was told the same over at LSP.

 

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You just gotta love Louisiana politics.

No, really. It’s probably the only institution where one can set up his own little fiefdom, reward those in positions to promote his career, get caught up in multiple scandals, be forced to resign and be commended, appreciated, and otherwise recognized for his years of “dedicated and distinguished” service.

Take, for instance, Senate Concurrent Resolution 122, hereafter referred to as SCR 122, by State Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego), which commended, expressed appreciation and otherwise praised former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. It passed by a 27-0 vote with 11 members either absent or not voting.

The resolution, which runs on for three full pages when a single paragraph would’ve sufficed, concludes with:

“BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby commend and express appreciation to Superintendent of Louisiana State Police Colonel Michael David Edmonson on his retirement after thirty-six years of dedicated and distinguished service in law enforcement, including nine years as superintendent, and does hereby extend to him and his family full measures of continued success and happiness in their future endeavors.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this Resolution be transmitted to Mike Edmonson.”

It seems entirely fitting that this resolution would have been authored by Alario. After all, his son John W. Alario, serves as the $115,000 a year director of the DPS Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission. That’s in the Department of Public Safety, where Edmonson also served as Deputy Secretary until his resignation.

LouisianaVoice also reported in September 2014 that John W. Alario’s wife, Dionne Alario, was hired in November 2013 at a salary of $56,300 to work out of her Westwego home supervising state police personnel in Baton Rouge—something of a logistics problem, to say the least. Well today, she is still there and now pulls down $58,500 per year. And she still works from home.

We were perfectly willing to let go of the Edmonson story after he resigned. But Sen. Alario’s resolution, however, compels us to review some of the highlights of Edmonson’s tenure as Superintendent of State Police.

Our first encounter with Edmonson came at the end of the 2014 legislative session when we learned that Charles Dupuy, who would rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, conspired, along with State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) and Gov. Bobby Jindal, to sneak the amendment to Senate Bill 294 during the closing minutes of the session that allowed Mike Edmonson a “do-over” on his decision to enter the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) which froze his retirement at his pay at that time of his decision to participate in DROP.

The major problem with that little plan is that it left other state troopers and state employees who similarly opted to enter DROP and then received significant promotions or raises out in the cold because the amendment did not afford the same opportunity for them. Before it was revealed by LouisianaVoice and before State Sen. Dan Claitor successfully filed a lawsuit to prevent the move, Edmonson was in line for a whopping pension increase estimated as high as $100,000 per year when the raises to state police were factored into the equation. (Claitor, incidentally, was one of those voting in favor of Alario’s SCR 122 demonstrating, we suppose, that he does not hold grudges.)

Here are some other Edmonson actions we wrote about in 2014:

  • “Consultant” Kathleen Sill, placed on the state payroll and being paid $437,000 plus $12,900 in air travel for 21 flights for her between Baton Rouge and her Columbia, S.C. home.
  • DPS Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux’s taking a $46,000 cash payout incentive to retire early from her $92,000 per year salary as Deputy Undersecretary, plus about $13,000 in payment for 300 hours of accrued annual leave and then re-hiring herself two days later—with a promotion to Undersecretary and at a higher salary of $118,600—while keeping the incentive payment and annual leave payment. Then-Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis ordered her to repay the money but Davis resigned before she could follow through on her instructions. Under her successor, Paul Rainwater, the matter was quietly forgotten.
  • Boudreaux’s son-in-law Matthew Guthrie who, while employed in an offshore job, was simultaneously on the payroll for seven months (from April 2, 2012 to Nov. 9, 2012) as a $25 per hour “specialist” for the State Police Oil Spill Commission.
  • Danielle Rainwater, daughter of former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, who worked as a “specialist” for State Police.

And then there are the spouses brought into the fold.

