Belinda Parker-Brown, other plaintiffs in litigation against State Police Commission, call upon Gov. Landry to seek Members’ resignations asserting alleged violations of Constitution, LSPC Rules via direct involvement in St. Tammany Parish DA Collin Sims’ campaign.

Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) Member Jered Caruso-Riecke reacts at the May 9, 2024 LSPC meeting as Belinda Parker-Brown’s husband, Carl, reads off the response of the Collin Sims campaign suggesting that Riecke may have engaged in Louisiana Constitutional and LSPC Rule violations regarding his alleged involvement in the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney race of March 23, 2024.  The Sims campaign alleged Riecke sought Sims’ defeat at the hands of Vincent Wynne.  Sims prevailed 69-31.

On February 1, 2024, we published this feature entailing a letter mailed by the LSPC to the campaign of Collin Sims, who was seeking to fill the unexpired term of former District Attorney Warren Montgomery in St. Tammany Parish after Montgomery’s unfortunate passing away in November of 2023.

On March 10, 2024, we followed that feature up with this feature wherein the Sims campaign adamantly denied any campaign, ethics, or Constitutional violation of any kind and further stated that an appearance of improper campaign activity by one LSPC member, Jared Caruso-Riecke, appeared to be in violation of both Louisiana’s Constitution and the LSPC’s own rules.

On March 18, 2024, we published this feature exposing the fact that Belinda Parker-Brown, along with six (6) other St. Tammany Parish residents, filed suit against the individual Members of the LSPC alleging a violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws regarding the sending of the letter referenced above.

In today’s feature, we’re going to provide an update on that lawsuit, and the easiest way to do this is with a quick table:

DateActivity
March 18, 2024Plaintiffs file this lawsuit alleging open meetings violation.
March 28, 2024 & April 1, 2024LSPC Executive Director Jason Hamman declines to accept service on behalf of the LSPC Members
April 19, 2024After first informing Plaintiffs that Defendants would waive service, Defendants file this Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action.
May 9, 2024Plaintiffs file this Opposition Memorandum to Defendants' Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action
May 9, 2024Plaintiff Belinda Parker-Brown, along with her husband, Carl, address LSPC over the letter, with Belinda Parker-Brown calling upon LSPC Members to resign after being, "caught with your drawers down!"
Monday, June 17, 2024 @ 9:30 a.m.Court hearing before 19th JDC Judge Anthony "Chip" Moore.

At this time, let’s present the video coverage referenced in the table above for the May 9, 2024 address by Parker-Brown and her husband, Carl, to the LSPC:

May 9, 2024:  Parker-Brown and her husband, Carl, address LSPC, with Belinda stating the Members have been caught with, “your drawers down,” and calling upon them to resign.

Let us conclude this feature by highlighting segments of the Plaintiffs’ Opposition Memorandum, and we’ll insert our own links where certain references are made by Plaintiffs to historical LSPC events:

In Defendants’ Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action, they state:  “Plaintiffs did not and cannot allege there was a meeting by any members of the LSPC. Nor did they allege that a quorum of the LSPC members were (sic) present at any meeting.”

To the contrary, Plaintiffs aver that Defendants did in fact engage in an electronic meeting wherein discussion of the dissemination of the letter among LSPC members and subsequent intended mailing to DA candidate Collin Sims did in fact transpire.  Defendants then individually affixed their digital signatures (constituting their “votes” on the matter), and thereby provided authorization for the LSPC Executive Director, Jason Hannaman, to mail the letter to Collin Sims.  While Defendants indicate that no “meeting” took place among the Members of the LSPC, they conveniently fail to address how those digital signatures (requiring a username and password by each Member) managed to be obtained on a single document!

Plaintiffs have clearly established the presence of a quorum as the clear and irrefutable trail of electronic evidence shows that all seven (7) of the then-Members of the Commission both received the letter and acted upon it.  The letter, upon information and belief, electronically sent to the Members as an initial email and, also upon information and belief, was disseminated by its Executive Director (presumably at the direct order of LSPC Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr.), Jason Hannaman.  The letter was received and acted upon by every single one of the then-existing seven (7) LSPC members.  Thus, not only was a quorum obtained for this electronic meeting, but the entirety of the membership of the LSPC participated in the electronic meeting, and that fact is demonstrated by their affixed digital signatures.

