Friday, 15 April 2016 14:16

Governor Edwards should intervene in Louisiana State Troopers Association problem

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by Tom Aswell, Publisher of Louisiana Voice

In North Korea, to the best of our knowledge about that closed society, political dissidents quietly disappear, rumored to receive a bullet to the back of the head.

In the old Soviet Union, dissidents were disposed of in similar fashion—with a bullet behind an ear. Today, Vladimir Putin apparently prefers the quieter—and cleaner—method of ricin-tipped umbrellas.

Thankfully, we are a tad more civilized.

But a purge is still a purge and things are about to get very nasty over at the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association, an organization that is growing increasingly more rogue with each new revelation.

Now the LSTA has under consideration a six-point proposal to change the organization’s by-law that allow the expulsion of LSTA members.

That’s right: The practice of Teaguing, perfected by Bobby Jindal, has wormed its way into the Louisiana State Troopers Association.

The proposal apparently is aimed at a few retired troopers who dared question what may yet turn out to be illegal political activity and campaign contributions by LSTA.

The LSTA’s Web page says, “The Louisiana State Troopers Association is a fraternal organization representing the men and women of the Louisiana State Police. The LSTA represents approximately 97 percent of the commissioned officers as well as a substantial portion of the State Police Retirees.”

Suddenly, with the proposed changes on the table, it doesn’t seem so “fraternal” anymore.

First there was that endorsement of John Bel Edwards last November, the first ever by the association, which raised all manner of questions about the propriety of political endorsements by an organization, albeit a private one, on behalf of Louisiana state troopers who are forbidden by statute from political activity.

Then came the news of some $45,000 in political contributions (about $10,000 each to Edwards and Bobby Jindal) over the past several years. Even more questionable was the method by which those contributions were made: LSTA Executive Director wrote personal checks and made the contributions in his name but then was reimbursed by the association for “expenses,” prompting State Police Commission (the equivalent to the state Civil Service Commission) to observe the whole thing took on the shady characteristics of money laundering.

For what it’s worth, when LouisianaVoice broke the news about the unexplained circular route of the campaign funds from LSTA through Young, Edwards refunded the money he received. Jindal, ever the shining beacon of his highly touted gold standards of ethics, did not.

The LSTA board did balk when asked to write a letter to then Gov.-elect Edwards endorsing State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson for re-appointment. That request was not made directly by Edmonson, but there is little doubt that the idea originated with him.

When retired state troopers (members of LSTA, incidentally) tried to get answers about the decision-making process and the source of the campaign money they encountered instant resistance as the association dug in its heels. They’re a private organization, don’t you know, and it’s no one’s business—not even that of members.

So the retirees, led by Scott Perry and Bucky Millet, filed a formal complaint with the State Police Commission whose chairman, Franklin Kyle, took the position that the commission had no authority because LSTA was a private entity.

But its membership is not, Perry and Millet argued. The LSTA board is comprised of state troopers and if the board made those decisions, it was state troopers over whom the commission has oversight who may have violated terms of Article X, Sec. 47 of the Louisiana State Constitution: No member of the commission and no state police officer in the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity; be a candidate for nomination or election to public office except to seek election as the classified state police officer serving on the State Police Commission; or be a member of any national, state, or local committee of a political party or faction; make or solicit contributions for any political party, faction, or candidate; or take active part in the management of the affairs of a political party, faction, candidate, or any political campaign, except to exercise his right as a citizen to express his opinion privately, to serve as a commissioner or official watcher at the polls, and to cast his vote as he desires.(Emphasis added)

LouisianaVoice then discovered that three members of the commission charged with enforcing those laws had themselves been active in the political arena during the time they were sitting on the commission. Commission Chairman Kyle was among the three. The others were William Goldring and Freddie Pitcher.

