Feeds:
Posts
Comments

When Monica Manzella showed up for her first meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) last November, she received a warm greeting and a hug from State Police Lieutenant Rodney Hyatt.

We were curious how they knew each other so well. It was, after all, her first meeting.

Hyatt, other than his state trooper duties, also was—and still is—President of the Headquarters Chapter of the Louisiana State Police Association (LSTA). Click HERE. He is also one of the four troopers who drove a state vehicle to San Diego via the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas last October to cheer on and party with their boss, then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson as he received a national award.

Manzella, appointed to the LSPC last October, was an assistant city attorney for the City of New Orleans and had, as part of her duties, signed off on Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) contracts between the City of New Orleans and Louisiana State Police (LSP). Under LACE, state police are paid by the local district attorney to help beef up traffic enforcement. Some characterized her work on the contracts and her appointment to the commission as a possible conflict of interest but she dismissed that concern out of hand.

Other than his position as headquarters chapter president of LSTA and her signing off on LACE contracts, there was no apparent connection or any obvious reason why the two would be on such friendly terms at her very first meeting.

But thanks to the wife of retired state trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur, a connection that appears a little more than casual has been discovered.

Bucky Millet first set the stage a year ago at the LSPC meeting of August 11, 2016, when he filed a formal complaint about the manner in which LSPC members were supposed to be appointed and the manner in which those requirements were being ignored.

[Please keep in mind that LSPC is the Louisiana State Police Commission, which rules on appeals of troopers subjected to discipline and LSTA is the private, non-profit association comprised of active and (some) retired state troopers as members. Some retirees have been expelled from the LSTA for questioning certain activities. The two, LSPC and LSTA, are completely separate entities.]

In his complaint, Millet referenced Article X, Part IV, Section 43(C) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 which stipulates the following:

  • 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. One member of the commission shall be elected by the classified state police officers of the state from their number as provided by law. A vacancy for any cause shall be filled by appointment or election in accordance with the procedure or law governing the original appointment or election, and from the same source. Within thirty days after a vacancy occurs, the president concerned shall submit the required nominations. Within thirty days thereafter, the governor shall make his appointment. If the governor fails to appoint within thirty days, the nominee whose name is first on the list of nominees automatically shall become a member of the commission. If any nominating authority fails to submit nominees in the time required, or if one of the named institutions ceases to exist, the governor shall make the appointment to the commission.

LouisianaVoice had earlier made a public records requests for any such letters of nominations from the university presidents. Only a single letter from Centenary College President Kenneth Schwab to then-Gov. Mike Foster dated Jan. 15, 2003, was provided.

For the full story of just how dysfunctional the LSPC was at that meeting, click HERE.

So, when Manzella was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards two months later, was that procedure finally followed? Well, yes and most probably not so much.

Thanks to Vivian Millet’s extensive Internet search, we now know that Lt. Hyatt and Manzella had their own history, dating back to March of 2016.

It seems that both Hyatt and Manzella were among 28 attendees from across the U.S. who earned their security Master of Arts degrees in Security Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) in Monterey, California, on March 25.

The CHDS curriculum is an 18-month master’s degree program in homeland security.

Click HERE to see the press release and to see a class photo of the proud graduates. It’s a rather small photo, so here’s a little help with the identities: Hyatt is on the far right in the front row in complete Louisiana State Police uniform and Manzella is behind him and to his right, in the red top.

Which brings us to the question of how she got her appointment to LSPC.

She obtained her J.D. in Law from Loyola University of New Orleans in 2005 (click HERE). Loyola could have been expected to nominate one of its alumni—if it had been asked to do so.

That certainly makes sense. But it didn’t go down that way and with Hyatt in a key position with the LSTA and with LSTA the subject of what the LSPC attempted to pass off as an ongoing “investigation” of its illegal campaign contributions funneled through the personal bank account of the LSTA executive director, the stage was certainly set for a little politicking on her behalf. LSTA needed desperately to stack the commission with members friendly to the LSTA who would lend comfort and support to LSPC Chairman, State Trooper T.J. Doss and other like-minded members.