Defendants further assert:  “Finally, Plaintiffs’ conclusory allegations of ‘proxy voting’ and ‘secretive balloting’ that assume and conclude there were discussions among the individual defendants should not be considered by the Court as facts. The allegations do not and could not truthfully allege a discussion among the Commissioner (sic) either directly or through the letter.”

This Honorable Court does not have to consider as “facts” that there were “discussions” among the individual defendants.  All the Court must do is exercise common sense.  Are Defendants suggesting that the Executive Director, Jason Hannaman, simply fell out of bed one morning (a Saturday, no less) and decided to draft the letter, disseminate it electronically, and seek for each Defendant to affix their individual digital signatures on the letter?

To even suggest such a scenario would be utterly preposterous, and Defendants know that.

Defendants further assert:  “….this letter was addressed to a person over whom the LSPC did not maintain jurisdiction, supervision, or control, and that concerned a matter over which the LSPC did not maintain jurisdiction, supervision, or control.”

While this admission is utterly stunning on the part of Defendants, the fact of the matter is that the letter was mailed out on official LSPC letterhead, complete with Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry’s name on prominent display on the upper-right corner of the letter to give the unmistakable impression that each Member of the LSPC was acting within his official capacity to exercise his power to seek a voluntary Cease and Desist on the part of candidate Collin Sims and his campaign activities.  This fact is made even more apparent that the Defendants wished to convey that they were in fact acting in their official capacities by the opening sentence of the letter:  “As members of the Louisiana State Police Commission, we are writing to ask you to cease and desist……”

Defendants did not disseminate individual letters on plain stationery indicating he was acting in his individual capacity but, rather, the Defendants collectively sent one single letter on official LSP letterhead complete with Gov. Jeff Landry’s name on prominent display in the upper-right corner in a direct and concerted effort to provide the impression that they did have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the letter.

Further, by directly interjecting themselves into an active political campaign in a highly partisan fashion by point-blank accusing St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Collin Sims of using a photograph in a “false light,” Defendants did far more than just violate Louisiana’s Open Meeting Laws.

The reality is that, not only did the Defendants knowingly and willfully violate Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws in failing to place this matter on a formal agenda, which they could have done a mere 19 days after the letter was sent out (and permitted public comment on the matter) as a regularly-scheduled meeting was scheduled (and held)  on February 8, 2024, but by their own admission in their Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action, they have now admitted to knowingly and willfully violating their Oaths of Office and the Louisiana Constitution, which expressly prohibits them from engaging in the very type of political activity in which they did.  Plaintiffs aver that is the whole reason that the activities of Defendants were done with such secrecy because they knew full well that they were violating not only their own rules but also the Louisiana Constitution in sending out that letter to Collin Sims.

The LSPC has an extensive past history of impermissible involvement in political campaigns which has resulted in resignations of multiple LSPC Members and other embarrassing episodes, to wit:

  • Former LSPC Commissioner (and Chairman) Franklin Kyle, who is close friends with current LSPC Member Jared Caruso-Riecke and who both serve on the same bank Board of Directors for which Riecke has a substantial ownership interest in the bank, along with Members Freddie Pitcher and William Goldring, having to resign due to illegal campaign contributions during the 2015 Gubernatorial campaign [three (3) LSPC Members resign over campaign activities ].
  • Current LSPC Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr., having to write a letter of apology to 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson for his false testimony that he gave in the trial of the Louisiana State Trooper’s Association v. the Louisiana State Police Commission (trial date, November 3, 2022 and letter of apology November 9, 2022) wherein Defendant Simien falsely testified that his law firm had not made any political contributions since he assumed office when, in reality, the firm made contributions to then-candidate John Bel Edwards of $4,917.17 on March 10, 2017; to then-candidate Wilson Fields of $500 on November 28, 2018; and to then-candidate Erica L. Greene of $250 on February 9, 2017 [Simien affidavit with reference to letter of apology as item # 10 ].
  • A January 10, 2019 LSPC meeting at which LSP Retired Lt. Leon “Bucky” Millet called for the “immediate resignations” of three then-current LSPC members entailing Defendant Simien’s contributions referenced above and an alleged $500 campaign contribution on the part of Defendant Jared Caruso-Riecke to the campaign of then-candidate Mark Wright. The third member, Harold Pierite, subsequently resigned [ Millet calls for three (3) LSPC heads over alleged campaign contributions ].

