19th JDC Judge Moore denies State Police Commission’s efforts to toss St. Tammany Parish residents’ lawsuit asserting open meeting violation.

St. Tammany Parish residents prepare to discuss their courtroom victory in 19th JDC before Judge Richard “Chip” Moore at which the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) failed in its efforts to have the lawsuit filed against the Members of the Commission tossed entailing an alleged open meetings violation.

When we published yesterday’s feature on St. George, at the end of the feature, we mentioned the fact that the litigation regarding the LSPC’s Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action would be heard today (Monday, June 17, 2024) before 19th JDC Judge Richard “Chip” Moore.  From yesterday’s feature:

Tomorrow (Monday, June 17, 2024) morning, we will be in court for the Defendants’ Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action on the St. Tammany Parish citizens’ lawsuit against the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC).

Those residents contend that the Commission engaged in an “electronic meeting” in violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws.

They have also called upon Gov. Jeff Landry to seek Defendant LSPC Members’ resignations as a result of alleged violations of Louisiana’s Constitution, their Oaths of Office, and LSPC Rules.

On Tuesday, June 11, 2024 at 2:32 p.m., we reached out to Gov. Landry’s office for comment on those citizens’ call for action on his part.  Since their litigation also says the letter the LSPC mailed out gave the “unmistakable impression” that Gov. Jeff Landry opposed the candidacy of Collin Sims for District Attorney in St. Tammany Parish, we asked Gov. Landry point-blank if he in fact did oppose Sims’ candidacy.

Quite frankly, we expected a reply back from Landry’s Office emphatically denying any such proclivity on Landry’s part that he opposed Sims’ candidacy.  Instead, Landry’s Office chose not to respond to our inquiry, which makes us wonder if the Plaintiffs’ contention in their litigation regarding Gov. Jeff Landry and whose side he was on in the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney race may just in fact be accurate.

Whatever the case on Gov. Landry, we’ll report upon how tomorrow’s Court hearing turns out.

At this time, we provide the following video in which the Plaintiffs in that litigation share just how everything went at today’s court hearing:

 6/17/24:  Plaintiffs discuss their win over LSPC during the 19th JDC Court Hearing earlier on that day.

Parker-Brown indicated in the video above that the discovery phase of the litigation will now commence.  She further stated that, just as was asserted in Plaintiffs’ Opposition Memorandum, one of the first items sought will be a Request for Production of Documents.  That request will focus on all emails applicable for any correspondence of the matter of that infamous January 20, 2024 letter from the LSPC Members to the Collin Sims campaign.

We commit that, once we’re provided with access to any such emails, we will make them public via publication to all visitors to this website.  Somehow, we think they just may be quite informative regarding just what all went down in this particular episode.

St. George Interim Mayor Dustin Yates: “I was not appointed to start a school system;” stresses need for patience during transition to 5th largest city in Louisiana.

City of St. George Interim Mayor Dustin Yates.

Well, it has been six (6) years since our feature wherein the then-proposed City of St. George organizers voiced extreme frustration with East Baton Rouge Parish (EBRP) officials.

It has certainly been a tough road, during which one petition was deemed to have just shy of the number of required signatures for a vote of the residents of the proposed city, a second petition succeeded in being certified, an election was held in which the voters expressed the desire to form their own city, litigation in 19th JDC to block the city from becoming reality, an appeal of the 19th JDC decision to the First Circuit, then finally a trip to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

It was at that point that the organizers admitted that, if the Louisiana Supreme Court ruling did not go their way, the fight was over.  The Court, however, ruled in their favor, and the formation of the city was off to the races.

As part of that process, Dustin Yates was appointed by Gov. Landry as the new City’s Interim Mayor, and Todd Morris was appointed as the new City’s Police Chief.  Those two gentlemen were the guest speakers at the May, 2024 Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon (sorry for no link, but Sound Off Louisiana’s Burns left Facebook in early 2021 and never intends to return).

Let’s take a look at the highlights of what was covered:

Yates is introduced after which he gave an explanation of his background and exactly how he wound up in Baton Rouge and becoming an integral part of the Community of St. George.

Yates gives special credit to St. George Fire Chief Gerard Tarleton in serving as a mentor for Yates.

 Yates makes it clear that he was, “not appointed to start a school system,” after which he stresses the need for “patience” and emphasizes the need for “reconciliation” from “hurt feelings” over the whole formation of St. George.

Yates responds to Sound Off Louisiana‘s Burns posing a question for any “ballpark” estimate of the money spent by EBRP taxpayers fighting the St. George movement, after which Councilwoman Laurie White Adams provides a very definitive answer.


Yates responds to Sound Off Louisiana’s Burns regarding any prospects of a Republican challenger in this November’s race for Mayor-President of EBRP.

Newly-appointed St. George Police Chief Todd Morris’ presentation in its entirety.

CLICK HERE for the May, 2024 Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon program in its entirety.

Tomorrow (Monday, June 17, 2024) morning, we will be in court for the Defendants’ Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action on the St. Tammany Parish citizens’ lawsuit against the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC).

Those residents contend that the Commission engaged in an “electronic meeting” in violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws.

They have also called upon Gov. Jeff Landry to seek Defendant LSPC Members’ resignations as a result of alleged violations of Louisiana’s Constitution, their Oaths of Office, and LSPC Rules.

On Tuesday, June 11, 2024 at 2:32 p.m., we reached out to Gov. Landry’s office for comment on those citizens’ call for action on his part.  Since their litigation also says the letter the LSPC mailed out gave the “unmistakable impression” that Gov. Jeff Landry opposed the candidacy of Collin Sims for District Attorney in St. Tammany Parish, we asked Gov. Landry point-blank if he in fact did oppose Sims’ candidacy.

Quite frankly, we expected a reply back from Landry’s Office emphatically denying any such proclivity on Landry’s part that he opposed Sims’ candidacy.  Instead, Landry’s Office chose not to respond to our inquiry, which makes us wonder if the Plaintiffs’ contention in their litigation regarding Gov. Jeff Landry and whose side he was on in the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney race may just in fact be accurate.

Whatever the case on Gov. Landry, we’ll report upon how tomorrow’s Court hearing turns out.

 

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.