So, did Hyatt and the LSTA exert a little friendly persuasion to secure a seat on the commission for Manzella? Did they engage in a little back channel diplomacy in order to wrangle the appointment of a member guaranteed to be friendly to the LSTA?

Given the outcome of that investigation by Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, who still has yet to provide a written report of his findings as required by his $75,000 contract and despite repeated demands that he do so, it would seem the Manzella—and subsequent—appointments have paid off handsomely for the LSTA. She has been everything LSTA could want—and more, as she moved from new member to vice chairman of the commission in a matter of just a few months while voting the LSTA line.

Which only underscores the necessity of at most, abolishing the LSPC and to put a constitutional amendment before voters to bring LSP under State Civil Service as it once was or at least, wiping the slate clean and beginning anew with all new members, unaffiliated with any political faction or with any organization and with the common goal of cleaning up the image of State Police and the troubled LSPC.

Failing either of those options, the term “Tarnished Badge” will soon refer to something other than just the nom de plume of a frequent commenter to LouisianaVoice posts.

Normally, a man’s tryst with a lady friend who is not his wife would be of no concern to us. It’s not an activity we would recommend but some things, after all, are really no one else’s business.

Unless the amorous couple happen to be chairman and vice chairman of a state commission that decides important issues like appeals of disciplinary action against state troopers or which votes on whether or not to conduct thorough investigations of illegal campaign contributions or which concocts evidence against its executive director in order to force her resignation because she insisted on following the law on certain procedures.

State Trooper T.J. Doss, a nine-year State Police veteran, is chairman of the Louisiana State Police Commission.

New Orleans attorney Monica Manzella, formerly the assistant city attorney for the City of New Orleans, was appointed to the commission by Gov. John Bel Edwards last October. She quickly rose to the position of vice chairman.

The commission has experienced considerable turnover in the past 12 months, with six members and an executive director submitting their resignations. After today, that number could increase to eight.

LouisianaVoice has been receiving tips that Doss and Manzella were each other’s overnight guests for several months—sometimes at the State Police Academy barracks where Doss was staying while assigned to Baton Rouge from his normal base at Troop G in Shreveport. Other times they were said to be staying at Manzella’s residence in New Orleans.

On Thursday, only hours after the monthly commission meeting, they got a little careless. We got word they were at a movie and were staying at the Watermark Hotel in downtown Baton Rouge. The hotel building, originally a bank, is the former State Office Building that was sold and transformed into an elegant hotel and restaurant.

Acting on our tip, it was a relatively easy matter to catch them exiting the movie theater CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO . As they exit, Doss can be seen carrying two mugs. They had just seen a movie at Baton Rouge’s Movie Tavern. The Movie Tavern serves beer and allows patrons to keep the containers. It is against State Police regulations to drink and drive a state police unit.

“Mug” shot

Less than an hour later, they can be seen exiting his state-assigned Ford Explorer entering the hotel where they went straight to the registration desk CLICK HERE, picked up their keys and headed straight for the elevators.  They carried no luggage, an indication that they—or at least one of them—had checked in earlier.

Checkin’ in

As said earlier, it’s normally no one else’s business but when two people sit on a seven-person commission that literally has the power to make career-altering decisions, it is critical that a professional relationship be maintained between members. Personal affairs should be strictly off-limits in the interest of fair and impartial decision-making, uninfluenced by personal feelings for fellow members. The fact that Doss and Manzella serve as chair and co-chair of the commission only serves to underscore the need for separation—literally and figuratively.

Moreover, the two arrived at the Watermark in a state-owned Ford Explorer assigned to Doss. State Police policy and procedure strictly prohibits the transporting of civilians in the state vehicles for any purposes other than state police business.

State Police Ford Explorer assigned to Trooper T.J. Doss parked outside Watermark Hotel Thursday…in spot reserved for Baton Rouge City Police.

