Prominent pollster John Couvillon predicts President Trump will be passive in upcoming election for Louisiana Governor; sees abortion issue as a “net negative” for incumbent Gov. Edwards.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is seeking re-election as Louisiana Govenor against Republican opponents businessman Eddie Rispone and U. S. Congressman Ralph Abraham.

Well-respected political pollster and strategist John Couvillon of JMC Analytics was the guest speaker at the Baton Rouge Press Club meeting of Monday, June 3, 2019.  Let’s take a look at what all he had to say:


Couvillon provides his rationale for why he sees the abortion issue as a “net negative” for Gov. Edwards’ upcoming re-election efforts.


Couvillon responds to a question by Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council President Robert Travis Scott entailing whether Gov. Edwards must prevail in the October 12, 2019 primary (i.e. not be forced into a runoff) in order to win another term as Governor of Louisiana.


Couvillon responds to a question by The Advocate’s Lanny Keller entailing the “Trump factor” in the upcoming Louisiana Governor’s race.


Couvillon, who downplays the current spread between Republican challengers to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, responds to a question by Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns regarding whether that spread can be eliminated solely by positive campaign ads or whether Rispone will have no choice but to launch negative attack ads against Abraham and, if he does so, if that action will backfire in light of the sour taste many Republicans have regarding negative attack ads among Republican candidates in the 2015 race for Governor.


Couvillon rattles off reasons incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards should be optimistic about his chances for re-election.


Couvillon rattles off reasons incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards should be concerned about his chances for re-election.

CLICK HERE for Couvillon’s presentation in its entirety.

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Former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson’s final gift to Louisiana taxpayers: massive legacy pension costs resulting from questionably-legal 35% trooper pay raises.


Former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson, whose final downfall was an infamous “Las Vegas Side Trip,” as depicted above and who, after his 2014 failed “Edmonson Amendment” attempt to boost his own retirement pension by $55,000/year, left taxpayers with a parting gift of massive legacy pension costs for lofty LSP pensions resulting from his questionably-legal proposal to give a near-across-the-board 35%+ pay raise to LSP troopers.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The detailed listing of 51 recently-retired LSP troopers and their corresponding itemized individual pension benefits provided near the end of this feature would not have been remotely possible without the dedication and determination of our sources within LSP.  We cannot sufficiently express our appreciation for the incredible time, the many phone calls, and the extensive networking they deployed to make the itemized list provided below possible.

On July 11, 2014, Louisiana Voice blogger Tom Aswell published what is likely his biggest blockbuster post of his career when he shocked taxpayers across Louisiana with this blog post focusing on a stealth attempt by former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson to boost his retirement pay by $55,000/year.

Believing that his advancement potential at LSP was limited (former Gov. Bobby Jindal would subsequently change that drastically), Edmonson, like many other state employees, entered the DROP program.  Under the program, a qualified state employee can continue working AND draw his retirement pension.  A major provision of DROP, however, is that the pension amount is frozen upon the decision to enroll in DROP.

Once Gov. Jindal appointed Edmonson as LSP Colonel, Edmonson quickly realized that he’d made a serious error in enrolling in DROP because his salary skyrocketed.  For several years, Edmonson sought ways to undo his DROP decision, and those efforts climaxed in the 2014 Legislative Session when State Sen. Neil Riser, in a move that has largely defined his entire legislative career (and most certainly not in a good way) agreed to insert an amendment into an otherwise benign bill dealing with LSP trooper rights, which would provide Edmonson with the massive pension boost.  Because the amendment specifically sought to benefit Edmonson (though one other Master Trooper was also impacted), it became known as the “Edmonson Amendment.”  The amendment was inserted into the bill as part of the Conference Committee process in the waning hours of the 2014 Legislative Session to iron out differences between the House and Senate.

