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Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

“Why are you going into executive session?”

—My question to the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) after it voted to go into closed session.

 

“We don’t have to give a reason.”

—LSPC legal counsel and former State Sen. Taylor Townsend of Natchitoches, who is under a $75,000 contract to the commission to provide legal advice.

 

“Yes, you do. It’s the law.”

—My response to attorney Townsend.

 

“To discuss personnel matters.”

— Townsend (did I mention he’s an attorney?), after a moment’s reflection on my citing law to him. Below is the statute:

 

RS 42:16

  • 16.  Executive Sessions

A public body may hold executive sessions upon an affirmative vote, taken at an open meeting for which notice has been given pursuant to R.S. 42:19, of two-thirds of its constituent members present. An executive session shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempted from discussion at open meetings by R.S. 42:17; however, no final or binding action shall be taken during an executive session. The vote of each member on the question of holding such an executive session and the reason for holding such an executive session shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting.  Nothing in this Section or R.S. 42:17 shall be construed to require that any meeting be closed to the public, nor shall any executive session be used as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of this Chapter. (Emphasis added.)

 

 

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Apparently Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter has never read the First Amendment. Neither, apparently, has 32nd Judicial District Court Judge Randal Bethancourt. Nor does it seem that either has ever checked into the constitutional status of Louisiana’s criminal defamation statute.

Larpenter made national news last Tuesday (August 2) when he sent a posse of six deputies to the home of a suspected blogger and hauled away two laptop computers because the blogger said bad things about the high sheriff. Somehow, six men to confiscate two laptop computers approaches overkill, but perhaps that’s the way things are done in Terrebonne Parish. After all, the laws that apply to the rest of us don’t seem to hold much water with Larpenter and Bethancourt. https://theintercept.com/2016/08/04/sheriff-raids-house-to-find-anonymous-blogger-who-called-him-corrupt/

The blogger, after all, had said some really bad things about Larpenter and Parish President (and former State Rep.) Gordon Dove and Dove’s business partner Tony Alford, who landed a huge benefits package brokerage contract for Larpenter’s office, and their jointly-owned trucking firm, and Dove’s former legislative assistant Debbie Ortego who was given a $79,000-a-year job as Dove’s new officer manager, and Debbie’s husband Dana who is Dove’s Risk Manager, and Dana’s nephew Parish Attorney Joe Waitz, III, District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr.’s son, and Sheriff Larpenter’s wife Priscilla who has a six-figure job as manager of Tony Alford’s office, and Jackie Dove who is married to Assistant District Attorney Sye Broussard. There were a few other names in the organizational flow chart compiled by the publisher of the Internet blog http://exposedat.in/wp/ but it gets complicated and somewhat confusing after that.

But the gist of the story is that certain connected entities have successfully evaded their responsibility to pay nearly $400,000 in parish taxes, malfeasance on the part of local officials for not pursuing the collection of the delinquent taxes with, in the words of the late John F. Kennedy, “great vigor,” nepotism, ethics violations, and violations of environmental regulations.

To give you a bit of background, LouisianaVoice had a post two years ago about Dove and his trucking company which got into trouble with the environmental watchdogs in Montana who, unlike their counterparts in Louisiana, tend to do their jobs with no consideration given to oil company political contributions and highly paid oil and gas lobbyists milling around the State Capitol’s rotunda with steak restaurant vouchers for famished legislators. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/06/01/gordon-dove-fox-in-the-house-natural-resources-committee-henhouse-or-perhaps-its-just-louisiana-jindaltics-as-usual/

As we read through the mystery blogger’s most recent post about Terrebonne Parish (the one that got him into trouble with Larpenter and Judge Bethancourt), we couldn’t help but be impressed with the detailed thoroughness with which he laid out his case, supported by document after document.

He had documents and links to documents to support every claim in his post and yet all that made no difference to the two officials who went after the presumed publisher of the blog, one Wayne Anderson who just happens to be a police officer for the City of Houma and who formerly worked as a Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s deputy.

Despite his denials that he is the owner of the blog, he was placed on paid leave a little more than an hour after the raid.