Manzella is a civilian and they certainly did not appear to be on state business as she twice slipped her arm around Doss’s waist as they were at the hotel registration desk, once even patting him gently on his buttocks.

At this point, the only reasonable option left open for each of them is to resign immediately from the commission. Should they decline to do so, State Police Superintendent would seem to have no choice but to direct Doss to step down. In Manzella’s case, it would be the responsibility of Gov. Edwards to remove her—and Doss should Superintendent Kevin Reeves does not do so.

A former employee of the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (LOSFM) has come forward to provide LouisianaVoice more damning information about the manner in which inspections and investigations are carried out by the office.

Byron Wade, who worked for the fire marshal’s office for 11 years before going to work as a boiler inspector for a private insurance company, also gave interesting insight into how the top brass at LOSFM party at the New Orleans Royal Sonesta Hotel.

Along the way, we also learned that one of those major expenditures itemized in our Monday story was for an entity not part of the fire marshal’s office or of any other state agency, making the expenditure potentially illegal.

“I left the fire marshal’s office in part because of the cross-training program Butch (Fire Marshal Butch Browning) put into place,” Wade told LouisianaVoice. “I’m certified as a boiler inspector and as an amusement ride inspector. They tried to make me an arson investigator and I was not qualified to do that and told them so.”

He said he was assigned as the lead investigator on a mobile home fire in which the resident died. “Brant Thompson (LOSFM Fire Chief) told Jason Johnson to make me the lead investigator. Jason Johnson is one of the best, most qualified arson investigators out there. I don’t know to this day why Thompson wanted me to be the lead investigator.”

Wade said allowing unqualified personnel to inspect rides and boilers is a recipe for disaster. “All you have to do is look at the hot water heater explosion in that school in OKLAHOMA,” he said, referring to the hot water heater explosion on January 19, 1982, in Spencer, Oklahoma, killing seven, including six elementary school children. “That hot water heater was never properly inspected,” Wade said.

“They (the fire marshal’s office) is still allowing unqualified personnel do these inspections,” he said. “When they told me I was an arson investigator, I asked a fire chief in New Orleans how much training is needed for that. His answer was to tell me, ‘Do not do arson investigations.’”

Wade also told a story LouisianaVoice had heard on several occasions about a party at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans. We held off publishing it because of the lack of a first-person account. He said, however, he could confirm the story because he was present at the event.

Browning, he said, was hosting a convention of firefighting personnel at the Royal Sonesta “four or five years ago” when it was noted that the party was beginning to run short of liquor. A call was put in to Baton Rouge and Shantelle Brent, Browning’s $71,000-a-year personal assistant (officially, an Executive Management Officer) promptly brought a Tahoe loaded with fresh booze from Baton Rouge to the New Orleans hotel, located at the corner of Bourbon and Conti Streets.

“I know about this because not only was I there, but I helped unload the liquor,” Wade said.

The Tahoe was a State Fire Marshal vehicle, he added.

On Monday, LouisianaVoice listed among the fire marshal office’s expenditures $4,900 paid to LR3 Consulting for creation of the “Louisiana Firefighter Proud” website. The organization, we have since learned, is a private entity unaffiliated with the state or the fire marshal’s office. That raises immediate questions as to the legality of the expenditure, particularly since it was done without obtaining bids or quotations—and during a time of repeated budgetary shortfalls and mid-year cutbacks to higher education and other state agencies during the administration of Bobby Jindal.

It also raises the question of whether Gov. John Bel Edwards can afford another public embarrassment from his Department of Public Safety like the one that plagued him during his first year in office with former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

He was first appointed Louisiana’s Inspector General by Bobby Jindal in January 2008.

Now, nine years later, LouisianaVoice is picking up as yet unconfirmed reports that STEPHEN STREET could be the nominee to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.

Corey Amundson has been serving as Acting U.S. Attorney for the nine-parish district since Donald Trump requested the resignations of U.S. Attorneys throughout the U.S., including that of Obama appointee Walt Green last March.