When Aswell published his post, there was a massive taxpayer revolt, and the mainstream media, whom Aswell’s source either opted to bypass (likely figuring providing them the information would fall on deaf ears) or who got the material and did nothing with it (thus prompting the submission to Aswell), had an absolute field day.  Importantly, there were six (6) members of the Conference Committee referenced above, and the media (and most especially the late political blogger C. B. Forgotston) were demanding to know which legislator sponsored the absurd amendment.  All six denied sponsoring the amendment; however, Fox 8’s Lee Zurik published a feature (we’d provide the link, but it’s been taken down), clearly identifying Riser as the culprit.

Former blogger C. B. Forgotston, who was openly encouraging Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns to form his own video-based blog, appealed to Burns to attend the Baton Rouge Press Club (BRPC) meeting of July 24, 2014 and, if no other media outlet posed the question, that Burns pose the question of then-Gubernatorial-candidate Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) for his calls for an investigation regarding the so-called “Edmonson Amendment.”  Just as Forgotston predicted, not a single member of the mainstream media questioned Edwards on the amendment, so with nine minutes to go before the BRPC meeting was to conclude, Burns posed the question of Edwards who, ironically and probably anticipating just such a question, had to literally thank Burns for posing the question.  Here’s the video of Edwards’ take on the whole matter:

  Edwards addresses Burns’ question regarding Edwards’ statements that he would request an investigation of the whole matter of the “Edmonson Amendment.”

We really can’t understate just how dogmatic and determined Edmonson was to get that $55,000/year pension boost.  As evidence of same, let’s consider that Edmonson, appearing on the Jim Engster show literally mere hours before Burns posed the preceding question of Edwards, defiantly stated that he was “fully entitled” to the retirement boost.  Let’s examine just what he had to say:


Edmonson defiantly expresses his “entitlement” to receive the $55,000 pension boost.

It’s also important to emphasize just how out-of-touch and delusional Edmonson was regarding his popularity.  To demonstrate that, let’s consider his brief response to Engster’s question regarding speculation Edmonson may run for Lieutenant Governor in 2015:


Edmonson addresses “speculation” that he may run for Lt. Governor in 2015.

As most Sound Off Louisiana subscribers know by now, State Sen. Dan Claitor, in filing his own lawsuit as a private taxpaying citizen, challenged the “Edmonson Amendment,” with the result being that it was quickly declared by the court to be unconstitutional.

Why have we rehashed this history?  We did so in order to lay the foundation for the first of a two-part series regarding Edmonson’s desperate attempt to recover from the extreme animosity he found himself enduring from rank-and-file LSP Troopers from the actions outlined above.

To try to recover from the Edmonson Amendment fallout, Edmonson proposed what amounted to a near-uniform across-the-board pay raise for LSP Troopers of 35%+.  Edmonson, being the snake-oil salesman that he is, sold the concept on the premise that it would “not cost taxpayers a dime.”

How so?  As Edmonson explained it to Louisiana Legislators, who were either sufficiently ignorant or sufficiently indifferent to the fact that what he was saying made absolutely no sense whatsoever, that the money to cover the pay raise would come from a new aggressive initiative to collect on a stated massive level of uncollected DMV fines.

Now, any astute Louisiana Legislator, of which there seems to be a total dearth at that Capitol building, should have responded, “Oh, so let me get this straight!  You’ve got this massive pile of uncollected DMV fines that you guys have apparently been willing to sit on your posteriors and let accumulate (the figure was stated to approach $500 million!) but, provided we enact your proposed 35% increase in pay, what you’re telling us is that, by God, you’ll go to work on collecting?  Is THAT what you’re testifying to before this Committee, Col. Edmonson?”

Instead, what transpired was the legislators, for whatever reason, seemed to marvel at how Edmonson could come up with this means to pay for the massive raise “without costing Louisiana taxpayers a dime.”