  • Jason Starnes benefitted from two quick promotions from 2009 to 2014 as his salary jumped from $59,800 to $81,250, an increase. Three years later, he makes $150,750 an overall increase of 152 percent.
  • As if that were not enough, his then-wife Tammy was brought in from another agency as an Audit Manager at a salary of $92,900. Today, she makes $96.600. So not only did make nearly $11,700 a year more than her husband initially (until he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel), she also was in charge of monitoring the agency’s financial transactions, including those of her husband.
  • In January of 2008, just before Edmonson was named Superintendent of State Police by Gov. Bobby Jindal, State Trooper Charles Dupuy was pulling down $80,500. Today, the one-time Edmonson Chief of Staff makes $161,300, a bump of more than 100 percent.
  • Kelly McNamara and Dupuy, both troopers, met at work and eventually married and Kelly Dupuy’s star began ascending almost immediately. Her salary has gone from $65,000 in 2009 to $117,000 today
  • On Sept. 7, 2011, Mike Edmonson’s brother Paul was promoted from lieutenant to Captain, filling the spot previously held by Scott Reggio. On Oct. 10, 2013, Paul Edmonson was again promoted, this time to the rank of major. This time however, he was promoted into a spot in which there was no incumbent, indicating that the position was created especially for his benefit.
  • His rise has been nothing less than meteoric. Since December 2006, he has gone from the rank of sergeant to lieutenant to captain to major at warp speed and his pay rose accordingly, from $57,500 to $136,800 a year, a 138 percent increase—all under the watchful eye of his brother.

Doesn’t it give you a warm fuzzy to know that the good folks like Alario and Riser (who also, of course, voted for SCR 122) are looking out for us?

And isn’t it interesting, by the way, to know that Angele Davis, who tried to get Jill Boudreaux to repay her ill-gotten gains from her pseudo-early retirement, is pitted against Riser, who tried to sneak that illegal pension boost for Edmonson, in the upcoming election to succeed John Kennedy as State Treasurer?

As our late friend C.B. Forgotston would say if he were with us: You can’t make this stuff up.

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At the risk of an onset of “Troopergate Fatigue,” details keep emerging involving expensive TRIPS to conferences by members of former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s inner circle on the taxpayers’ dime.

But while The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Jim Mustian was busy documenting yet another of those trips, this one to Orlando back in 2014, LouisianaVoice has learned that members of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) now recognize that they were apparently asleep at the wheel when they approved the creation of a Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) position last August at the behest of Edmonson.

Of course it didn’t hurt that Edmonson, described by virtually anyone who knows him as a slick snake oil salesman, was able to schmooze the somnolent commission into approving his request.

But the thing that is really tragic about the whole affair is that it led directly to the forced resignation of LSPC Executive Director Cathy Derbonne when she pointed out irregularities in the procedures employed to elevate Maj. Jason Starnes into the position.

Once she was onto the scam, she simply had to go.

Events were set in motion when Edmonson, getting the cart ahead of the proverbial horse, listed Starnes as “undersecretary” on the State Police Web page. Derbonne pointed out to the Edmonson that the designation of undersecretary was incorrect because Starnes did not occupy the position. In fact, the designation of undersecretary was not Edmonson’s to convey; that responsibility belongs exclusively to the governor.

Edmonson conceded that her assertion was correct but said that he had given Starnes “oversight” over the Office of Finance and that he “has assumed those duties in his current position.” From that moment on, Derbonne’s fate was sealed.

“What I’d like to do in this position is create an unclassified position just like we have with all the lieutenant colonels. We still hold and maintain a classified position of Major so that, if I brought (in) a lieutenant colonel and said, ‘We’re making a change,’ they can go back to that classified position.”

In his August appearance before the board to pitch the new position, Edmonson explained that he was asking to “create this temporary assignment. I am not increasing my T.O. (Table of Organization, i.e. actual permanent positions) I am not creating any additional funding issues…He’ll do that position within that rank. My desire is to create…a CAO because of how much work we do within our office.”

Edmonson then offered to address any questions commission members had. One of those, from Jared Caruso-Riecke, was about any additions funding necessary for the position. Edmonson assured Riecke there would be “no new funds. It was not my intention to even ask for that,” he said.

This is where things got dicey.

Commission member Eulis Simien seconded the motion for approval of the position “with the understanding that we are accepting the motion to create a position not relative to any particular person. Whatever appointment would be based on being after the position is created.”

Yet, only moments before, Edmonson had specifically committed the position to Starnes in a statement that apparently every single member of the commission managed to miss. Asked by Riecke about the duties of the position and whether they were “created somewhat by the board that you have now, Edmonson responded, “Correct. Jason Starnes will come in this position and assume the duties and oversight.”

To hear that commitment, go HERE and scroll to the 2:27 mark in his testimony.

Then, no sooner had Starnes been officially named to the new position than he was rewarded with a $25,000 increase that prompted former member Lloyd Grafton (he ultimately resigned from the commission after questioning its overall integrity) to challenge the pay increase because of the promise by Edmonson that no additional funds would be incurred—another tidbit missed by everyone but Grafton.