Pitcher was the first to go, announcing his resignation soon after we revealed that he had made political campaigns himself. Then on Thursday, after a nine-page report by Natchitoches and former State Sen. Taylor Townsend recommended the removal of all three, Kyle and Goldring submitted their letters of resignation.

Obviously, the LSTA and Edmonson were highly offended over the unwelcomed questioning by retirees. They were raining on the association’s parade and it wasn’t appreciated one bit. The forced ouster of three commission members who had also made tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions did nothing to assuage those feelings.

So now we have that six-point proposal that would allow the LSTA to rid itself of those nasty old has-beens who the association apparently thinks should just ride off into the sunset.

But this over-the-hill gang still has a few battles left to fight in its effort to preserve the integrity of a once-noble organization that has descended into the depths of political deals and dirty tricks.

Here is the six-point by-laws change currently being proposed:

  • The affiliate troop (Troop A, Troop B, etc.) to which the member is attached shall move to remove the member via a vote of the members present at a duly called meeting of said affiliate.
  • The cited member shall receive formal written notification of the action pending against him and shall have an opportunity to respond to such action. Response may be either via written reply or I person at the next scheduled affiliate meeting.
  • The affiliate membership shall then take a vote on the motion to remove the member.
  • If the motion carries, the affiliate president shall report the action to the Board of Directors of the Association, who will then notify the cited member of the action and offer him an opportunity to appeal his removal.
  • After hearing any appeal of the action, the Board of Directors will vote to ratify or decline the member’s removal.
  • At any time that the Board of Directors of the Association feel that removal of a member is warranted, they may initiate such action via a motion from a Board member by following the procedure beginning in Step 4 above.

That last point, Point number Six, is crucial and eerily reminiscent of the manner in which Edmonson attempted to swing an illegal $55,000-a-year increase in his retirement benefits. In 2014, an amendment was tacked onto a benign Senate bill during the closing hours of the legislative session which ignored an irrevocable action taken years before by Edmonson that froze his retirement benefits.

Generous retirement benefit boost slipped into bill for State Police Col. Mike Edmonson on last day of legislative session

The provision in Point 6 appears to allow the LSTA board circumvent the individual troops, or affiliates, by initiating expulsion action on its own, a provision which would, in effect, negate any input from affiliate troops.

It’s obvious to even the most casual observer now that the LSTA is no longer a “fraternal” organization, but one that is highly politicized—and vindictive to the core. By rolling out this proposal, it is clear that dissention will not be tolerated: what the board wants trumps anything the membership desires.

Perhaps that is why LouisianaVoice is picking up rumblings that the association has lost membership from among the ranks of active troopers. Apparently even the active troopers who are subject to extreme pressure from above, i.e. Edmonson, want no part of what LSTA has become.

That may also be the reason we’re also hearing that private donations to LSTA have slipped over the past several months. Benevolence is one thing; political activism by an organization that passes itself off as a “fraternal organization” is something else altogether.

LouisianaVoice sent the following email to David Young earlier today:

From: Tom Aswell
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2016 10:52 AM
To: David Young

Mr. Young, please respond to the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of this propos by-laws change?
  • Who proposed it?
  • Was the board’s vote unanimous?
  • Is it aimed at any retired troopers in particular?
  • How many troops (affiliates?) have already recorded votes for and against this proposal?
  • Has the LSTA lost membership in recent months?
  • Has the LSTA experienced a drop in private donations in recent months?

I eagerly await your response.

I am still waiting.

Meanwhile, the time has long passed when Gov. Edwards should intervene and rein in the LSTA board members. Allowed to continue their off-the-reservation activity, they will only bring further embarrassment to the administration which has already come under considerable criticism for the re-appointment of both Edmonson and Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc.

Certainly, Governor, your  plate is full with a massive budget deficit but when you were elected, you were elected as the CEO over all departments in the state.

You cannot afford to ignore festering problems in any department, especially one as high-profile and as saddled with morale issues as the Department of Public Safety and the Louisiana State Police.



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