So, with then-Gov. Bobby Jindal off in England in an ill-advised attempt to educate the fine folk over there about Sharia law and Edmonson essentially left to run the State of Louisiana back home, Edmonson basically threw together on a napkin (only a slight exaggeration) an ill-conceived, poorly vetted, proposal to boost many LSP Troopers’ pay by 35%+.  The Louisiana Legislature, as just indicated, simply acceded to Edmonson’s slapped-together proposal, and it was “off to the races” on LSP pay raises!  Nobody bothered to question why LSP had been so passive on collecting the historical fines.  Nobody bothered with questioning the fact Edmonson was advocating paying a recurring cost (the pay raises) using one-time money (collection on a reported massive buildup in unpaid DMV fines).

No sooner did DMV/LSP begin the “aggressive collection efforts” than did problems arise.  WAFB (Channel 9 in Baton Rouge) even ran a news feature explaining how the unpaid fine level was vastly inflated because many of the fines were for folk who’d left the state and simply didn’t bother with informing DMV that they no longer owned or operated vehicles in Louisiana.  In the feature, one gentleman was interviewed after having just driven down from Missouri to clear up his “bogus fine.”  WAFB interviewed several other recipients of typical shake-down, threatening letters who expressed their extreme anger at being on the receiving end of these erroneous letters.

Well, the aforementioned raises took effect in the middle of 2015 and, as many Sound Off Louisiana subscribers may know, a state employee’s final pension is a function of the highest three-year average compensation for that employee.  So, since the raise took effect in the middle of 2015, guess what happened in the middle of 2018?  Yep!  Absolutely MASSIVE retirements of LSP troopers!  Sound Off Louisiana was contacted by several retirees fed up with going years and years with no COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) and asked if we could research the size of these LSP retirees’ pensions.

Let us first say that, as a result of our Shelley Sebastian series (on which we’ll have another installment in the very near future), we began reviewing recent meetings of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS).  In doing so, we uncovered the fact that, while the system expected around 50 LSP troopers to retire in 2018, they actually had 128 such retirements.  Obviously, once the retirement formula had been sufficiently goosed compliments of Edmonson, many long-time troopers, with their golden-parachute exorbitant pensions now safe and secure (and Constitutionally protected) said, “See ‘ya!”  In fact, audio of a recent LSPRB meeting included its Executive Director, Irwin Felps, Jr., expressing some concern regarding the system’s liquidity in light of the higher-than-expected level of retirements.  Nevertheless, he indicated that the system has sufficient short-term investments that it can liquidate to cover the massive payouts that the system is now having to shell out.

Now for, as they say, the “nitty gritty.”   Just how much are these pensions, and who all are drawing these exorbitant pensions?  In order to answer that question, we made public records request of the LSPRB for all retirements from 2015 to the date of our request.  LSPRB obliged in supplying a list (with names redacted) of all such retirements.  We met with some of the concerned long-time retirees (those folk who haven’t received a COLA in years), and a decision was made to remove the 10-12 troopers who left with less than 20 years of service because they aren’t considered true career LSP troopers, and most likely left in frustration at all the turmoil at LSP and sought to pursue other career opportunities.  With that caveat stated, here’s the list of all LSP Trooper retirements (those with over 20 years service), their monthly pensions, and their number of years of service.  The following table summarizes our findings:

Average Final Salary: $8,518.03/month, or $102,216.36/year.
Average Years' Service: 28.22 years.
Average Pension: $7,662.98/month, or $91,955.76/year.