Thus, the secretive electronic meeting which transpired among the LSPC Members, for which they have now admitted in a filing to this Honorable Court that they had “no jurisdiction,” makes it clear and unquestioned that they violated their Oaths of Office and the Louisiana Constitution, which represents a continued pattern of such activity on the part of LSPC Members.

Plaintiffs further aver that Defendants recognized the need for secrecy because they knew, as demonstrated by past historical episodes, that what they were doing constituted a direct violation of not only of their own rules but also of the Louisiana Constitution which they took an oath to uphold.

Just as was the case for prior members referenced previously (Goldring, Pitcher, and Kyle) wherein then-Governor John Bel Ewards (sic) sought and obtained the prompt resignations of then-LSPC members Pitcher, Kyle, and Goldring, Defendants’ actions in this matter, which are even more egregious than those actions of Pitcher, Kyle, and Goldring because the letter gives the unmistakable impression that Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry opposed DA candidate Collin Sims in his efforts to be elected St. Tammany Parish DA, current Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry is duty bound to seek the immediate resignations of the Defendants in this matter (except Bernell Nevel, who has already resigned) from the Commission and, absent any (or all) Defendant(s)’ willingness to tender his (their) resignation(s), and pursuant to Louisiana’s Constitution, Gov. Landry is duty bound to convene a hearing over which he presides and for which he also makes the final determination whether any or all of these Members is/are permitted to remain as LSPC Members in light of their egregious conduct in this matter.

Finally, for Defendants to be able to escape liability for this violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws would send a horrendously-bad message to the public that the sort of secretive electronic meeting in which they engaged should serve as a blueprint not only for future such action on the part of LSPC members but also to other Louisiana governmental agencies to merely engage in such egregious acts but to do so electronically and thereby escape any consequences of such behavior.

We commit to be at the LSPC meeting of Thursday, June 13, 2024 as well as the Court Hearing on Monday, June 17, 2024 to report on further developments in this matter as they unfold.

 

Did Gov. Landry fire a shot across the bow in removing Cosmetology Board Chairman Peterman to send signal that its anti-business stands won’t be tolerated during his administration?

Former Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology (LSBC) Chairman Kalli Peterman, whom Gov. Jeff Landry removed from the Board after only two meetings.

In today’s Sound Off Louisiana feature, we explore the possibility that Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, who no doubt was not happy with us after our portrayal of him has a charlatan and hypocrite  given just what all transpired in the defeat of Representative Lauren Ventrella’s bill to reduce the hours required for a cosmetology license from 1,500 to 1,000, may have fired a shot across the bow in removing the Board’s Chairman, Kalli Peterman, as a demonstration that the Board’s stiff anti-business practices are not going to be tolerated going forward under his administration.

We will point out that, in our hypothetical email from Landry, we merely pointed out a ton of facts that demonstrate that the Cosmetology Board has a past history of being heavily anti business, and we stated that the current set of appointees constituted the most business hostile group we’ve encountered to date.

Naturally, any Board or Commission has a leader, and in the case of the Cosmetology Board, that was Kalli Peterman, General Manager at Aveda.

One may argue little changed since the Board under former Governor John Bel Edwards was headed by Aveda owner Edwin Neill, III.

One of the reasons Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns, who has diligently followed and reported upon the Cosmetology Board for nine years, said he’d prefer to, “have Edwards’ appointees back” is the fact that Neill had shown some signs of at least trying to work with business interests by agreeing last year to reduce the hours required for licensure from 1,500 to 1,200.

Peterman, on the other hand, not only drew a line in the sand about “not one hour” being removed from the 1,500 hour requirement for licensure, but in her first meeting, she openly advocated for a gradual four-fold increase in the licensing fee!