When a formal complaint was lodged over the transfer of a classified member of the State Police Service being transferred to an unclassified position outside the State Police Service (as with the Starnes assignment), a violation of Rule 14.3g, contract attorney Taylor Townsend (initially hired to investigate campaign contributions by members of the Louisiana State Troopers Association but whose duties were apparently expanded to that of general counsel) said that Starnes was not officially appointed to the undersecretary position. Townsend confirmed that only the governor, and not Edmonson, had the authority to fill the position of deputy superintendent.

When Townsend further explained that the commission’s August approval of the CAO position had rendered the investigation of the complaint moot, Riecke moved to go into executive session.

LouisianaVoice protested that an executive session on that matter was illegal because it was not to discuss pending litigation or an employee’s character but Townsend said the closed door session was to discuss personnel matters.

Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law (R.S. 42:16-17) provides that a public body may go into executive session if two-thirds of the members present vote to go into executive session. In executive session, public officials may only discuss a) the character, professional competence or physical or mental health of a person (unless the person is being considered for an appointment), b) strategy or negotiations regarding collective bargaining or future or current litigation, c) security personnel, plans or devices, d) investigative proceedings regarding alleged misconduct or e) an extraordinary emergency.

Because the discussion was not about the character, professional competence or physical or mental health of Starnes, nor was it about hiring him specifically, but instead was about whether or not the creation of the position itself was legal, LouisianaVoice maintained at the time and continues to hold that the executive session was illegal, Townsend’s professional legal opinion notwithstanding.

Predictably, upon emerging from the 25-minute closed-door confab, Riecke made the motion that no further action be taken on the investigation of the complaint.

Townsend, of course, the same attorney who recommended no action be taken on the LSTA campaign contributions matter. He also never submitted any report to the commission to support his recommendation.

Finally reacting to the constant prodding of retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur, the commission last Thursday decided to request that all of Townsend’s papers generated by his “investigation” be forwarded to the commission since his contract stipulates that all his findings would become the property of the commission.

But that was not the only voice of concern emerging from Thursday’s otherwise tranquil meeting.

It now seems that Simien is also now concerned over Edmonson’s apparent misleading statements to the commission last August regarding the Starnes appointment. Go HERE and scroll to the 2:07 mark to hear his comments.

All this because Derbonne had the temerity to do her job land point out to Edmonson that he had incorrectly and improperly designated Starnes as a lieutenant colonel on the State Police Web page.

We can somewhat understand why, given the political nature of LSP and the players involved, why Derbonne became the sacrificial lamb. She was the easiest to set up, the most vulnerable, and best of all, expendable, both in terms of the ease of getting rid of her and replacing her.

What we fail to understand is why two members of the commission then, with their own money, retained the services of a private investigator to follow her. This was apparently done, LouisianaVoice has learned, in an effort to determine who within LSP might be leaking information to her.

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Audience members attending the regular monthly meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) on Thursday could be forgiven for believing they were attending the wrong meeting. During brief recesses, many attendees were observed commenting about the lack of tension and anxiety that have been so prevalent in past meetings.

With the exception of one hostile exchange between board member Calvin Braxton and Chairman T. J. Doss, the meeting was devoid of the hostility which has dominated so many of its meetings over the last several years. That hostile exchange arose from item five of the meeting’s agenda, which called for retaining the promotional test scores for 2016, with them remaining valid for another year. At its previous meeting, the educational authorities explained that, because of significant changes in the content of the examination, everyone should be required to retest to qualify for a promotion.

Braxton’s frustration stemmed from his contention that he had the full and enthusiastic support of Chairman Doss right up to the point of the meeting, at which time Braxton claimed Doss “had a totally different story” and opposed his measure, thus “making me look stupid.” Doss countered in saying, “I’m one vote,” and then stated that Braxton’s memory of their conversations was “quite selective.” Braxton, clearly irked by that remark, said, “Well, I tell you what,” and then decided not to complete his sentence and concluded, “I’m done with it.” He then apologized to the audience and to the troopers.

Leon “Bucky” Millet, retired trooper, has long voiced his complaints entailing the Commission, and, at the request of board member Eulis Simien, Jr., Millet, a watchdog over the Commission who has intensified his oversight over the last two years, submitted all his complaints in writing. One of those complaints entailed Millet’s contention that a “conflict” exists regarding Chairman Doss, as an active trooper, simultaneously serving as Chairman of the Commission. Perhaps subscribing to the theory that the best defense is an aggressive offense, Chairman Doss stunned Millet, other board members, and the audience by voluntarily agreeing to forego any promotional testing (and thus any promotions) during the duration of his 3 ½ year term as Chairman. Millet acknowledged that would allay any concerns he had regarding any conflict.

