At a special meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) of Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Sound Off Louisiana‘s founder Robert Burns expressed his concerns as a taxpayer that yet more taxpayer funds are about to be expended defending yet another lawsuit, which Burns described as “a certainty” by the former Executive Director of the Commission, Cathy Derbonne. Derbonne was strong-armed into resigning (by allegedly being informed there were four votes on the Commission committed to terminating her) soon after she reported the illegal campaign contributions by three of the LSPC members to Gov. Edwards and other appropriate authorities. As a result of her reporting, those three LSPC members (Freddie Pitcher, Franklin Kyle, and William Goldring) resigned. Also, as a result of retired LSP Troopers filing a complaint with the LSPC entailing illegal campaign contributions by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), a $5,000 fine was imposed for those illegal campaign contributions. Video of Burns expressing his concerns follows:
Burns expresses his concern about taxpayer outlays expended on retaliation cases such as Corey delaHoussaye, Murphy Painter, and what he describes as an “all but certain” upcoming lawsuit by Derbonne.
At the conclusion of the video clip above, Burns is very complimentary of the professionalism and courtesy of the LSPC membership. As he stated in the video, that is certainly not the case with some other boards and commissions that he monitors. In particular, Deborah Steinmetz, Chairman of the State Board of Interior Design (IDB), has, according to Burns, shown more determination and resolve than anyone he’s ever met to shield internal agency corruption in the form of “blatant payroll fraud” on the part of that agency’s executive Director, Sandy Edmonds. At the February 16, 2017 meeting of that Board, Rev. Freddie Lee Phillips, who has long pursued Edmonds’ actions on that Board for her payroll fraud activities, was informed that an item he requested to be on the agenda would not be granted. Here’s video coverage of Rev. Phillips’ interaction with that Board:
Phillips sought to have his agenda request discussed by the Board, but he was instead served with
this one-page UNSIGNED certified letter just before the meeting indicating that his request had been denied.
Meanwhile, Burns had his own concerns about the Board’s financing. Specifically, Burns is concerned that the Board has, for years, imposed fees on its licensees for continuing education when it has absolutely no statutory authority for doing so.
Deborah Steinmetz, as Chairman of the IDB, fully adheres to the Nike commercial slogan “just do it,” and she has historically cared less whether what she does is legal or illegal. It is that mindset on her part which has resulted in the Louisiana Legislative Auditor stating the Board should require her hand-picked Executive Director, Sandy Edmonds (wife of licensed interior designer Matthew Edmonds, who also happens to teach Interior Design under IDB Vice Chairman T. L. Ritchie, who is an Associate Professor of LSU’s Interior Design Program) pay back funds to the IDB which the Legislative Auditor claims were paid illegally.
When Steinmetz steadfastly refused to follow the Legislative Auditor’s admonitions, the matter was referred to EBRP District Attorney Hillar Moore for criminal prosecution. Moore, in turn, forwarded the matter on to the Louisiana Office of Inspector General (IG) which, in turn, issued this damning report. In the report, the IG stated Edmonds had been “paid for performing no public purpose.” IG investigators monitored Edmonds’ cell phone and caught her red-handed relaxing on the beach in Orange Beach, AL; taking a weeklong vacation in Disneyworld, visiting New York, etc. all while claiming to be “on the clock.” IG investigators also caught Edmonds point-blank lying to them about the practice, for which the investigators recommended “appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
Of course, Steinmetz and the corrupt IDB she heads, let the IG’s disciplinary recommendation go in one ear and out the other because Edmonds, as wife of Matthew Edmonds, is in the close “inner circle” of “family” of Interior Designers, so under no circumstances would they ever take disciplinary action against her!
While Phillips has continued to press the payroll fraud issues, Burns sought to address the continuing educational fees and lack of any statutory authority to impose them. Let’s watch Steinmetz conveniently try to omit public comment by Burns, followed by Steinmetz and the Board’s attorney, Anna Dow, going into full-blown “shut down” mode as Burns makes effort to discuss the matter despite their stern resistance, shall we?
Burns, after being conveniently overlooked by Steinmetz for him to make public comment, encounters intense shut-down efforts in his efforts to discuss the financial statements the Board is about to approve, which clearly contained a line-item for CEU fees assessed to licensees.
So, despite the fact that the LSPC is right now under a microscope under some very, very adverse circumstances, at least the members demonstrated the utmost of courtesy and respect to Burns for him to make his public comment. Hence, perhaps the biggest mistake Col. Edmonson has made is being a high-profile figure whose subordinates charged some illegal overtime. If he’d been a low-profile leader of a state agency like Deborah Steinmetz, despite years of corruption as evidenced above (and way, way, way more payroll fraud than the State Troopers allegedly recently committed), nobody ever even reveals that fact in newspapers, TV news, etc. So, Col. Edmonson, if you soon find yourself no longer Edwards’ LSP Colonel in coming days or weeks, simply apply for a low-level agency head. It seems Edwards has no regard for what goes on in such agencies, as readily demonstrated above.
Update: 2/23/17 @ 9:50 p.m. (see comment/question below):
EBRP Deputy Ronald Landry asked Burns to go outside the room for a brief conversation. In that conversation, Landry indicated that some members (and particularly attorney Anna Dow) were acting hostile toward Burns, and he was responding in kind. He then said, “Unfortunately, man, if they order me to escort you out, I have no choice even though that’s not what I would want to do. I can’t take sides in the discussion you’re having with them, so I’m asking you to not place me in a position of having to do something I don’t want to do.” He then said an apology was not necessary on Burns’ part, but that “it may help lower the volume levels of everyone in the room.” Accordingly, Burns did make a brief apology, and he was permitted to continue his public comment, and it follows:
Burns questions ability to charge for continuing education, and Board Member Karen Hazel, wife of
State Representative Chris Hazel, indicated that the matter would be looked into.
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