Perhaps Landry decided he’d seen or heard enough because, just prior to the Board’s meeting of today, June 3, 2024, we were informed that, “the Chairman of the Cosmetology Board was informed that she had been terminated from the Board.”  Actually, that was said to more than just Burns and, upon a couple of other members hearing that, one inquired, “Who can do that?”  Burns was only too happy to answer that question in stating that, “each of you serves at the pleasure of the Governor.”

Burns should certainly know as he was fired by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal from the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB) on September 10, 2010.  That event, and the subsequent attacks Burns endured during the remainder of his auction career (through December 31, 2012) served as the basis for the foundation of this very blog.  Burns had made it a mission to expose the massive corruption within the Louisiana Auction industry, and, at this point, virtually nobody would even remotely question just how corrupt that industry is.  Burns has been unapologetic in emphatically stating that he wears Jindal’s firing of him as a badge of honor.

Now, Peterman’s removal from the LSBC created a problem for today’s meeting.  The Board’s attorney, Sheri Morris, explained that a temporary new Chairman would have to be chosen from among the Members because Vice Chairman Jill Hebert was absent for a third consecutive meeting, which will likely necessitate a need for her resignation as well.

Let’s take a look at Morris seeking a new temporary Chairman as well as Executive Director Steve Young attempting to explain (in one of the lowest voices we’ve ever heard him use) the circumstances surrounding Peterman’s removal from the LSBC:

6/3/24:  Morris seeks a new Chairman and Young attempts to explain Peterman’s removal from the LSBC.

We have received several reports that Young’s portrayal of Peterman’s removal (which he clearly stated that he received from Peterman and stated, “that’s what the Governor’s Office told her,”) is simply “not accurate.”  Young’s reference to “Congressional maps” is a convenient explanation which bears no reality to the real reason according to sources with whom we spoke about the matter.

Accordingly, we reached out to Gov. Landry’s head of Boards and Commissions, Ryan Roberts (a former Pelican Institute staffer), for any official explanation which the Landry administration may wish to make, but we received no response through the time of publication of this feature.

We will point out, however, that Young’s account is flatly not accurate in one respect, and that is him saying that, “the Senate did not approve the House’s map.”  It’s actually shocking that he can be that much out of the loop; furthermore, if he’d merely read the Landry “hypothetical email,” he would know that both Chambers of the Louisiana Legislature approved the map, Landry signed the bill, then it was challenged by a small group of disgruntled residents in the redrawn district (to include State Sen. Alan Seabaugh), then the Fifth Circuit sided with those plaintiffs, then AG Liz Murrill filed for an emergency stay, which was granted by the U. S. Supreme Court.

Hence, Landry got the map he (and more importantly, State Sen. Cleo Fields) wanted, and that was the map in place when Peterman’s selection was made, and it was also the map reinstated by the U. S. Supreme Court for this November’s election.  So, in our opinion (which matches accounts we’ve been provided), it was not the maps that caused Peterman’s ouster from the LSBC.

If Peterman was ousted for her strong anti-business statements from the Cosmetology Board meeting of April 1, 2024, we want to be as clear as we can be in saying that we strongly salute Gov. Landry for that move!  The attacks against Jeremy Aydell entailing the defeat of Ventrella’s bill are so far beyond the pale that it defies even a modicum of common decency on the part of the bill’s opponents, and Peterman made it clear that she was a strong and vocal opponent of the bill!

Now, it turns out there was one other interesting matter the Board discussed, and that is a mysterious distribution of a memorandum to school owners by LSBC staff instructing them about changes to the practical exam which will incorporate “natural hair texture and styling” effective September 1, 2024.  The Board Members apparently were not pleased with a video for which a link was placed on the LSBC’s website for further details.  Let’s take a look at the discussion of that item at this time:

 6/3/24:  Discussion of obvious displeasure with a video by former LSBC Member Kevin Martin demonstrating “natural hair texture and styling.”

