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Archive for the ‘State Police’ Category

Prussian Prime Minister and German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once said that the man who wished to keep his respect for sausages and laws should not see how either is made.

HOUSE BILL 346 Rep. Dotie Horton (R-Haughton) is a perfect example.

First, the bill would have given municipal civil service firefighters and policemen the right no other civil servant in Louisiana currently enjoys, namely:

  • To assist in voter registration drives when off-duty;
  • To make political contributions;
  • To attend political rallies, meetings and fundraisers while off-duty;
  • To join political groups (other than just political parties);
  • To sign nominating petitions;
  • To participate in political campaigns when off-duty.

The reason this was a bad bill, besides that it specifically excludes all civil service employees other than firefighters and police, is that it opens the door for incumbent office-holders to exert pressure on employees under his or her supervision to participate in fund-raising and voter drives on his or her behalf against the employee’s will.

The fact that Horton’s bill contained language that strictly forbade such action or reprisals against employees who supported the wrong candidate, there are obviously ways to retaliate against an employee considered politically disloyal:

  • Assignment to menial work;
  • Unfavorable employee performance reviews, adversely affecting merit pay raises;
  • Refusals to promote employees.

Anyone who truly believes Horton’s proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting disciplinary action or coercion of a public employee would actually work has his head in the sand. There are just too many subtle ways to make an employee’s life miserable without adding political patronage to the list.

And the real story here isn’t that the bill garnered only an anemic 29 VOTES on the floor of the House on Monday against 64 nay votes and 12 absences. That’s actually 29 more than it deserved.

Can’t you see the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association, if the bill had passed and been approved by voters, cranking up its legal team for the discrimination lawsuit that would almost certainly have followed to have state police included?

Again, that’s not the story.

The story would be how the House CIVIL LAW AND PROCEDURE COMMITTEE voted on the bill to get it to the House floor and how its nine members voted afterward.

The committee voted unanimously to move the bill forward. That’s 9-0 in favor. That’s Reps. Raymond Garofalo (R-Chalmette), Randal Gaines (D-LaPlace), Robby Carter (D-Amite), Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City), Mary DuBuisson (R-Slidell), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), Mike Johnson (R-Pineville), Tanner Magee (R-Houma) and Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) all voting yes.

Yet, when it came to the floor vote, there were six defections and another just took a powder.

Only Jenkins and Magee voted yes. Crews, DuBuisson, Gaines, Garofalo, Mike Johnson, and Seabaugh all voted thumbs down. Robbie Carter was no where to be found when the vote was taken.

Obviously, the committee members didn’t want the onus on them, so they passed the buck to get the bill to the full House, knowing, perhaps, it never stood a chance.

So, because the committee members couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do their jobs (or at least vote their true convictions), they punted to the full House so it could waste time on the bill.

Maybe that’s what old Otto was talking about.

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There are those like a certain former governor who see no good in any state employee. Perhaps that is why efforts were exerted to privatize every state government agency in sight and even to the extent of destroying one of the better teaching hospital systems in the country.

And gutting higher education’s budget only brought higher tuition costs, putting a college education out of reach of thousands of Louisiana students.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons Louisiana is the SEVENTH-FASTEST shrinking state in the nation, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a research organization that routinely publishes lists of the best and worst in a wide array of subjects.

Of course, another reason steeped in Louisiana tradition is the sordid history of CORRUPTION that has permeated the political culture of this state for longer than anyone reading this has lived.

And when you have a state legislature that ignores the well-being of the state’s citizens in favor of the corporate interests of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the oil and gas industry get first consideration, it’s no wonder that folks are a tad jaded.

Yet, thousands of state employees report to work each day to do jobs that go largely unnoticed—until something goes awry. Then, of course, all hell breaks loose. A civil servant gets fined for receiving an unsolicited Christmas ham from a vendor (that really happened), but another employee, an administrator, gets caught claiming time on the job while actually on vacation and nothing gets done.