Regardless whether or not Anderson is being truthful in denying authorship of the blog, the entire thing should be a moot point. The blogger, Anderson or whomever, has a right to free speech guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. It’s not that there hasn’t been an effort to thwart freedom of speech. Louisiana’s criminal defamation statute comes immediately to mind.

http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2013/code-revisedstatutes/title-14/rs-14-47

That law was passed way back in the beginning of John McKeithen’s last term as governor. It was also the start of the final four-year term for Attorney General P.F. “Jack” Gremillion of whom former Gov. Earl Long once said, “If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a law book.”

Bethancourt said he had to stay within the “four corners” of the warrant and affidavit (whatever that means) and that he was unable to discern if Alford was a public official (under the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Sullivan v. New York Times which ruled that for a public official to claim libel, he must prove not only malicious intent but “reckless disregard for the truth”)—despite Alford’s status as a member of a local levee district. Louisiana’s criminal defamation statute, he said, is “pretty broad” and that he would the state to have a “look-see” at what was contained on the computers that might have defamatory statements on them.

The only problem with the judge’s interpretation of the state’s “pretty broad” defamation statute is that it is non-existent.

David Ardoin, Anderson’s attorney, correctly pointed out that Bethancourt made a mistake in approving the warrant to raid his client’s home because in 1981, the second year of former Gov. Dave Treen’s term of office, the law was declared unconstitutional. http://www.lsli.org/files/unconst_report2016.pdf

Just to put things in their proper perspective, that was 35 years ago. Way to stay current on the law, Judge. And Judge, one more thing: since the law was held unconstitutional, it would seem that neither your nor the sheriff—nor anyone else, for that matter—has any right to have a “look-see” at what is contained on Anderson’s computers. That, yer honor, is invasion of privacy.

I happened to run into former Gov. Edwin Edwards last Friday when we each were guests on different hourly segments of the Jim Engster Show in Baton Rouge. I asked him if he remembered the defamation law and he immediately responded, “Of course. It was later declared unconstitutional.” A pretty sharp mind for a man who turned 89 on Sunday (August 7).

When I explained what had occurred in Terrebonne Parish, he said, “It sounds to me like the sheriff has some very serious legal problems. I would love to be that blogger’s attorney in that civil litigation.”

Sheriff Larpenter and Judge Bethancourt have greatly overstepped their authority and their responsibility to the citizens of Terrebonne Parish. So much so that the local newspaper, the Houma Daily Courier, took a big risk in alienating the local power structure when it took the sheriff to task in a sharply worded EDITORIAL on Sunday (Aug. 7). The paper, however, stopped short of condemning Judge Bethancourt for going along with the sheriff’s Gestapo-like tactics.

Just a cursory read of ExposeDat makes it abundantly and undeniably clear that there are some cozy—too cozy—relationships that border on political incest in Terrebonne Parish. Too much authority and power is vested in the hands of too few people to allow for a workable system of checks and balances. Those few control how millions upon millions of public dollars are spent. Whenever that occurs, there is no oversight and invariably, greed becomes the motivating factor that drives virtually every action.

And it is the citizens who are the ultimate losers.

Local media are subject to economic realities, they can be—and are—squeezed by those in power so that any real investigative reporting is tempered by whatever financial pressure (read: advertising revenue) can be applied by those with the most to lose.

Because of that, bloggers like ExposeDat who are not beholden to the Chamber of Commerce or the local banks are more important than ever before.

Whenever a blogger draws the ire of a public official or is referred to as a “chronic complainer (as in the case of LouisianaVoice recently), it only means that blogger has struck a nerve. Whenever someone says “They’re just a blogger” like a State Trooper ally of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson recently said in an attempt to discredit LouisianaVoice, we just smile and say, “Yep. We are ‘just a blogger’ who exposed an attempt by Edmonson to enrich his retirement benefits by about $30,000 a year—illegally, we might add—and stopped that little scheme in its tracks.

To ExposeDat, we strongly urge the publisher, whoever you are, to keep the heat on. You’ve already done the heavy lifting and we support your lonely vigil. Don’t relent. If you know you’re doing the right thing, then follow the advice of Winston Churchill: “Never give up. Never, Never, Never.”