For those who have followed this blog for a long time, there will be a recollection of our 2018 feature exposing the fact that Martin was improperly permitting adult students (one nearly 60 years old) to enroll in a Lafayette Parish public school cosmetology program at which he teaches.  We’re not going to rehash all of the evidence we’d accumulated about Martin’s practices, but let’s just say we had a ton!

That is why Lafayette Parish District Attorney Keith Stutes had no reservations about referring the matter on to then-Attorney General Jeff Landry for potential criminal prosecution.

We’ll also point out that, as reflected on the preceding feature, after initially being in disbelief that anything like that could possibly be happening, the Lafayette Parish School Board took immediate action in informing Martin that the practice had to stop immediately and that any present students who were not actual enrolled students at the school would have to complete any schoolwork at another venue.

Now, anyone looking at the above video can take note of the fact that the current LALB Members want the link to Martin’s video removed so that nobody can view his presentation, which they didn’t hold back in assessing as not very good.

We went ahead and downloaded the video because, despite the Board’s statements that the video wouldn’t be shown, we believe folk ought to be able to make their own judgments about the quality of Martin’s presentation.  With that in mind, here is the video, and please be aware that Martin apparently failed to turn on the audio until 20 seconds into the video:

Former LSBC Member Martin’s video, the link for which current LSBC Members insisted be removed from the LSBC website (wait 20 seconds for audio to be activated).

Now, the commentary of the folk in the room about Martin’s video is what it is, so we’re not going to comment on that commentary other than to say the Board Members could, “consider it done” regarding removing the link for the video from the LSBC’s website.  Furthermore, one Board Member was told to “forget it ever happened” entailing that memorandum even going out, and Executive Director Steve Young reiterated that, “testing will remain as it is.”

We will also point out that, on February 7, 2022, Martin gave a live demonstration of the same material to the then-Board Members, so we’re going to present his presentation to the Board of that date at this time:

February 7, 2022:  Then-LSBC Member Kevin Martin demonstrates natural hair styling and the planned testing of same on the LSBC practical exam.

Now, as everyone knows, hair braiding has been a huge bone of contention at the LSBC, and they have spent a massive amount of legal fees defending against the Institute for Justice’s litigation against the LSBC.  At today’s meeting, yet another hair braider was fined (both the individual and the salon) $550, or $1,100 total.  Let’s take a look at that brief (31-second) video:

6/3/24:  LSBC fines yet more hair braiders for possessing no license.

Now, there’s more to report on this meeting, but rather than breaking it out further, we are merely going to encourage anyone who wishes to watch the remaining topics (by viewing the meeting in its entirety) to do so by clicking here.

We can’t help but recall the famous words of Chris Guidry, an Aveda alumnus, who also slammed the Board to its faces on May 1, 2017.  In fact, let’s close this feature with Guidry’s famous words:

In Louisiana, our students are required to complete 1500, at a cost of around $20,000. Upon completion they have to wait several weeks/months before getting their test date. The large majority of students fail the state board on the first test date. Our state board requires NO continuing education, does not check for cleanliness ( for the guest of the salon ), and only makes sure that our cosmo license is up to date. Basically state board is a straight money grab! They have no regard for the guest or the craft!! It’s disgusting… I certainly don’t want to hurt the craft that I love dearly, but I’m yet to see the benefit of state boards or a license. You become better by practicing and passion not by a piece of paper.

To us, Guidry has enough guts and fortitude to, “tell it like it is!”

Does LSP’s recent signing of $1,000/hour legal contract ($2 million cap annually with two renewals) provide direct indication that US Department of Justice will file Federal suit to place LSP under Consent Decree?

An attendee holds up a photo at DOJ / U. S. Attorneys’ town hall meeting of May 16, 2023 on the campus of Southern University to illustrate Louisiana law enforcement’s alleged treatment of her son.

In today’s Sound Off Louisiana feature, Robert Burns provides his take on recent revelations that LSP has entered into a $1,000/hour contract to defend against the U.S. Department of Justice’s pattern and practices investigation of the agency:

June 1, 2024:  Burns provides his take on LSP’s $1,000/hour ($2 million cap each year for up to three years) to defend against DOJ’s pattern and practice investigation into the agency.  Note:  In the above video, Burns inaccurately stated that the LENS/NOLA lawsuit was filed in late March when, it reality, it was filed on April 29, 2024.  We regret the error.

