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Jindal's Edmonson amendment saga gets a voice, or two
Written by  // Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:22 //

edmonson2by Tom Aswell, publisher of the Louisiana Voice

Things appear to be heating up on the issue of the behavior of the upper tier of the Louisiana State Police, though the rank and file (and retired officers) appears for the most part to support our efforts to peel back the veneer to expose widespread abuse by those in charge.

 

For openers, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy, the number-two man at State Police headquarters, has reportedly taken to name-calling as a result of revelations by LouisianaVoice and fellow blogger C.B. Forgotston.

Names like “idiots” and “a—holes” have apparently found their way into the discourse whenever Dupuy mentions us, according to a post by Forgotston. Those pet names reportedly accompanied his curious claim that the notorious Edmonson Amendment was constitutional—despite assurances to the contrary by the Florida attorney, a pension authority, brought in to examine the amendment by the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS).

It has been our experience that when we are able to invoke such colorful language it is usually because we’ve made someone extremely uncomfortable. And we would guess that knocking someone out of an additional $55,000 per year on his retirement income would make just about anyone uncomfortable. And calling attention to a questionable retire/re-hire in which the proponent gets to keep nearly $60,000 in unwarranted payouts could make one uncomfortable as could reporting the hiring of a South Carolina consultant as a state employee and paying her $437,000 over 28 months, plus another $13,000 in airfare to shuttle her back and forth between Baton Rouge and Columbia, S.C.

Dupuy is a member of the LSPRS board which will be discussing the amendment at the Sept. 4 board meeting.

We would strongly suggest that because it was he who pushed the amendment in the first place—not to mention his prejudicial comments about the messengers—he would be precluded from participation in next week’s board meeting called to discuss options regarding the amendment. His actions—and his comments—make it abundantly obvious that his mindset does not lend itself to an impartial and dispassionate discussion or vote on a course of action for the board.

State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) has even weighed in on the controversy, though his comments are somewhat puzzling considering that he is a candidate for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy who is trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Claitor, it seems, has been actively posting jokes on his Twitter account about our concerns over the Edmonson Amendment. It’s certainly nice to know that someone seeking elective office is so willing find humor in legitimate concerns over shady legislative practices—particularly when those practices originated in the State Senate where he currently serves. You may wish to ask him about that next time he solicits your vote.

Matthew L. Issman of Madisonville, a former state trooper and federal law enforcement officer who presently serves as police chief for LSU-Alexandria, has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Senate Bill 294, signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal as Act 859, the bill that was amended in conference committee by State Sen. Neil Riser to give Edmonson that generous retirement boost.

Contacted by the office of Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington), Issman wrote that his biggest concern with the advice received by LSPRS from that Florida attorney “is that the advice of ‘do nothing, and wait’ until someone files for the benefits and then refuse to pay, is that it will force a state board or agency to pick and choose which laws it likes or doesn’t like and which laws it will and won’t enforce.”

Issman pointed out that once the governor signs the bill, it becomes law and until it is repealed or a court finds it unconstitutional, “it sets a very, very bad precedent for any agency or board to arbitrarily not comply with a state law.”

As a law enforcement officer, he said he “cannot pick and choose which laws I will enforce and which ones I will ignore. You cannot do that. It must be litigated now and a court must find it unconstitutional, otherwise other state employees who made an irrevocable DROP elect can file federal ‘equal rights’ suits against the state for the same equal status (as Edmonson). This has to be fixed now by litigation to have a court find it unconstitutional,” he said.

As a follow up to that message, Issman also sent an email to members of the LSPRS Board.

“Civics 101 tells me that you (LSPRS) are a state board in the executive branch. You carry out the laws passed by the legislative branch. The advice of your Florida counsel is in a vacuum specific to the retirement board issue of the law passed and signed by the governor (executive). I believe you are about to set a very poor precedent and are outside your charter, authority and the state constitution when you as a board decide that you have the options to pick and choose which laws you will enforce, agree with and like, and which ones you arbitrarily choose to ignore.

“You do not have the ability or authority. Hence, your options are to follow the law signed by the executive and passed by the legislative branch, or request the judicial branch review the law for constitutionality.

“I am not a constitutional scholar; however, 41-plus years in state, local, parish and federal government law enforcement have taught me the authorities and responsibilities of governmental agencies and branches.

“I am requesting you follow the law, your charter and state constitution and challenge this law through litigation in court,” he said.

Issman also is protesting the 15-speaker, two-minute limit per speaker being imposed by the board at its Sept. 4 meeting.

“I don’t believe that this meets the requirements, spirit or intent of the Open Meeting Law, nor is it enough time to hear the many concerns of the retirees you represent, unless the goal is to restrict and limit such comments,” he said in an email to board members. “I think limiting comment to 30 minutes regarding an issue that has engendered such interest and controversy is insulting to the interests of the retirees and citizens you purport to represent on this Board.

“Therefore, I am requesting that the public comment time be reasonably increased proportionately to the larger public attendance that you are anticipating.”

Meanwhile, State Treasurer John Kennedy, who, like Dupuy, is a member of the LSPRS Board, continues pressing for information about the circumstances surrounding the last minute legislative passage of Edmonson’s pension boost.

Kennedy also requested key players in the benefit becoming law appear at the Sept. 4 board meeting, including Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel Thomas Enright, who approved the legislation for the governor’s signature.

The law that created the enhancement for Edmonson and another veteran trooper was tacked on to legislation that had nothing to do with retirement benefits. And attorneys for the pension board recently concluded the action violated the constitution because, among other issues, proper notice was not given that the change would be proposed and the pension provision was added to legislation that had nothing to do with retirement law.

Kennedy said he wanted to know Enright’s opinion.

Kennedy’s requests came in a letter to the retirement board’s executive director Irwin Felps and board chairman Frank Besson, president of the Louisiana State Troopers Association.

We can’t speak for any of the others involved in this back door deal, but we are willing to give odds that Kennedy will not be able to convince anyone from the governor’s office to attend that meeting. Nor will Riser dare make an appearance.

Those kinds of people never do their work out in the open for everyone to see and we feel safe in predicting they will continue to avoid the glare of public accountability.

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