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Mike Edmonson has missed his self-imposed deadline.

First, Edmonson, former Superintendent of Louisiana State Police (LSP) screamed foul when a state AUDIT of LSP was leaked prematurely, ostensibly before he’d had the opportunity to review it and to respond.

Then, when WWL-TV ran a screen shot of the auditor’s LETTER to Edmonson, we learned that the alleged “leak” in all likelihood came from Edmonson himself because only two copies of the audit were printed.

One copy went to LSP and the other to Edmonson for his review and comments before publication. But only one of those two copies contained the letter to the former state top cop.

That would seem to eliminate all potential sources of the leak but one: Edmonson himself.

But Edmonson, apparently unaware of the significance of that screen shot, went on the offensive, claiming that he had been grievously wronged by the premature “leaking” of the audit before he had his chance to respond.

“For inexplicable reasons, the confidential draft report regarding me and the Louisiana State Police was leaked to the media and the contents of the draft then was (sic) disseminated to media outlets throughout the State—all before I could respond to the various contentions (sic),” he said in a written statement to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera. “Realizing the inherent unfairness to me, the residents of our State, as well as respect for the normal procedures, I trust your office has begun an investigation into this improper conduct and will soon report your findings.

“…Given the publication of large segments of a preliminary commentary, and the apparent breach of normal practices that seems to have disclosed the entirety of the confidential draft report, I am now constrained (sic) to notify you that you can release the report and provide your report to the Louisiana State Senate this week. I, in turn, will promptly deliver my response feeling confident the residents of this State will not prematurely reach conclusions until all of the facts are presented. That is the way the process works, that is the only impartial and objective approach, and I strongly believe that is what our fellow citizens expect.”

On Dec. 14, he said he would submit his official response to the audit’s “various contentions” by Jan. 15, 2018. That gave him a full month to compose his rebuttal.

https://louisianavoice.com/2017/12/14/edmonson-predictably-tries-to-spin-lsp-audit-release-as-gov-edwards-like-lady-macbeth-tries-in-vain-to-remove-the-spot/

January 15, 2018, came and went yesterday (Monday) and a text message to Purpera’s office revealed Edmonson has yet to submit his response.

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The ongoing soap opera of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), which in no way resembles its membership makeup of a little more than a year ago, continues unabated.

In a relatively short time, the commission has undergone a complete membership turnover, has seen two commission chairmen resign under pressure, a member resigning in protest over what he called a lack of integrity on the part of fellow commissioners, the resignations or removals of other members, and the forced resignation of its executive director.

Now that former executive director, Cathy Derbonne, is back with a vengeance—and with an attorney known in Baton Rouge for taking on the establishment in a take-no-prisoners frontal assault.

Derbonne and her attorney, Jill Craft, have filed suit against the Louisiana State Police Commission, claiming that then-Commission Chairman T.J. Doss, commission member Jared Caruso-Riecke, Louisiana State Police upper command (including then-Superintendent Mike Edmonson) conspired to force her from the job she had held for eight years.

DERBONNE PETITION

She claims in her lawsuit that the reprisals started after she initiated an investigation into reports that members of the commission and the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) had violated regulations against political activity by making monetary contributions to several political campaigns, including that of Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards.

She alleges in her petition that Doss was sharply critical of her at the LSTA convention held in Lafayette in June 2016. She claims that Doss said the furor over the political contributions were her fault and that she “had lost her mind.”

She says a year later, on July 14, 2016, Doss was detailed from his job in Troop G in Shreveport to Baton Rouge headquarters “with the purpose of closely monitoring and observing (Derbonne’s) daily routine,” and the following day he appeared unannounced in her office to ask when was the last time she had been evaluated “which petitioner (Derbonne) understood was a threat.”

When she brought an unlawful pay increases of as much as 32 percent for Edmonson and four of his top deputies to the attention of the Legislative Fiscal Office in September 2016, many of her administrative duties were taken from her by the commission through the efforts of Doss.