Let a few rank and file state troopers drive across country for a conference at the direction of the State Police Superintendent and they are punished while the superintendent is allowed to retire—with full benefits.

Let another agency head trade sex with the manager of a restaurant in exchange for a permit to operate and nothing happens. But that same agency head dished out arbitrary punishment and fired employees for no cause and it took civil lawsuits to bring some measure of justice. And not even all of the lawsuits produced satisfactory results for the fired employees.

I write all that to say that while little seems to get done much of the time, there is one agency that has uncovered nearly $6.3 million in criminal violations, initiated investigations that have resulted in 51 criminal prosecutions that have resulted in produced 57 terminations or resignations.

A hard-charging, politically ambitious, headline-seeking prosecutor?

Nope. Just the work-a-day numbers-crunchers working for Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

From Jan. 1, 2015, through Nov. 13, 2017, Purpera’s office has submitted 108  investigative audits of local and state government agencies, boards and commissions and quasi-public entities. From those 108 investigative audits came 72 actual reports with 200 findings reported and 555 recommendations made.

summary of projects

An investigative audit, by definition, is far more serious than routine audits that agencies undergo on a regular basis. Before embarking on an investigative audit, there must be a reason for the auditor’s office to suspect some kind of wrongdoing.

The dollar amount covered in those 118 investigative audits was $148.96 million dollars with almost $6.3 million in alleged criminal violations turned up.

Some of the more high-profile investigative audits performed during the 22-month period included:

  • Misappropriation of funds by an employee of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Misapplication of funds at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches;
  • Improper payments and tickets to athletic events at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette;
  • Improper expenditure of $268,000 by the Institute for Academic Excellence in New Orleans;
  • Improper expenditure of $360,000 by the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Nearly $800,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the 9th Judicial District Attorney in Rapides Parish;
  • Employees of the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Office improperly paid for 51 days that they did not work;
  • Numerous violations by management at Angola State Penitentiary which resulted in the resignation of Warden Burl Cain and others;
  • Nearly $200,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the District Attorney’s Special Asset Forfeiture Fund as required by the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Mismanagement and missing state equipment from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries;
  • Improper use of state vehicle, hotel rooms, personnel, meals and training facilities by management personnel of Louisiana State Police;
  • Improper use of $164,000 of state funds by two employees and a student worker, unauthorized use of student identification cards, unauthorized free meals totaling more than $12,600 and improper advances of financial aid to students at Grambling State University.
  • Failure of the Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority in New Orleans to collect more than $600,000 in boat slip rental fees.

So, while it’s easy to criticize civil servants, it’s important to understand that while the public perception may be one of “deadheads,” they are people just like you—people with mortgages, student debt, family illnesses, and myriad other concerns (again, just like you). They are your neighbors, your friends and your relatives and they show up for work every day—just like you. And they struggle to make ends meet—just like you.

Given that, it’s a little difficult for me to understand how someone like autocrat Trump can pretend to say he relates with 800,000 federal workers who are facing the second pay period without a paycheck.

It’s puzzling also that daughter-in-law/adviser Lara Trump calls the government shutdown during which federal employees have to resort to food banks to eat, hold garage sales to pay the rent, or worse, be ordered to work without pay thus preventing them from taking part-time jobs that do pay, “a little bit of a pain.” This privileged, self-centered little rich girl has never known “a little bit of a pain.” so, how the hell can she relate?

And how can Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett even dare to suggest that idled workers are better off because they’re benefiting from “a free vacation”? That’s unsurpassed arrogance.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took the prize by suggesting that federal workers simply run out to the corner bank or credit union and float a loan.

Perhaps Ross was trying to encourage them to borrow from the Bank of Cyprus that he once headed as it washed the money of Russian oligarchs.

All of this just so Trump can try to score some kind of vague point in order to say he’s a winner.