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In continuing to examine the methods and motives of unknown individuals in the ongoing attempt to discredit and embarrass Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) member Calvin Braxton, Sr., several things are worth noting.

At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned that six of the seven members of the LSPC, including Braxton, may be serving on the commission illegally and others before them may not have been legitimate appointees, as well.

It’s not enough that LouisianaVoice was sent anonymous letters by someone with a bent for getting Braxton thrown off the commission, but it also appears from the timing of a report critical of Braxton’s behavior following his daughter’s DWI arrest that the report’s author may well have been coerced into filing the report.

There is also the question of how did the legal counsel for the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) wind up with an internal report? The LSTA is a private organization connected to the Louisiana State Police (LSP) only by virtue that its membership is comprised of active and retired state troopers. The LSTA has no input, or at least should have no involvement in LSP internal investigations other than disciplinary matters involving state troopers.

To recap briefly, Braxton’s daughter was arrested for DWI, speeding, improper lane usage and open container violation on Dec. 5, 2015. According to an official report filed by Troop E Commander, Capt. Jay D. Oliphant, Jr., Braxton subsequently demanded that Oliphant transfer the trooper, Jayson Linebaugh, to New Orleans for 60-90 days to “get his mind right.”

Oliphant explained the only reason a trooper would be assigned to New Orleans would be to supplement the New Orleans Police Department in an ongoing criminal enforcement detail. Assignment to New Orleans would be done only in such event, “certainly not as punishment for arresting his daughter,” the report said.

But the timing of the report, as well as all three anonymous “tips” about the matter received by LouisianaVoice, is terribly suspect.

In February, Braxton objected to the adoption of the commissions January meeting minutes as written because the proposed minutes did not fully summarize key points raised in the January meeting about campaign contributions made by LSTA through its director, David Young.

In a matter of weeks, the “tips” began arriving in the email box as well as the post office box of LouisianaVoice. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/26/determined-effort-to-discredit-lspc-members-reveals-self-righteous-hypocrisy-vindictiveness-of-state-police-association/

Then, on July 15, the commission chose active trooper Thomas J. “TJ” Doss, the LSP representative on the commission as its President. Braxton, however, nominated then-Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston and subsequently cast the only vote for Grafton. Grafton refused to vote for himself and cast his vote for Doss, who did not reciprocate the courtesy when he voted for himself.

All of which evokes the question of timing in the glut of anonymous “tips” as well as a not-so-anonymous letter by LSTA legal counsel Floyd Falcon to Gov. John Bel Edwards requesting Braxton’s removal from LSPC.

That letter was dated July 11, just three days before the LSPC’s July 14 meeting. Falcon’s letter also asked Edwards to bar Braxton from participating in or voting on commission matters.

Not only is the timing of Falcon’s letter, as well as his very possession of Oliphant’s report, more than a little suspicious, but the date of Oliphant’s report, as well, raises eyebrows.

And that should be key issue.

Oliphant, like Braxton, is from Natchitoches and he is said to be on friendly terms with both Braxton and Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Victor Jones. Oliphant’s report quoted Braxton as claiming that Sheriff Jones had experienced problems with Trooper Linebaugh and also wanted the trooper removed from Natchitoches Parish after Linebaugh had also arrested Jones’s son for DWI in August 2015. Jones, Oliphant said in his report, denied having any problems with Linebaugh.

Oliphant’s report was DATED JUNE 2, 2016. All contact between Oliphant and Braxton occurred between the Dec. 5, 2015, date of his daughter’s arrest and Dec. 14, 2015—more than six months after the arrest of Braxton’s daughter and nearly six months after the last communication between Oliphant and Braxton.

So why the six-month wait before writing a report?

There are several questions that should be asked of everyone concerned:

  • Was Oliphant coerced to write the report about his friend?
  • Was he deliberately placed in a precarious position between friends Braxton and Sheriff Jones?