She said on Jan. 7 of this year she received an anonymous letter warning her that Doss, by then elevated to commission Chairman, was leading a “secret charge” for her removal. Five days later, at the Jan. 12 commission meeting, she was told that the commission had the necessary votes to remove her. They pressured her to resign, saying they would humiliate her in public.

She did resign but says in her lawsuit that she was harassed and “constructively discharged” in reprisal for her engaging in activities protected under state statute.

She is requesting a trial by jury.

Only two members, Jared-Riecke and Eulis Simien, Jr., remains from the commission membership that convened on Jan. 12. The commission’s primary function is to consider appeals of disciplinary action against state troopers. But like the administration of former Superintendent Edmonson, it has been rocked with one controversy after another which has made it nearly impossible for it to formulate any cohesive action other than damage control and finding new creative ways to embarrass the Edwards administration.

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One of the most frustrating jobs in state government has to be that of the Legislative Auditor.

The office is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that audits and sworn financial statements of all public entities are carried out in a timely—and legally-prescribed—manner and that the books of those entities are in order.

Yet, whenever discrepancies are found and reported, little comes of the auditors’ reports. Oh, in cases where the findings are significant, such as the recent audit of the management of former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, a report will make a big splash in the media.

But then, it quickly becomes old news and is forgotten. All too often, in the end, nothing is done to actually rein in those who might be guilty of lax fiscal responsibility over their organization or worse—possible malfeasance.

Seldom is there any follow-up on the part of those who have the authority to make changes. An office or agency head continues to lead the organization with little or no disciplinary action handed down from above, be it from a department head, cabinet member, or, in some cases, the governor himself.

In short, there is little real accountability in state government. A critical audit, conducted at no small expense, points out shortcomings, a management letter is generated promising reforms, and life—and abuses of the public trust—go on unabated.

As Exhibit A, we have the Auditor’s NON-COMPLIANCE LIST, a dishonor roll that dates back as far as 2004 and which contains well over 100 agencies, offices, organizations and individuals who have failed to comply with state statutes.

The list is liberally peppered with justices of the peace, community development districts, constables, social organizations, and even municipalities, sheriffs’ offices, and clerks of court—all reflecting the widespread disregard for fiscal responsibility or, to be charitable, just plain ignorance of the law.

Any organization that has any financial relationship with the state or a parish must, depending on the size of the organization’s budget, provide a review/attestation of its financial condition, a sworn financial statement, or a full-blown audit on a yearly basis.

From Acadia to Winn, virtually every parish has at least one organization on the non-compliance list. Here are a few examples:

  • The Beauregard Parish Hospital Service District No. 1, Merryville—five times between the years 2004 and 2009: failure to produce an audit;
  • The Ward 7 Caddo Parish Constable—seven years between 2009 and 2016: no sworn financial statements;
  • The Resource Center in Caddo—10 straight years, from 2008 to 2017: no financial statements;
  • Louisiana Auto Insurance Plan, East Baton Rouge Parish—10 straight years, from 2007 to 2016: no audit;
  • Ville Platte City Marshal, Evangeline Parish—six consecutive years, from 2012 to 2017: no sworn financial statement;
  • St. Landry Parish Constable, District 8—nine years between 2005 and 2016: no sworn financial statement.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera, contacted by LouisianaVoice, acknowledged the frustration of constantly having to chase down the various offices. “It keeps us pretty busy and it costs the state money to track this in terms of both money and man-hours.”

He said state law says when any organization found to be in non-compliance for three consecutive years, that is considered malfeasance. “That law is on the books,” he said.

STATE REP. NEIL ABRAMSON

A few years back, State Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) attempted to push through a bill in the legislature which would required any non-governmental organization (NGO) or public body to be on the Legislative Auditor’s approved list (not on the non-compliance list) in order to be eligible to receive any state funding or to conduct business with the state.