In consultation with some of the LSP troopers who have been retired for extended periods (i.e. decades), some of whom expressed frustration that their ANNUAL pension is less than some of these recently-retired troopers obtain in a MONTH, and by their extensive networking efforts, tireless telephone calls, and willingness to coordinate and collaborate  with us, we have been able to draw inferences on some of the entries in the table LSPRB provided to us as to who these troopers are and what their annual pensions are.  Let’s provide a table of such logical inferences on these troopers’ part by providing an itemized listing by name of recently-retired LSP Troopers who have pensions of $100,000/year or more at this time:

Recently-Retired TrooperAnnual Pension
Mark Abshire$102,991.
Stacey Barrett$121,212.
Richard Blanchard$115,690.
Becket Breaux, currently candidate for St. Martin Parish
Sheriff
$140,890.
Wilson Bulloch$104,138.
Daniel Casonova$105,148.
Terry Chustz$131,547.
Paul Clark$103,922.
Richard Cooke$114,930.
James Cormier$106,749
William Davis$131,673
Gregory Ducharme$108,045
Frank Ducote$123,418
Charlie Dupuy, long-stated to be the actual Colonel running the show with Edmonson merely a figurehead.$145,427.
Col. Mike Edmonson$143,639 (that's even WITHOUT the attempted $55,000/year boost!)
Gregg Falgout$115,690.
Cathy Flincham$114,007.
Danny Franklin$115,414.
Eric Frazier$118,334.
James Hicks$119,161.
Michael Jewell$105,895.
Jeffrey Johnson$101,117.
John Jones$102,372.
David Ledee$102,300.
Troy Leonard$104,697.
Julie Lewis$108,483.
Tommy Lewis
who was cited by Mississippi authorities for sneaking an underage female (not
his wife) into the Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg
Quote from the preceding article: "He was subsequently promoted to commander of Troop F by State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson."
$131,673.
Tom Madden$117,155.
Kevin Manuel$104,826.
Roy McDonald$115,488.
Mark Mix$114,832.
Allen Moss$129,446.
Michael Neal$101,766.
Michael Parker$114,566.
Murphy Paul,
who was named Baton Rouge Police Chief
$129,587.
Gregory Pharis$102,244.
Anthony Pitts$121,108.
Nigel Raphael$104,697.
Stephen Robinson$128,106.
Ray Schexnayde$140,271.
Lionel Sibley$104,697.
Glenn Staton$147,465.
Dennis Stewart$104,697.
Charron Thomas$109,858.
Joel Toloudis$114,832.
Buzzy Trahan$106,608.
O'Neal Wascom$108,497.
Jeffrey Watts$115,690.
Jeffrey White$113,334.
Bryson Williams$140,890.
Martin Zaunbreche$103,723.

Although the above table illustrates only the “$100,000+ Honor Roll of Recently-Retired LSP Troopers,” one of our sources for the list above also asked that we give “Honorable Mention” to retired LSP Trooper John Cannon, who was cited for an entire litany of reprehensible conduct for an LSP Trooper, to wit:

Louisiana Troop A State Police Lieutenant John Cannon remains on his $115,690 per year job despite having been reprimanded for numerous offenses including theft of satellite television signals, failure to file required Daily Activity Reports (DARs), unauthorized voiding of traffic tickets, failure to investigate a fleet crash, failure to deliver fatality packets to the families of traffic fatality victims, and twice having sex with a woman while on duty—with one of those times being in the rear seat of his patrol unit.

So, we’re only too happy to oblige:

Retired LSP Trooper John Cannon, Annual Pension:  $83,372.

 

Perhaps upon our readers seeing this material, they’ll obtain a much better understanding of why we were so incredulous at former Rep. Ponti and current Rep. (and candidate for State Senate) Carter’s calls for us to “demand legislator accountability” to raise gasoline taxes in order to fund highway and road construction and repair when they, along with the rest of the Legislature, were so cavalier in transferring $600 million in Highway Trust Fund money to fund the type of largess bestowed upon LSP as outlined above.  That’s to say nothing of the John Alario-related cronyism and nepotism the Legislature so willingly funded for Alario’s family members to have such cushy jobs as a higher priority than spending the $600 million on the highway construction and repair for which we paid the money!