Most important of all, however, is this:

  • Why the six-month wait before writing a report?
  • Why is there no report from Linebaugh himself?
  • How is that Falcon came to be in possession of the June 2 report in so short a time as to be able to pen his letter (with the report attached) only nine days later? (Perhaps he has the same “anonymous” sources as LouisianaVoice.)

If any public official attempts to bring pressure on a law enforcement official in retribution for the arrest of a family member, that should be reported immediately—as in the same day, not six months down the road when memories may begin to cloud about details. And there should be a report from the trooper directly involved in the incident.

By everything LouisianaVoice has been able to learn about Oliphant, he is a super straight cop who goes strictly by the book. One former law enforcement official who knows both Oliphant and Sheriff Jones said Oliphant was “honest and completely above-board, a poster child for what law enforcement should be. If he wrote and signed the report, it most likely happened just the way he said.”

But even the strongest can be subjected to pressure when it’s applied in the right place (like a subtle, even unspoken threat to job security or promotions) by the right people in the right position of authority.

That in turn raises these questions:

  • Who is in a position to apply such pressure?
  • And who would have the most to lose from a rogue commission member who refused to go along to protect wrongdoing?

For the time being, those questions will be left to conjecture. But the answer can most probably be found in a very small cadre of players.

Meanwhile, there is another minor controversy brewing over the legitimacy of six of the seven board members (Doss, we assume, is elected by a vote of classified state police officers, according to the Louisiana State Constitution).

The remaining six members, one from each Congressional District, are appointed by the governor.

Article X, Part IV, Sec. 43(c) of the 1974 Louisiana State Constitution says of nominations for APPOINTMENT TO LSPC:

The presidents of Centenary College at Shreveport, Dillard University at New Orleans, Louisiana College at Pineville, Loyola University at New Orleans, Tulane University of Louisiana at New Orleans, and Xavier University at New Orleans, after giving consideration to representation of all groups, each shall nominate three persons. The governor shall appoint one member of the commission from the three persons nominated by each president.

Of course we made the requisite public records request of LSPC to learn if such nominations were received. The request was for such nominations dating back to January 2003. But the LSPC RESPONSE went even further, back to Aug. 7, 2002 with its letter seeking three nominations from Dr. Kenneth Schwab, President of Centenary College in Shreveport.

Schwab responded on Jan. 15, 2003, with only one nomination, that of Joseph Cage, Jr.

There were other four other letters to Dr. Scott Cowen, President of Tulane University in New Orleans, on June 4, 2003; to Dr. Norman Francis, President of Xavier University in New Orleans on June 8, 2004 and again on Oct. 6, 2005, and to Dr. Joe Aguillard, President of Louisiana College in Pineville, also on Oct. 6, 2005, but none after that date. There were no responses to those letters.

So, at least for the past 13 years, only one of the six university presidents has made even a single nomination for one vacancy on the commission.

Members serve staggered terms of six years per term but are prohibited from serving more than two and one-half terms, or 15 years.

With at least four governors, including Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco, Bobby Jindal and now John Bel Edwards never having received the constitutionally-required three nominees for each vacancy—and the LSPC has experienced considerable turnover in membership during that period—none of the present membership with the exception of Doss is legally serving.

The question now is what can—or will—be done about it? Does this quirk make all actions of the commission, including the hiring of special legal counsel Taylor Townsend, null and void? What about all the trooper appeals of disciplinary matters that have come before the commission down through the years? Some of those who were disciplined and appealed a decade or more ago have probably retired by now. What about per diem paid all those illegitimate commission members for attending meetings over at least the past 13 years?

That requirement of the State Constitution was put in there for a reason and should have been followed to the letter.

Obviously, that was not the case.

 

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It’s really interesting—and disappointing—to see how the very ones charged with enforcing our laws can be so condescendingly smug about getting away with actions they have to know—but can’t bring themselves to admit—are wrong from a legal, moral and ethical standpoint.

To no one’s surprise, the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) is both capitalizing on what it terms as “civil unrest” and crowing about the outcome of Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC).

But the association’s braggadocio was careful to cloak an ongoing effort for yet another pay raise (the third in just over a year) in a carefully worded, three-sentence explanation.

And the election of a new commission president could present a whole set of new problems.