Abramson’s bill failed.

Now, who would have ever thought that?

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It was suspicious enough when Stewart Cathey was arrested and handcuffed for a six-year-old seat belt violation exactly a month before the 2015 primary election for State Senate. But taken with events that have transpired with Louisiana State Police (LSP) and the agency’s former superintendent since that time, it seems less and less likely to have been mere coincidence.

Incumbent State Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) was term-limited in 2015. Three-term Rep. Jim Fannin, a Jonesboro Democrat-turned-Republican, then serving as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was also term-limited and looking to move to the upper chamber.

Cathey, a Monroe native, a graduate of the University of Louisiana Monroe, and managing partner of the Cathey Group, an information technology management consulting firm in Monroe, also had his eye on the District 35 Senate seat. The district includes all or parts of the parishes of Rapides, Grant, Winn, Ouachita, Lincoln, and Jackson.

A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, the Republican Cathey had received a ticket for a seat belt violation in 2009 but soon after was deployed to Afghanistan where he managed more than $250 million in infrastructure development projects and, he says, he forgot about the ticket.

Fast forward to the 2015 campaign. Fannin, endorsed by Kostelka and a heavy favorite for the Senate, is pressed by the upstart Cathey. They are only a few percentage points apart when Cathey was arrested and HANDCUFFED on a bench warrant issued by Monroe City Judge Tammy D. Lee.

His arrest was on Sept. 24, exactly one month before the primary election. Cathey said he attempted to pay the ticket, if belatedly, but was denied the opportunity. He said he was told he would have to turn himself in, be arrested and bonded out. Quite naturally, considering the timing and all, Cathey quite naturally suspected that mischief was afoot.

“This is the ugly side of politics,” he said. “Career politicians will stop at nothing to get back to the good old boys’ club in Baton Rouge. This is nothing new to Jim Fannin and Bob Kostelka and their team. I’ve seen them do it in the past.”

But Kostelka, who retired as a state district judge before his own election to the District 35 seat back in 2007, was quick with a sincere “Who, me?” denial, saying he had “no control over Monroe City Court or Judge Lee.”

Fannin subsequently defeated Cathey by 6 percentage points to take the election.

Granted, all that has been written here to this point is old news that got plenty of ink at the time. The story might well have ended there had not Cathey gone one step further with something called a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, better known in Louisiana simply as the garden variety public records request.

And that’s where the questions regarding actions by LSP, certain other unknown municipal and/or parish law enforcement agencies, and former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson come in.

On October 12, 2015, just 12 days before the primary election, Cathey submitted a public records request to State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton in which he requested:

  • Any and all emails with regards to the account: stacey.barrett@la.gov from September 28, 2015 through October 10, 2015.
  • Any and all emails, memos, or other writings discussing the findings from a Background Audit performed between September 28, 2015 and October 10, 2015 into the searches of Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s driving record as well as searches into the NCIC system for Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s record.

(LouisianaVoice has copies of Cathey’s request and the LSP response but because some of Cathey’s personal information is included on both documents, it was decided not to display copies of either.)

On Oct. 21, three days before the primary, LSP attorney Adrienne E. Aucoin responded—somewhat.

After recapping his request, Aucoin said any such searches on the Louisiana Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (LLETS) are privileged, “which exempts from the public view” records collected and maintained by the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information (LBCII).

A spokesperson for the LSP Legal Department explained to LouisianaVoice that it was LSP policy not to release information on searches. She implied there was usually a good reason for someone checking to see if they were being investigated. She said releasing such information could alert a suspect to an otherwise confidential ongoing investigation of criminal activity. “We would thank them for the tip, though,” she said.

Aucoin’s letter went on to say, “Attached hereto, please find emails that are responsive to your request. Please note that a section of these emails has been redacted. The redacted information pertains to records maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information.”