It’s not uncommon for a new administration to clean house upon taking office, especially if the holdovers are from the opposing political party. What is unusual is the length of time it is taking Trump to nominate new appointees.

Street’s office was tainted by his raid on the home of contractor Corey DelaHoussaye under the mistaken assumption that DelaHoussaye was contracted to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) when in fact, he was contracted to the Livingston Parish Council where Street had no jurisdiction. DelaHoussaye was subsequently exonerated of all charges but never collected all that he said Livingston Parish owed him.

Street’s office also prematurely terminated an investigation into the case of Billy Broussard who was contracted by FEMA to clean a bayou in Calcasieu Parish following Hurricane Rita in 2005. Broussard was instructed by the gravity drainage district in which the canal was located to also remove pre-storm debris, mostly cypress logs, that had sunken to the bottom of the canal over the years. He was told that FEMA would pay for the additional work but FEMA did not and the drainage district left Broussard holding the bag to the tune of about $1 million.

Likewise, it was Street’s office that investigated and found no wrongdoing in the case of two assistant district attorneys in CADDO PARISH applying for a grant to obtain eight automatic M-16 rifles from the Department of Defense’s Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO). The two claimed on their application that they, as part of a Special Investigations Section (SIS), “routinely participate in high-risk surveillance and arrests (sic) activities with the Shreveport Police and Caddo Sheriff.” Persons interviewed from both agencies, however, refuted the claim that SIS employees took part in such operations.

Street also failed to follow through on an investigation into widespread abuses by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry. The board, with the aid of its investigator who employed questionable methods, was imposing excessively high fines against dentists for relative minor infractions and even bankrupted one dentist who blew the whistle on faulty jaw implants developed by a dentist at the LSU School of Dentistry.

Retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet said he filed a formal complaint on February 19 with Street’s office against the four State Troopers who drove the state vehicle to San Diego last October but never received an acknowledgement from Street. “I know he received because I sent the complaint by certified return receipt mail,” Millet said.

Street’s office, in response to a November 2016 public records request from LouisianaVoice, provided a list of FUNDS recovered totaling more than $5.3 million since July 1, 2013, for which he claimed credit.

  • U.S. v Delrice Augustus, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS): $155,305;
  • U.S. v. Daniel Garcia, Louisiana Economic Development (LED): $900,000;
  • U.S. v. Kaneasha Goston, DCFS: $10,023;
  • U.S. v. Charlotte Johnson, Office of the Governor: $99,874;
  • U.S. v. Winn Johnson, Louisiana Board of Cosmetology: $1,575;
  • U.S. v. Matthew Keith, LED: $1.2 million;
  • U.S. v. George Kostuch, Department of Revenue (LDR): $161,850;
  • U.S. v. Corey Polk, DCFS: $30,760;
  • U.S. v. Gregory Walker (no agency provided): $1,833,619;
  • State of Louisiana v. Theresa Burris, Town of Arcadia: $49,829;
  • State of Louisiana v. Deborah Loper, Department of Health and Hospitals: $1,018,423.

Of course, the recovery of funds is quite different from orders of restitution, which was what each of these cases was. An order of restitution means little if there are no funds to be recovered.

“We have no information regarding amounts collected by those office and we receive none of the funds,” said OIG General Counsel Joseph Lotwick in a letter to LouisianaVoice.

In the Loper case, for example, most of that money had disappeared into slot machines at area casinos so any real chance of restitution is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent.

The LouisianaVoice request was made pursuant to Street’s claim for an accounting of public funds recovery stemming from OIG investigations.

What Street’s office did not say, the difficulty of actually collecting notwithstanding, is that the OIG’s role in many of the above investigations was secondary to the U.S. Attorney’s role and restitution payments, if any, are made through either U.S. Probation or, in the case of the state’s being the lead prosecutor, to Louisiana Probation and Parole.

LouisianaVoice attempted to obtain confirmation of the reports that Street was up for the position from both U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and from Street but received no response from either.