 

Click here for The Lens/NOLA feature, and click here for our May 23, 2023 feature of the DOJ and U. S. Attorney’s presentation at Southern University on May 16, 2023 (the link for the DOJ presentation is at the bottom, or feel free to directly see it by clicking here).

Here are a few highlights from that Lens/NOLA feature of Friday, May 31, 2024:

A law firm in Washington, D.C. is collecting $1,000 an hour to help shield the Louisiana State Police from a federal civil-rights investigation.

The white-shoe firm, WilmerHale, was given the contract to defend LSP from a sweeping investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice spurred by evidence of racial discrimination and use of excessive force.

The firm’s initial contract was for three months, starting in November and expiring on January 31, 2024. WilmerHale’s rate was set at an eye-popping $750 per hour, capped at a total of $300,000.

For the firm’s second, current contract, obtained by The Lens this week, LSP directly contracted with WilmerHale – signing the agreement in April, but backdating the start of the contract to February 1. It is a one-year contract with a $2 million cap.

The contract stipulates a $1,000 hourly rate for all work done by the firm, including two named WilmerHale partners — Ed O’Callaghan, a former high-level DOJ official under President Donald Trump, and Aaron Zebley, a former FBI special agent and federal prosecutor.

The agreement includes an option to extend the contract for two more years, under the same terms.

It took The Lens two months and a lawsuit to view the second contract, which The Lens requested through a public-records request in March.

After no contract was supplied by the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Louisiana State Police, The Lens sued in the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge on April 29, represented by the First Amendment Law Clinic at Tulane University Law School.

On May 30, Baton Rouge judge Eboni Johnson Rose ruled that the contract was a public record, and ordered DPS to turn it over to The Lens.

Sometimes negotiations can lead to a resolution. But not always. The result that Louisiana officials seem to fear the most is a consent decree, which puts a federal judge in charge of the required reforms and the agency’s progress on those reforms.

[Attorney General Liz] Murrill’s longtime ally, Landry, has railed against the New Orleans Police Department’s ongoing federal consent decree, which stemmed from a similar federal investigation into officer misconduct.

In December, Murrill told the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate that she also hoped to avoid a similar result. “We would always prefer not to end up with a federal consent decree,” she said. “They tend to run for a very long time and be very expensive for taxpayers.”

But in Louisiana, the rate far exceeds most other state legal contracts, including ones for seemingly similar work. For instance, around the same time that Landry signed the November contract with WilmerHale, he also hired a New Orleans-based firm, Rodrigue and Arcuri, to work on “matters involving the federal government and consent decrees.”

Rodrigue and Arcuri is paid $225 an hour.

The WilmerHale contract is also nearly triple the maximum hourly fee promulgated by the attorney general, who approves all private legal contracts with government agencies. In February, AG Murrill set the maximum hourly rate for legal services at $350 an hour.

A state law regulating the hiring of outside legal counsel by state agencies also appears to prohibit rates higher than $500 per hour.  “In no case shall the attorney general, or any state agency, board, or commission….incur fees in excess of five hundred dollars per hour for legal services,” the Louisiana statute reads.

“I don’t see any authority for it in the Louisiana law,” said Dane Ciolino, a legal-ethics expert and professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, when he was asked about the November contract in January. The firm’s $750 rate was not unreasonable, given WilmerHale’s national reputation, Ciolino noted. But, he said, it didn’t seem to be allowed within Louisiana law. “I’m not aware of any exception that would let them charge those kinds of rates in excess of $500 an hour,” he said.

Asked about the state’s $500 hourly cap in January, Murrill said that the November contract was negotiated prior to her taking office. She was “reviewing it and the authority regarding rates,” she said.

In March, when The Lens followed up on the issue, a AG spokesperson said that the contract was no longer with the office, and referred questions to the state police.

So, that’s the latest with LSP, and we again extend our sincerest appreciation to The Lens/NOLA for enabling the public to learn of this matter.