Was there anybody making any attempt to curtail some the abuses outlined in this obvious manipulation of LSP’s retirement formula?  Well, in reading paragraphs 20 and 21 of former Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) Executive Director Cathy Derbonne’s lawsuit, she avers that she alerted authorities that the above raises were illegal.  Of course, we all know that she was rewarded for her efforts, at least according to her lawsuit’s statements purportedly made by Gov. Edwards’ Gaming Board Chairman, Ronnie Jones, by being told by Jones that, “Gov. Edwards’ office (perhaps Edwards himself?) had told her to ‘shut the f— up'” (see paragraph 17 of the previously-linked petition).

Is Edmonson’s managerial style being continued?  It would certainly appear that may well be the case based upon extensive blowback we know transpired entailing Reeves’ recent promotions of upper LSP brass who approved his son Kaleb’s appointment to an Investigator position.

Want another kick in the pants?  How about this:  While workers in private industry are fully taxed upon their pensions by the State of Louisiana, the $100,000+ LSP pensions outlined above are 100% exempt from Louisiana income taxes!

So, while teachers are expected to get on hands and knees and bow in praise and adoration of Gov. Edwards for the “modest but meaningful” $1,000/year raise he proposes for them, the Louisiana Legislature (of which Gov. Edwards is a former member during the time in question these raises were awarded) cavalierly awarded absolutely massive LSP pay raises that now stick taxpayers for ungodly amounts of required payments to the LSP retirement pension in order to meet the Constitutional mandate that these exorbitant pensions be paid for the duration of these LSP retirees’ lifetimes!  In that respect, they have saddled either Republican Gubernatorial candidate Rispone or Abraham with a massive taxpayer legacy cost about which neither can do zilch about should he become Louisiana’s next Governor!

In conclusion, in part two of this installment, we’ll examine one state representative’s efforts to attempt to make LSP troopers and other state workers much more responsible for funding their own retirements (but with generous matching contributions from the State of Louisiana) by gradually shifting state retirement systems away from a defined BENEFIT program (wherein the type of abuses outlined above are so easy to pull off) to a defined CONTRIBUTION program under which such blatant manipulation of retirement formulas for the sole purpose of screwing taxpayers is far more difficult (and can be made impossible if the legislation is drafted correctly).  In that feature, we’ll have some intriguing video footage from a recent LSPRB meeting depicting some of those LSPRB members’ choice words for the legislator who sponsored the initiative in the 2019 Legislative session.

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Tempers flare at Senate Commerce Committee hearing entailing alleged problematic acts of doctors, dentists; Martiny to Milkovich: “I’m not quite as stupid as you think I am!”

Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee Chiarman Daniel Martiny, R-Kenner.

On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, the Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee conducted a hearing on Sen. John Milkovich’s occupational licensee “Bill Rights” (SB-187).   Tempers flared on full display during the meeting.  Let’s take a few moments to cover highlights:

First, Sen. Milkovich gave a one-minute synopsis of his bill.  Let’s begin by viewing his brief presentation of his amended bill.


Sen. Milkovich provides a brief overview of his bill.

After providing an overview of his bill, Sen. Milkovich took just two minutes to explain the need for his bill due to alleged abuses by occupational licensing boards and commissions.  Let’s take a look:


Sen. Milkovich explains why he feels his bill is needed in Louisiana.

Milkovich then moved on to focus on the former disciplinary counsel for the Louisiana State Medical Board.  Long-time subscribers of Sound Off Louisiana will recall that, on May 2, 2018, in closing on a similar “Bill of Rights,” Milkovich lambasted the individual in question and, though he admitted he was “not supposed to mention this person’s name,” he nevertheless did so repeatedly on the preceding linked feature.  His commentary led to one audience member, New Orleans attorney Jack Stolier, charging toward Milkovich as he screamed out to him, “you’re a bald face liar.”  While we were not present for the 2018 hearing (nor were we at the hearing last week), we’re told security informed Mr. Stolier in the hallway that, if he was to remain, he would  have to gain control of his anger over the proceedings.