To bring you up to date, the LSPC accepted the recommendation that no action be taken in any investigation of wrongdoing by state troopers responsible for (a) making the decision to actively support political candidates with campaign contributions and (b) laundering the money through the bank account of LSTA Executive Director David Young. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/14/expectations-of-state-police-commission-report-on-lsta-campaign-contribution-probe-dies-with-a-pitiful-whimper/

The Code of Governmental Ethics, Section VIII of R.S. 18:1505.2 (B) lists the making of contributions or loans “through or in the name of another” as a prohibited practice. http://ethics.la.gov/Pub/Laws/cfdasum.pdf

That’s pretty specific and clear-cut. And that prohibition is equally applicable to boty civil service employees and state police, even though the two answer to different boards—state employees to the State Civil Service Commission and state troopers to the LSPC.

And if the LSPC cratered to pressure from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, with the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards serving as the official conduit, there are other ongoing investigations and one of those investigating agencies, the FBI, is not likely to succumb to pressure from the sheriffs or Edwards.

The State Ethics Board also has been asked to look into the contributions laundered by LSTA to a number of statewide political candidates since 2003, including Bobby Jindal and Edwards, both of whom received $10,000 from the association. Edwards has since returned his contributions to LSTA.

Here’s the text of an email from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn that went out Friday morning, the day after the LSPC unanimously accepted the recommendation of commission attorney Taylor Townsend that no action be taken on the investigation:

From: Hillary Moses <hmoses@latroopers.org>
Date: July 15, 2016 at 10:53:37 AM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: A Message from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn

Members, 

During this time of civil unrest, please remain vigilant in keeping yourselves and your families safe.  I only wanted to take a few moments to inform you of a few details regarding yesterday’s Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) meeting.  Most of you are aware that, many months ago, certain individuals alleged that LSTA members and David Young were guilty of misconduct related to political activity.  The LSPC began an investigation into the LSTA based on these allegations and assigned attorney Taylor Townsend to conduct the investigation.  The LSTA cooperated fully, and Mr. Townsend acknowledged his appreciation of our cooperation when he released his findings in yesterday’s public meeting.  Mr. Townsend stated that the LSPC has no authority over the LSTA or its Executive Director, facts that were previously acknowledged.  Mr. Townsend further declared that no individual trooper was guilty of misconduct. The commission then voted unanimously to take no action and announced the matter closed.  

In regard to the proposed rule changes affecting the Louisiana State Police pay plan, Rodney Hyatt testified on behalf of the department.   After some debate, Rodney and TJ Doss, our representative on the Commission, successfully persuaded the Commission to table this matter until the next LSPC meeting.  This was done to allow the department time to ascertain the effects of the rule change and make any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.    

Lastly, by vote of the six Commission members, TJ Doss was elected as Chairman of the LSPC.  Please join me in congratulating TJ.  He has proven to have the motivation and ability to lead the LSPC.  To have the other Commission members recognize his ability and leadership is an enormous, well-deserved compliment.  Thanks to all members who took time to attend yesterday’s meeting, and thank you to those who continue to support the LSTA.  The many phone calls, messages, and words of encouragement mean more than you know.  Please feel free to share this information with members who may not have an e-mail address separate from the department. Thank you, and stay safe. 

Jay 

Way to go, guys. You pulled a fast one. It’s not enough to get away with it, but you have to top it off with bombast and swagger—just to show you can. Real class. But you might do well to remember two applicable quotes: It ain’t over ’til it’s over (Yogi Berra) and Pride goeth before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

If you read O’Quinn’s email carefully, you may have noticed two other things worth reexamination.

The e-mail skimmed over (we think deliberately) the testimony of State Trooper Rodney Hyatt with the two sentence explanation that Hyatt and commission member Thomas J. Doss, himself a state trooper, persuaded the commission to table an unspecified matter for 30 days to allow times to ascertain effects of a new rule change and to make “any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.”