One law enforcement official, while saying Street was largely ineffective as inspector general, said the U.S. Attorney’s post could be a fit. “What you have to look at is who he appoints as his first assistant,” he said.

“Do you remember Eddie Jordan? He was the U.S. Attorney in New Orleans and got the credit for convicting Edwin Edwards. But his First Assistant was Jim Letten. Jordan went on to become New Orleans District Attorney and was a disaster. It’s the First Assistant U.S. Attorney who gets the job done. The U.S. Attorney just goes around making speeches and Street might be good at that.”

 

It was inevitable, I suppose. The signs were there for us to see all this time, so it certainly should be no surprise.

Donald Trump has launched his own NEWS SERVICE to give the minions the “real” news. He’s fed up with that fake stuff dished out by the networks that they back up with obviously faked video, doctored photos, falsified documents and biased stories about his bogus university, his refusal to divest himself from his business interests and his coziness with the Russians.

Well, what ostrich-head-in-the-sand couldn’t see that coming?

Of course, the real head-scratcher is why he would go to all that trouble when he has the biggest blowhard of all spewing the right wing extremist line for three hours every day on a smaller-than-before-but-still-large radio network.

But Rush (“Praise the Lord and Pass the OxyContin”) Limburger is basically a mouthpiece for the Republican Party as a whole and that party is going to have to separate itself from ol’ Orange Hair with all due haste if it has a chance to hold its ground in the 2018 elections. So, in that respect, maybe his own “news” network would seem in order to Trump.

After all, this is the man whose motto would seem to be ut per eos testacles in cordibus et in animis sequentur. That’s Latin for “Get ‘em by the testacles; the hearts and minds will follow.” (And he’s certainly known for grabbing those areas.)

Any student of history knows that a dictatorship requires a suspension of all citizens’ rights (see his efforts to clamp down on dissent) and to muzzle all criticism (his repeated attacks on the media). The third requirement, of course, is to take over the media so the dictatorship’s lies can be saturated without fear of challenge.

We may as well start referring to Trump as DEAR LEADER a-la Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, though, I just don’t think I can bring myself to call him Herr Trump.

But the signs are already there. His repeated boasts of non-existent accomplishments, his exploring the possibility of pardoning himself, his exaggerated claims of voter fraud, claims that he had the biggest inauguration crowd in history, attacks of “fake news,” and the list goes on and on ad nauseum. And all easily refutable lies but still he barges ahead with still more lies. His favorite, of course, is calling the special prosecutor’s investigation into collusion with the Russians “a witch hunt.” He uses that one on a regular basis these days.

Adolf Hitler was the first to describe the benefits of the repetitive lie, which he said people would come to believe if they heard it often enough. He called it the “Big Lie.”

In Mein Kampf, Hitler said, “…In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie…Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” (emphasis added.)

He would go on to say in Mein Kampf:

“The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.

The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make and objective study of the truth, insofar as it favors the enemy, and then set before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, would later expand on der Führer’s philosophy when he said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Extreme examples? Perhaps. But the track that Trump is on is frighteningly familiar to students of history and should not be dismissed lightly.

After all, look at the people with whom he has surrounded himself. Not the least of these is one STEPHEN BANNON who has described Trump as a “revolutionary on the world stage,” and who described himself as a LENINIST who desired “to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

So, is Bannon Trump’s Joseph Goebbels or will he be his Martin Bormann (Hitler’s private secretary who controlled access to der Führer)? Or worse, will he be Trump’s Heinrich Himmler (commander of the Gestapo)? From this vantage point, the vote would have to go to Bormann.

All these scenarios were unthinkable 18 months ago. No one seriously thought Trump would ever be president. The day of his announcement, I confidently predicted he would “crash and burn” in six weeks.

But then, no one thought Hitler would rise to a position from which he could plunge the world into war.

But now we have an official Trump news service through which he can reach the masses with his own skewed version of reality. And for now, at least, he has an official Minister of Propaganda in Kayleigh McEnany.