Next, Commission Executive Director Jason Hannaman addressed Millet’s complaint regarding “prohibited political activity” entailing the law firm of Taylor, Porter by indicating that the complaint “appears without merit” because the law firm is not a member of the Commission and therefore not subject to the same restrictions as members are subjected. The Commission voted unanimously to accept Hannaman’s report on the matter.

Next, Hannaman addressed the Jason Starnes appointment. He tiptoed around the prospect that former LSP Colonel Mike Edmonson may have initially improperly appointed Starnes to a position, but he indicated that the action was corrected via Starnes’ appointment to another newly-created position (Chief Administrative Officer). Upon Hannaman concluding his report, member Eulis Simien, Jr. voiced displeasure with “the manner in which the approval for that position came about.” He specifically referenced him, along with other members, being under a clearly-false perception that the position would entail no increase in pay.

In reality, Starnes received a substantial increase in pay from the creation of the position. Millet then stated that Simien previously asked Edmondson if the position was being created for Jason Starnes, and that Edmonson “emphatically denied” that the position was being created for Starnes. Simien stated that his recollection of his question was “directed at a position and not for any particular person.” Millet acknowledged that may well be the case, but that, “in my wildest imagination, the position wouldn’t be created for anyone but Jason Starnes.” The Commission voted to accept Hannaman’s report with the caveat that “misleading information had been provided.” Members Monica Manzella and Harold Pierite, Sr. abstained based upon them not having been board members at the time the position was approved.

Next, Hannaman addressed nominations to fill Commission vacancies. Hannaman indicated proper procedures for notifying colleges of vacancies and requesting names of those colleges to fill those vacancies were followed until around 2008. Thereafter, Hammaman indicated the colleges “were not notified by the Executive Director of the LSPC” and that, therefore, “in turn, the colleges failed to send nominations to the governor to fill vacancies that occurred.” Hannaman indicated corrective action was taken on or around October 13, 2016 to require the executive director to notify colleges and universities going forward and further indicated that governor(s) had acted properly in that the Louisiana Constitution “provides that they shall make appointments if the colleges fail to make nominations.”

Millet stated past actions by governors were tantamount to “speeding but there was no speed limit sign.” Commissioners Jared Caruso-Riecke, echoing sentiments first espoused by Simien, said he, Simien, and Manzella were “appointed under the procedure being complained about” but emphasized that all of their appointments “were legal.” Riecke also added that no “legal burden” existed for the Commission to notify the colleges but it just did so as a practice but, going forward, since the Commission had implemented a rule to notify colleges, notices would go out going forward. Simien echoed those sentiments. Millet indicated he was satisfied with the Commission’s corrective actions.

Next, the issue of WAEs (when actually employed) employees was addressed. Ginger Krieg, Human Resources Manager for Louisiana Public Safety, emphasized that, in order to qualify for these positions, one must have graduated from the LSP Academy; however, Millet countered that he could supply names of WAE employees who aren’t such graduates and referenced one “making $80,000 a year for coming in a day or two a week.” The Commission committed to having a full list of WAE employees for the next meeting, after which time the Commission will decide which positions for which it will seek job descriptions and duties for those employees.

The Commission also discussed records retention and the potential requirement for a written investigative report by former Commission legal counsel Taylor Townsend. The Commission committed to send Townsend a written request that all Commission files be returned, and it also instructed legal counsel Lenore Feeney to research whether Townsend was in fact required to issue a written report of his findings (she indicated she felt a written report was indeed required).

Also discussed was Millet’s complaints entailing malfeasance in office and payroll fraud. Chairman Doss indicated that matters such as that must be investigated by the appropriate law enforcement authorities and not by the Commission. Millet was accepting of that statement.

Audience members openly discussed why the Commission’s meeting today differed so markedly from those of the recent past in terms of transparency and tranquility. One frequent attendee indicated she felt the Commission had little choice because it had been “pressured” into changing by blog and newspaper exposure. Another regular attendee referenced the prospect that the absence of the overbearing shadow of former Col. Mike Edmonson resulted in Commission members, employees, and others feeling far more relaxed. Perhaps the best question to ask regarding the stunning improvement in meeting atmosphere is “does it really matter what brought it about?”