That unspecified matter was a pay plan, adopted last November giving troopers an automatic yearly 4 percent pay hike but rescinded last month because any rule that affects wages or hours can go into effect only upon the governor’s signature—and that signature has never been provided. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

It was Doss who insisted that a new rule eliminating the longevity pay plan be tabled for 30 days. His motion was a transparent effort to send signals to the LSTA to step up its lobbying efforts with the governor’s office to get Edwards’ signature on last November’s pay plan, effectively killing the substitute plan. Eight months apparently was not sufficient for Doss and Hyatt; they need another 30 days, it seems.

Even as state civil service employees have gone without pay increases for five years or longer, state police have already received pay raises over the past 18 months totaling as much as 50 percent for some troopers.

The proposed longevity pay plan, which gives automatic yearly pay raises (that other state employees have been denied) aside from any merit increases, could give the impression that state police under its present leadership are just a tad greedy.

Obviously that’s not applicable to all state police officers—just those at the top who are attempting this as a means of consolidating power by buying the loyalty of the rank and file troopers. It was no accident that Thursday’s LSPC meeting was attended by nearly two dozen troopers from headquarters.

It was also Doss who was chosen as the new President of LSPC. The only dissenting vote was cast by Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches who nominated and voted for Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston.

With the killing of the LSTC money laundering investigation and the 30-day delay on adopting a substitute to the proposed longevity pay plan in order for the LSTA to gets its ducks (read: politicians) lined up, the election of Doss as the new president was the perfect trifecta for Mike Edmonson.

The commission’s Web page contains the traditional mission statement:

Our mission is to provide a separate merit system for the commissioned officers of Louisiana State Police. In accomplishing this mission, the program administers entry level law enforcement examinations and promotional examinations; process personnel actions; issue certificates of eligibles; schedule appeal hearings on disciplinary matters on a monthly basis and pay hearings when necessary. Review, develop and implement State Police Commission rules, perform investigations, review contracts, review and accept or denies performance appraisal programs, and issues general circulars and transmittals. To enable the Office of State Police to meet the staffing needs in a timely fashion by hiring and promoting the best qualified applicants. 

So now the following questions must be asked:

  • Could there be a conflict of interest in his serving as president of the commission that is charged with performing investigations of wrongdoing and ruling on appeals of disciplinary matters?
  • What will happen should State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson come under investigation by the commission?
  • What will be Trooper Doss’s position should one of his fellow troopers—a close friend—come under investigation for some transgression?
  • How will Doss handle appeals from trooper friends disciplined by Edmonson? Will he support his friends or go against his commander?

These are serious questions that someone should put to the State Board of Ethics.

In the seven years that Doss has served as a full-time trooper, he has received pay increases totaling 36.5 percent—from $37,500 to $59,000.

But never fear. If past is indeed prologue (William Shakespeare: The Tempest), his seat on the commission is the fast track to lucrative promotions.

We have already begun a dangerous descent on a slippery slope and that slide must be reversed. Too often and for too long we have benignly looked the other way when we are confronted with unethical, immoral and illegal behavior by our public officials.

It is no longer sufficient to simply smile and say, “Well, that’s just Louisiana politics as usual.”

It may well be politics as usual, but it’s time for the citizens of this state to unite and demand one simple thing of our public officials:

Do the right thing. Not because we say so, but because it IS the right thing. Better yet, do it when no one is looking. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.

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“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

–Alexander Pope

The so-called “investigation” by the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) into the laundering of campaign money by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) through the association’s executive director turned into a major sham that only served to reinforce the old adage that crap flows downhill.

But the good news is state civil service employees may now pursue a method whereby they can make their own heretofore verboten political campaign contributions.

Hyped for two weeks as an investigation that would “name respondents” for the association’s deliberate circumvention of state regulations prohibiting political activity on the part of individual state troopers, the “report” of Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, hired to conduct the investigation and to make recommendations back to the commission, was a major dud in every respect.

His recommendation at Thursday’s (July 14) meeting: Do nothing. Punt. Abdicate the commission’s responsibility.