For the hearing of May 8, 2019, Milkovich lambasted the individual arguably even more than at the 2018 hearing.  This time one of Milkovich’s own colleagues openly questioned some of his claims.  Let’s take a look:


Milkovich is openly challenged by Sen. Page Cortez (R-Lafayette) regarding claims he makes about the former disciplinary counsel of the Louisiana State Medical Board.

Sen. Milkovich got under the skin of Sen. Commerce Committee Chairman Dan Martiny so badly that Martiny resorted to openly stating:  “I’m not quite as stupid as you think I am!”  Here’s arguably one of the more intriguing exchanges during the hearing:


Sen. Martiny unloads on Sen. Milkovich.

Sen. Cortez then grilled Milkovich regarding any “shaking down” of doctors by officials of the Medical Board as well as testimony by Dr. Ryan Haygood, a Shreveport dentist, the previous week (May 1, 2019).  During his testimony (which we’ve merged into the video below), Dr. Haygood testified that Dental Board President Jerome Smith, by his act of composing and mailing this letter dated December 20, 2018, “slandered me.”  He further testified:  “This letter right here is full of lies and falsehoods that clearly aren’t reflected by the facts.”  Before the discussion was over, upon Milkovich using features by blogger Tom Aswell to buttress points Milkovich asserted regarding “doctor and dental board corruption,” Chairman Dan Martiny retorted, “He’s not always right either.  I’ve taken him to task on that too.  Just because he says……It doesn’t matter.”


Cortez grills Milkovich on alleged “shakedowns” by Louisiana Medical Board staff and also Dr. Ryan Haygood’s testimony regarding Dental Board President Jerome Smith.

Chairman Martiny didn’t expend all of his frustration on Milkovich.  He saved some for Dr. Eric Cerwanka, a licensee of the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.  Like Haygood, Cerwanka testified the prior week on May 1, 2019 regarding what he alleges are abuses by that Board.  Martiny’s frustration literally boiled over entailing whether him telling Cerwanka, who had only five minutes to testify on May 1, 2019, “you’re welcome to come back next week,” meant just to observe or to testify more.  That became a fairly terse argument between the two of them, and here’s a video of how that cat fight was resolved:


Cerwanka and Martiny spar over whether Cerwanka should be allowed to buttress his May 1, 2019 testimony with more testimony on May 8, 2019.  CLICK HERE to see Dr. Cerwanka’s 5/1/19 testimony.

Apparently, members of the Psychologists Board felt that Dr. Cerwanka portrayed them unfairly on May 1, 2019, and so the Board called a special meeting on May 6, 2019, two days before Milkovich’s bill was scheduled to be heard.  They convened an Executive Session to discuss “inaccurate information disseminated publicly to legislators and to licensees.”  Here’s the agenda for the special May 6, 2019 meeting of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists:

 

 

The Board opted to refute Dr. Cerwanka’s testimony via testimony by Amy Groves Lowe, who serves as outside counsel for the Psychologists Board and who testified regarding Cerwanka’s testimony as well as general concerns about Milkovich’s bill.  Here’s the video of Groves Lowe’s testimony:


Amy Groves Lowe takes issue with the testimony of Dr. Eric Cerwanka.

Near the end of the meeting, three other doctors (one medical, two dentists) testified regarding their allegations of abuse by either the medical or dental board.  Their testimonies in their entireties follow:


Dr. Vincent Madrigal vents his frustration with the Louisiana Medical Board.  CLICK HERE for background and the Board’s decision entailing Dr. Madrigal.


Dr. Melvin Allen, former dentist from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, vents his frustration entailing the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.


Dr. Andre’ Bruni, a Baton Rouge dentist, vents his frustration entailing the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.

Milkovich’s bill was deferred, which effectively kills it for the 2019 Louisiana Legislative Session.  CLICK HERE for the hearing on SB-187 in its entirety.

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