But my question to all those I’ve talked to who suddenly think a wall is of the utmost importance to the continued existence of a free and pure America is simply this:

Did you ever—even ONCE—consider the crushing need for a wall before Trump tossed the idea out as a throw-away line during a campaign stop in 2016? Did you know he was instructed to do that by his handlers only as a means of keeping him on topic?

Neither Trump, you, your mama, my mama, nor anyone else had ever given a wall a fleeting thought until then. Suddenly, it became the holy grail for all his followers who were unable to come up with an original thought of their own. And so, they fell in lockstep and followed, like so many sheep.

But there was another part to his promise that he has quietly dropped.

Mexico ain’t paying for it.

So, that’s my tribute to public employees, both state and federal and I hope to hell every one of them remembers our two U.S. Senators and five of our six U.S. Representatives who blindly support Trump’s every asinine utterance, tweet, and stumbling, bumbling, fumbling action.

 

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It’s no secret that LouisianaVoice has often been in disagreement with actions of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) and LSTA legal counsel Floyd Falcoln. So, to say it took the perfect storm to bring us all into accord is something of an understatement.

The Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) has inserted itself into a roiling controversy surrounding actions by a former Sterlington High School football coach and in the process, crossed swords with the Ouachita Parish School Board.

And while at first blush, it would seem inappropriate for a state agency like LSPC to engage itself in local matters, especially in the discipline of a high school coach, Robert Burns of the blog Sound Off Louisiana provides key insight into how double standards are applied at the sacred altar of high school football.

Thanks to Burns and his POST of today (Sept. 11) which was re-posted by Walter Abbott’s LINCOLN PARISH NEWS ONLINE, we have a pretty clear picture of why the LSPC, the equivalent of the state police civil service commission, got itself involved in a local matter—and we concur fully in the LSPC action.

In April 2017, when a student party ran short of beer, Sterlington football coach JACK GOODE voluntarily provided partiers with more booze, including vodka. When 16-year-old Chandler Jones resisted the hard stuff, Goode forced him to drink it until he got sick. Goode then struck the teen several times in the chest and face.

A responsible adult, upon being told by a bunch of teenagers that their party had run out of beer, would have shut the party down immediately. But Goode, by all accounts, was anything but a responsible adult on the night in question. In fact, Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies described him as “highly intoxicated.”

That was bad enough but it turned out that the Jones teenager was the son of state trooper Joseph Jones who, though off-duty, arrived on the scene simultaneous to the arrival of Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies. Jones had been contacted by a deputy who was the parent of another student at the party.

Goode was arrested and charged with battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. District Attorney Steve Tew, however, reduced charges against Goode to misdemeanor battery. Goode walked away from the incident after paying a $300 fine and stepping down as a teacher and coach at Sterlington High School.

The LSPC became indirectly involved when it upheld disciplinary action against the elder Jones for involving himself in a sheriff’s office investigation while off-duty. By a 4-2 vote, Jones was handed a 12-hour suspension while Goode was quickly hired by the Ouachita Parish School Board as a teacher at West Monroe High School.

LSPC, incensed at Goode’s being allowed to remain in the school system after such egregious behavior while Jones received a suspension for doing what any reasonable parent would do under similar circumstances, fired off a LETTER highly critical of the board’s irresponsible actions.

The letter, signed by all seven LSPC members, said that even though Trooper Jones “acted with greater restraint than many parents would have under the circumstances,” the commission nevertheless meted out what it deemed to be appropriate discipline for Jones having intervened in a sheriff’s department investigation, discipline the letter said “was in order for a violation of State Police policies.”

“Yet, despite the horrendous conduct of Mr. Goode, we understand that he is still employed by the School Board and still has access to and authority over minors in your school system.

“This Commission is appalled that this School Board continues to employ Jack Goode in such a capacity after the events that occurred in April 2017, and (that) it continues to allow Mr. Goode to work as a teacher of minor children at West Monroe High School.”