(NOTE: The email chain below begins with the most recent communication and reads backward to the earliest. The text of the messages also makes it obvious that Cathey initiated his inquiries about the background checks almost a month before his formal FOIA request.)

 

The email chain started with a message at 9:59 a.m. on Sept. 28 to criminal records analyst Shelley Scott from Capt. Stacey Barrett of LSP Technical Support Services:

“Stewart Cathey, Jr. is running for a Senate seat in north Louisiana. He was arrested on 09/24/15 on a 6-year-old seat belt warrant. It was a highly publicized event. He called because he suspects the S.O. (sheriff’s office) is running his record without cause. Please run an off-line search from 1.1.15 through today.

“I told Mr. Cathey that we would not release any results to him. If we find what may be inappropriate use of LLETS, we would deal with the agency and the officer directly. Let me know what you find.”

Maj. Jason Starnes and LSP Lt. Chris Eskew were also copied on that email.

At 4:06 p.m. that same day, Scott emailed Barrett, Starnes, and Eskew:

“Attached are the requested LLETS off-line results on Stewart. The below table shows the Cliff’s (sic) Notes version.”

What followed was the “section” alluded to by Aucoin as redacted. The redacted portion was a transaction history for a six-month period comprising about three-quarters of a page and containing 20 redacted lines which appeared to represent background searches or requests for same.

At 12:45 p.m. on Sept. 30, Barrett wrote to Scott, Starnes, and Eskew:

“As discussed, we will wait for further direction from the chain of command before taking any action. Please hold on to (sic) all of the documentation you ran for this search.”

At 3:19 p.m., Starnes responded to Barrett:

“Please proceed with following our policy and protocol regarding the LLETS search inquiries and send the letters we discussed.”

Finally, at 3:45 p.m., also on Sept. 30, Barrett emailed Scott and Eskew:

“Please prepare the standard letters seeking justification for the (redacted) transactions. Please keep us posted and let us know if you need assistance or guidance.”

The cryptic nature of the email communications is curious since routine public records requests do not normally attract such attention up and down the chain of command.

The timing of Cathey’s arrest, the reported discipline of an Alexandria municipal police officer for running a background check on Cathey, and the LSP emails and redacted reports, taken together, would seem to indicate there was some legitimacy to Cathey’s suspicions that someone deliberately sought to undermine his election campaign by initiating widespread background checks and even his arrest—complete with handcuffs—for an otherwise minor offense.

To add icing on the proverbial cake, Cathey said on Monday, Oct. 26, just two days after the Oct. 24 election, he was contacted by Monroe City Court and informed the charges against him for the seat belt violation were being dropped. He also said an investigation begun by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was abruptly shut down with no explanation given.

No disrespect to the late Gertrude Stein, but there certainly appears to be a there there.

Edmonson had a reputation during his nine years at the helm of LSP as one who would dole out favors to legislators in efforts to ingratiate himself to lawmakers. A relay by state troopers to deliver football tickets to a legislator in New Orleans for an LSU national championship football game when she accidentally left her tickets in Shreveport is one example of that mindset.

Ordering background checks by LSP and/or requesting checks by other law enforcement agencies could be another example.

When contacted by LouisianaVoice about the possibility of an investigation into whether or not Edmonson had taken such action, Public Information Officer Doug Cain said unless a formal complaint was lodged by Cathey, LSP would not initiate an investigation.

After the OIG investigation was suddenly terminated, Cathey did not follow up with a formal complaint to LSP.

He is currently deployed to Puerto Rico where his unit is working on hurricane relief.

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Former Trooper Jimmy Rogers is ready to don the uniform of a Louisiana State Trooper again.

This is the same Trooper who worked LACE while serving a suspension in violation of state police policy.

His friend and commander, Capt. Chris Guillory, allowed him to work LACE while serving a 240-hour suspension. Rogers was suspended for threatening people and using state police resources for personal use such as criminal background checks on persons he was threatening. Sources tell LouisianaVoice the threats were issued to the boyfriend of a woman he was having an affair with and impregnated.