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Little more than a year ago, on February 15, 2016, Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) case worker Kimberly Lee of Calhoun in Ouachita Parish was ARRESTED and booked into jail with bond set at $25,000.

Her crime? She was accused of falsifying entries in her case records showing she had made home visits to foster children when she hadn’t. Her agency had undergone massive budget cuts and the cuts, combined with more children entering foster care, meant an impossible caseload. That, in turn, had prompted a Shreveport DCFS supervisor to tell caseworkers that they could make “drive-by” visits to foster homes, which meant talking to the foster parents in their driveways. Policy says that workers will see both the child and the foster parent in the home, interviewing each separately.

On Thursday, the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), showing all the backbone of a jellyfish, accepted an agreement reached between Louisiana State Police (LSP) attorneys and former trooper Ronald Picou’s attorney Jill Craft of Baton Rouge.

That agreement called for LSP to rescind its letter of termination in exchange for Picou’s “resignation” for the same offense as Ms. Lee—except where her time sheet falsification was over a relative short time period, Picou’s went on for years.

And where Ms. Lee’s responsibility called for the oversight of the well-being of foster children (certainly a serious responsibility), Picou’s was for the general safety and protection of Louisiana citizens.

Nor was his caseload overly burdensome. He simply went home and went to bed after only two or three hours on his 12-hour shifts.

Craft, addressing the LSPC as if she were arguing a legal case, complete with the obligatory rhetoric, said her client was making a sacrifice for the benefit of his family and his “brothers in blue,” that he loved working “as a dedicated law enforcement officer for the better part of a decade,” and that a lot of “irresponsible reporting” had been done about Picou.

Funny, but when LouisianaVoice did a story about one of her clients winning a big court case, she never breathed a word about “irresponsible” reporting. Guess it depends on whose ox is being gored, eh counselor?

So, bottom line, Picou was allowed to walk away from his transgressions a free man. Unemployed at least for the time being, but free to accept another job in law enforcement for some city or town—or even another state agency as was the case of one terminated State Trooper who ended up policing for Pinecrest State School in Pineville.

“Irresponsible” are the actions of a man who ran a daytime construction business so he would cut his shift short by eight or nine hours so he could go home and sleep so he would be fresh when he did his day job.

“Irresponsible” are the tacit approvals given his actions by his supervisors at LSP Troop D in Lake Charles—Troop D Commander Capt. Chris Guillory and Picou’s immediate supervisor, Lt. Paul Brady.

“Irresponsible” are the sham investigations conducted first by Guillory and then by LSP Internal Affairs until LouisianaVoice published its “irresponsible” stories—backed up by Picou’s very own radio logs that repeatedly showed no activity after the first few hours of his shift. Only then did LSP conduct any semblance of a real investigation and subsequently gave Picou his walking papers. Of course he appealed his firing, which was the basis of Thursday’s scheduled hearing by LSPC until commissioners were informed of, and asked to approve, the settlement agreement. Commissioners went into executive session all of 12 minutes to discuss the proposed agreement before accepting it unanimously—and without comment.

Asked if the agreement precluded Picou’s ever working again as a police officer for another agency, commission Chairman T.J. Doss said the commission had no authority over that matter. Asked if commissioners, who had the power to accept or reject the agreement, could not have insisted on a clause in the agreement to that effect, member Eulis Simien, an attorney, reiterated the position that the commission had no authority over Picou’s future employment.

But the commission did have the authority to accept or reject the agreement. And while the commission has no enforcement authority, it certainly could have refused to rubber stamp the agreement until that wording was included.

The LSPC has evolved into a running joke with the resignations of five of seven commissioners within the past year and the forced resignation of former Executive Director Cathy Derbonne.

Only last month the commission rejected the appeal—with only member Calvin Braxton voting no—of a State Trooper who provided substantial evidence to back up his claim that he was harassed and ultimately suspended by supervisors in Troop F after he issued a traffic ticket to the teenage driver of a vehicle in which the son of Troop Commander Tommy Lewis was a passenger. For whatever reason, the commission apparently saw no reason to call in witnesses or to take statements from those involved.

The powers that be wanted the trooper punished and that was that.

On Thursday, it was determined that a Trooper who took an oath of office to serve and protect and to uphold the Constitution but who instead committed payroll fraud should be allowed to resign and walk away.

Does the term double standard carry any meaning anymore?

Perhaps it would be irresponsible to ask that.

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