Well, someone has to be the adult in the room and it’s obvious that neither Goode nor the Ouachita Parish School Board are prepared to stake out their claims to such lofty ideals.

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I have to respectfully disagree with Kevin Reeves.

Col. Reeves, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent, penned a LETTER to the editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate today (Friday, Aug. 31) in which he questioned the appropriateness and purpose of the paper’s continued reporting of what he referred to as an “incident” that occurred “over 20 months ago.”

The “incident,” of course, was that ill-advised road trip by four troopers to a San Diego convention—in and LSP vehicle—by way of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, which proved to be the tipping point that brought the career of Reeves’s predecessor, Mike Edmonson, already rocked with a succession of scandals, to an abrupt end.

Reeves, who by all accounts, has demonstrated his determination to set LSP back on course and to restore its image, said it is time for The Advocate (and LouisianaVoice, I assume, though we were not mentioned in his letter) to “move forward” and to pull back on its negative coverage.

I’m certain that Col. Reeves needs no reminder that it was the State Police Commission (the LSP equivalent of the State Civil Service Commission) that kept the issue alive by its interminable foot-dragging in its investigation of the trip.

Repeated attempts by retired State Police Lt. Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur to prod the commission into a full-blown investigation of the trip, as well as several apparent violations of LSP regulations and state laws by the Louisiana State Troopers Association, were met by delays followed by yet more delays and postponements as the commissioners seemed determined to turn a blind eye to events occurring under their collective noses.

In the end, Reeves attempted to mete out appropriate punishment to the four troopers who pleaded ignorance of regulations and who said they were merely following the directives of Edmonson. (Ironically, such pleadings of ignorance never carry the day when a motorist is pulled over for a traffic violation.)

But again, it was the commission, in its resolve to tidy things over, that overturned Reeves’s punishment in a recent hearing held in Monroe. That, for good, bad, or indifferent, kept the story alive. When the head of Louisiana State Police is blocked from disciplining errant troopers for actions they well should have known were improper, that’s legitimate news and it should be reported.

First, it was Maya Lau who covered the State Police Commission. She was a quiet but effective reporter and did an excellent job until she left to go to work for the Los Angeles Times. She was succeeded by Jim Mustian who also held the commission accountable. Now he’s leaving for a job in New York with the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, yours truly is staying put. I’m not going anywhere and I will continue to report on all governmental wrongdoing, local or state.

For instance, there is still the pending matter involving State Trooper Eric Adams:

WAFB-TV story

Warrant-redacted

Criminal dismissal

Petition

Motion for Sanctions

Answer & Recon Demand-filed

 

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It was the end of February 1968 and John J. McKeithen was just completing his first term of office. (Unlike today, when statewide inaugurations are held in January, state elected officials then took their oaths of office in May.)

McKeithen had earlier upset long-standing tradition when he managed to change the State Constitution during his first term so that he could run for re-election. Previous governors could serve only a single four-year term before being required to (a) seek another office or (b) start raising funds and lining up support for a return four years hence. In other words, governors were barred from serving two consecutive terms.

But this isn’t about McKeithen’s savvy political machinations that allowed him to become the first modern-day governor to succeed himself. It is instead about another precedent set by the Caldwell Parish native: The invoking of gubernatorial powers under Article IX, Section 8 of the 1921 Louisiana State Constitution which resulted in the heretofore unthinkable act of suspending a sitting sheriff from office.

It’s about how the current State Constitution, adopted in 1974, removed that authority from the governor.

And it’s about how, given the freewheeling manner in which some sheriffs wield power in their respective parishes, it might not be a bad idea if that authority was reinstated if for no other reason than to serve as a constant reminder to sheriffs that their actions could have consequences.

Yes, sheriffs are elected officials answerable to their constituents and if they keep getting elected, what business would a governor have in being able to say otherwise, especially if the sheriff and governor were political adversaries?