Rogers was the target of an investigation of charges that he used his state police position to influence criminal charges against Dwight Gerst. Internal Affairs investigators obtained a statement showing Rogers getting a witness to go along with him which in turn resulted in criminal charges against Gerst.

Rogers was cleared in that investigation. Gerst was acquitted of the unwarranted criminal charges. Gerst currently has a lawsuit for civil damages pending against Rogers.

LouisianaVoice previously reported former Trooper Jimmy Rogers was suspected of claiming LACE hours which he did not actually work. In the midst of the investigation, he suddenly resigned. LSP repeatedly denied our requests for the investigation file leading up to his resignation claiming they are not subject release because Rogers was not punished.

LouisianaVoice received information that Rogers has requested to return to LSP on March 7 of this year. Several Troopers are concerned that he might be rehired. Under former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, this was a legitimate concern. We find it highly unlikely that he would be hired under Col. Reeves. We made a public records request for the email sent by former Trooper Rogers. Here is the email:

Captain Broussard

Rogers, Jimmy <JimmyARogers@cbi.com>

Tuesday, March 07,2017 2:07PM

 Benny Broussard

I’m not sure if you remember me. I left Troop D just before you were brought on as the Captain. As you know we were the subject of intense press and investigations. I resigned in good standing due to all of the pressure involved and the job opportunity that was presented to me. Lately, I have been rethinking that decision. Being a Louisiana State Trooper was my life and I did it to the best of my ability every day. I was clear of every claim except altering times on tickets. I am guilty of writing times on tickets later than the stop actually was. I would like the opportunity to finish the investigation with IA over LACE discrepancies and serve whatever penalty comes my way. I will always be LSP to my core and I miss the job to the point of coming to you for mercy. If this is even possible. Could you direct me appropriately!

(Check on images to enlarge for easier reading):


Check out the privacy notice at the bottom of that email. Rogers sent the message from his work computer. He went begging for his old job at 2:07 p.m., while on duty at his current job. His employer, Chicago Brick and Iron, should really appreciate that.

Broussard responded tactfully to Rogers, telling him he was directing his request “up the chain of command.”

Broussard forwarded the request to Region 2 Commander Maj. Becket Breaux, also on March 7:

From Breaux, the email from Rogers went up the line to LSP headquarters in Baton Rouge:

…And finally, to former LSP Chief of Staff Charlie Dupuy:

That, apparently, is where the matter rests. There were no other communications provided to LouisianaVoice by LSP.

But for the moment, let us focus for a moment on this statement: “I am guilty of writing times on tickets later than the stop actually was.”

Criminal investigators call this a confession. It is a usable confession made voluntarily and not subject to any Miranda limitations. The email sent to Troop D Commander Capt. Benny Broussard asking for his job back suggests he committed the following crimes.

14:138 Public payroll fraud (felony)

14:133 Filing or maintaining false public records (felony)

14:134 Malfeasance in office (felony)

Our sources say that Rogers’ dash camera footage, witnesses, citations, radio logs, and time sheets will further prove he was abusing the LACE program. We have attempted to get this information but were denied. We have reissued our public records requests to the new LSP administration in hopes of compliance with the law or a valid denial based on the records are now part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

LSP has the same information on Rogers as was discovered by Lee Zurik in the investigation of other troopers. Zurik’s information has resulted in criminal investigations. The only difference is when LSP finds it, they have covered it up. It is time for LSP to do the right thing for the citizens of Calcasieu Parish who paid for services that were not provided.

Troopers should not be afforded the opportunity to resign for the purpose of stopping a criminal investigation. LSP does not offer this option to other agencies or individuals. It is time for LSP to do the right thing on their own and stop making the media do their investigations for them.

Better yet, comply with Rogers’ request and complete the investigation.

 

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