The term “deliberate” is not used lightly here. It was, after all, LSTA Executive Director David Young, in whose name more than $45,000 was contributed to various political candidates, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, who told the commission that the campaign contributions were made through him in order that “there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.” Young said he wrote the checks, dating back to 2003 and the association would reimburse him. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/15/louisianavoice-exclusive-at-long-last-it-can-be-disclosed-that-the-reason-for-all-the-problems-at-state-police-is-us/

For two weeks, word has circulated that Townsend’s report would name names and would be sharply critical of the association’s practice.

There is even word of an audio tape at a contentious meeting of association members from Troop I in Lafayette at which it was disclosed by association representatives that LSTA officers made the decision as to whom would receive campaign contributions.

That tape was never mentioned in Townsend’s brief “report” on Thursday (July 14). Nor were any names given as those directly responsible for the decision to contribute campaign money to candidates.

Instead, Townsend said the commission has no jurisdiction over the association or over Young. While that was an accurate assessment openly acknowledged before Townsend was ever brought on board, it was also acknowledged prior to his being hired that the association did have investigative and disciplinary powers over individual state troopers found in violation of state law. And while Townsend was quick to absolve the commission of any responsibility for Young and the association, he conveniently neglected to bring up the commission’s responsibility for enforcement of laws and regulations when individual state trooper actions are involved.

Because the LSTA is a 501(c) non-profit charitable organization, it is free, under certain restrictions, to make political contributions. So, by having Young make personal contributions in his name and then filing an expense report, the LSTA conveniently bypasses state law by funneling money to political candidates through Young.

Carrying his verbal report to its obvious conclusion, state civil service employees may need no longer worry about a similar prohibition against their making campaign contributions. All they have to do is form an association and get IRS approval of their status as a 501(c).

Of course, while state police have received two recent pay increases totaling 50 percent in some cases (and, by the way, they still want more), state civil service workers have been routinely denied even their paltry 4 percent annual merit increases for more than five years now, so they, unlike their fortunate state trooper counterparts, could hardly be expected to afford to make token campaign contributions.

So, the question is how is it that an investigation which only a couple of weeks ago seemed almost certain to result at least in suspensions for identical infractions that forced three of the LPSC members to resign since April was suddenly rendered impotent? https://louisianavoice.com/2016/04/14/two-more-members-of-lspc-quit-over-political-contributions-while-pondering-probe-of-lsta-for-same-offense/

To find the answer to that, one must go right to the top—the man who ran on the strength of his West Point Code of Honor.

It was John Bel Edwards who reappointed State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, most likely solely on the strength of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association insistence.

Asked by LouisianaVoice on Oct. 27, 2015, at 10:57 a.m. (before he took the oath of office) what his intentions were regarding the reappointment of Edmonson Edwards professed he had no intentions either way:

Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.

 

Tom Aswell

LouisianaVoice

 

From: John Bel Edwards

Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:50 PM

To: Tom Aswell  

Subject: Re: QUESTION

 

I don’t intend one way or the other

Being as charitable as possible, we now are forced to speculate that Edwards was being less than truthful at the time.

Edmonson was Bobby Jindal’s boy so why would Edwards feel obligated to keep him on? The LSTA even drew the line and said no to Edmonson’s request to have the association write a letter to Edwards recommending his reappointment.

Well, before he was Bobby Jindal’s boy, he was the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association’s boy. The Sheriffs’ Association wanted him to stay around because he is easily controlled and manipulated by the sheriffs.

The Sheriffs’ Association endorsed Edwards when the outcome of his runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter was still in doubt. He needed that endorsement and the condition that went with the endorsement was that Edwards would keep their boy on. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/16/lsp-unable-to-locate-sergeants-critical-letter-warning-of-danger-edmonson-is-reappointed-by-gov-elect-edwards/

And don’t forget that Daniel Edwards is Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish—and an influential member of the Sheriff’s Association—and probably has more than a little influence with his brother, the governor.

Consequently, anything that might implicate—or even embarrass—Edmonson would, by extension, embarrass Gov. Edwards and the Sheriffs’ Association. Accordingly, the report by former State Sen. Taylor Townsend had to be watered down or even killed.

In short, everyone simply circled the wagons.

And that’s now what we were led to expect from one who espouses the West Point Code of Honor.

(Note to self: Stop expecting.)

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