And if the sheriff can fool the electorate, there are always the courts. But face it, the local district attorney and the sheriff are usually strong political allies who present a formidable team to anyone who would question their authority. There are exceptions, like DA Earl Taylor and Sheriff Bobby Guidroz in St. Landry, who don’t exactly gee-haw on much of anything.

But then there is Louis Ackal in Iberia Parish whose strong-arm tactics, especially where blacks are concerned, has become a source of embarrassment to the locals—or at least should be—and would be even more of a pariah if the local newspaper, the Daily Iberian, was courageous enough to call him out for his egregious flaunting of basic human dignity and his contemptuous trampling of constitutional rights.

In the case of Jessel Ourso of Iberville Parish, across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, it was just a matter of a little Louisiana extortion that prompted McKEITHEN TO OUST OURSO on Feb. 9, 1968. Iberville was in the midst of a construction explosion with chemical plants sprouting up all along the Mississippi and the high sheriff was in a unique position to take full advantage of the boom.

Ourso placed his brother in a no-show job as a union steward for the Teamsters at one plant and contractors were ordered to lease equipment from Ourso’s nephew, State Trooper Jackie Jackson. The tipping point, though, was apparently Ourso’s requirement that contractors use a guard service owned and operated by the sheriff.

One witness described an atmosphere of “just plain racketeering and shakedowns through collusion of individual law enforcement officers and labor.” (Imagine that: the word collusion was being bantered about half-a-century ago.)

McKeithen’s decision to suspend Ourso was based on the recommendation of then-State Comptroller Roy Theriot, a recommendation which in turn stemmed from a report by Legislative Auditor J.B. Lancaster which laid out Ourso’s strong-arm tactics, including his preventing contractors from firing workers who were performing no work.

In Ackal’s case prisoners have died under mysterious circumstances, dogs have been loosed on helpless prisoners in the parish detention center, prisoners have been sexually abused, and women employees have sued—and won settlements—over sexual harassment claims.

A television network recently aired a documentary on Ackal’s fiefdom, concentrating on the death of Victor White, III, who, while he sat in a patrol car with his hands cuffed, was fatally shot in the chest—a shooting that was ruled by the local coroner as a suicide, as improbable as that had to be, considering his hands were cuffed behind him.

Ackal’s office has paid out more than $3 million in legal judgments and settlements in his 10 years in office—a rate of $25,000 for each of the 120 months he has been in office. And that’s not even counting the attorney fees of about $1.5 million. Those numbers are far more than any other parish in the state except perhaps Orleans.

And there are other cases currently pending against Ackal and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Like the LAWSUIT just filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Lafayette by Michael and Suzzanne Williams.

In that action, the pair said that sheriff’s detective Jacques LeBlanc, who has since left the department, obtained a search warrant for their home because he “thought” he had reason to believe the couple was in possession of “illegal narcotics, drug paraphernalia, currency and other controlled dangerous substance(s).”

When voices were heard outside their bedroom, Michael Williams went to the front door. When he opened it, he was ordered out of the house and deputies stormed the house. They forced Mrs. Williams outside clad only in bra and panties, refusing to allow her to dress. Williams was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car while deputies ransacked their home.

Officers “did not find a scintilla” of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia or illegal narcotics, their petition says. Following a fruitless search, they were released with no charges being filed.

Williams subsequently appeared at the sheriff’s office on numerous occasions in an attempt to obtain a copy of the search warrant and affidavit but were provided with neither, although they have since obtained a copy of the search warrant through other sources. They still do not have the affidavit on which the warrant ostensibly was based. Instead, they were told by Dist. Judge Lewis Pittman, who signed the warrant, that LeBlanc swore under oath that he had good reason to believe they were in possession of drugs.

They are claiming that LeBlanc knew his statement to the effect that he believed they had drugs was false and that he committed perjury in order to obtain the warrant.

They are seeking $2 million in damages in their lawsuit.

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