Former Louisiana State Police Commission Executive Director Cathy Derbonne, likely uneasy because her job status is on the agenda, struggles to get the audio recording device to function properly at the outset of the January 12, 2017 meeting of the Commission.
As we begin this feature, we make one small request of our subscribers: We ask that you watch the following 11-minute video of highlights of the January and February 2017 meetings of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) because we believe this video firmly illustrates the political-hack nature of the Commission and demonstrates the abject failure and embarrassment that the Commission is to the citizens of Louisiana. Every single citizen of this state should be embarrassed and ashamed of what is contained in the video which follows:
Highlights from the 1/12/17 and 2/17/17 LSPC meetings entailing efforts to terminate its then-Executive Director, Cathy Derbonne.
Because the video speaks for itself and is nothing short of a total disgrace, we provide no commentary on it whatsoever. Nevertheless, viewers should make note of our captions which provide history and insight into why some of the members and others are conducting themselves in the manner they are and saying the things they say.
Now, probably most every subscriber who wants to has now viewed the infamous heated clash between former Commissioner Lloyd Grafton and current member Jared Riecke (if not, anyone is welcome to watch it at the preceding link). That fact notwithstanding, we want to draw attention to a very small segment of that video wherein former Commissioner Donald Breaux angrily insisted that Grafton reveal the names of the four members who were firmly committed to terminating Cathy Derbonne if she did not voluntarily resign. We want to focus on that brief segment right now:
Then-Commissioner Donald Breaux, at the 2/17/17 LSPC meeting, angrily demands that then-Commissioner Lloyd Grafton provide the names of the four (4) members who had agreed to terminate Derbonne if she did not voluntarily resign.
In the preceding video, Grafton emphasizes that the way Derbonne found out she was going to be terminated was by, “people opening their mouths and telling her that she was going to be fired because she was going to be fired!” According to multiple sources, current LSPC Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr., pulled Derbonne to the side prior to the start of the meeting and point-blank told her, “they have the votes to terminate you.” As the video points out, Grafton responded to Breaux’s angry demand by stating, “That will come out.”
Any long-time subscriber to this blog is well aware that Derbonne ultimately sued the LSPC for wrongful termination. Because Derbonne opted to settle her litigation on August 10, 2021, the “gang of four” never came out in open court. Nevertheless, we believe the public has the right to know the names of the four individuals. The first is the angry Breaux depicted in the video above demanding that Grafton name the four. Members two and three of the “gang of four” would be the “afternoon delight couple” of then-Chairman (and Trooper) T. J. Doss and then-Vice Chairperson Monica Manzella.
Sound Off Louisiana‘s founder, Robert Burns, filmed the “afternoon delight” pair of Doss/Manzella not long after a subsequent LSPC meeting both exiting a movie theater and, thereafter, checking into the Watermark Hotel in Baton Rouge. Let’s take just a few seconds, especially for newer members who likely have never seen these videos, to review those two episodes, shall we? First, the exit from the movie theater:
Then LSPC Chairman (and LSP Trooper) T. J. Doss, along with Vice Chairperson Monica Manzella, exit the Movie Tavern theater after watching a movie soon after attending an LSPC meeting.
Now the subsequent check-in to the Watermark Hotel in Baton Rouge:
Doss and Manzella check into the swank Watermark Hotel soon after enjoying a movie at Movie Tavern in Baton Rouge soon after an LSPC meeting.
So, there you have three of the four. The fourth member of the “gang of four” is none other than Gov. Edwards’ $70 million man on the LSPC, Jared Riecke.
So, there are your four members for the world to see! Quite a motley crew, no?
Now, isn’t it interesting how former LSPC Member Calvin Braxton claims he’s being left out of the loop by then-Chairman (and active Trooper) T. J. Doss, particularly as it pertains to Derbonne. Unbeknownst to Braxton, who has an existing lawsuit against the Louisiana State Trooper’s Association (LSTA) for defamation, efforts to oust him were well underway and were arguably even more forceful than the LSTA’s calls for Derbonne’s head. We want to take just a few moments to indicate just how resolved Braxton was to remain on the LSPC. Here’s just a few seconds of video wherein Braxton makes clear that resolve:
Then-Commissioner Calvin Braxton makes clear his resolve to remain an LSPC member and that he would not resign or quit.
As many long-time subscribers know, soon after Braxton uttered those words, he did “resign.” At least, that’s what Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office claimed. Nevertheless, when we made a public records request for Braxton’s resignation letter, all we got was this press release of July 21, 2017 stating that Braxton had “resigned.” Anybody curious as to just what all Braxton asserts happened? We can provide a few answers by referring folk to a few pages of Braxton’s June 24, 2019 deposition on the LSTA litigation. [Note: Be patient for the file at the preceding link to download as Braxton had a TON to say!]. How about we start with page 84, to wit:
Q. Did you ever resign from any other
board besides the Louisiana State Police?
A. I never resigned from the Louisiana
State Police board.
Or how about page 168 from that same deposition, to wit:
I got a call from Greg Tarver — not Greg — Senator Greg Tarver saying that he had talked to Mike Edmonson and Jay D., Colonel Jay D. and that he said the governor wanted me to resign. Come from Greg Tarver. And I called for the governor, I had his cell phone number, but I didn’t get him. But I called and talked to Mike Edmonson. And Mike indicated to me that the governor wanted me to resign. I said, “Tell him if he want me to resign to give me a call.”
Q. Did you ever get a call from the governor?
A. Got a call from — a few months to come into his office. And I went to his office, sat down and told me that he wasn’t even doing anything with this, that it’s over with.
Q. So you continued on the board?
A. I never —
Q. On the commission?
A. On the commission. I continued before he told me that and I continued after he told me that.
Q. What did the governor tell you?
A. That he was not going to have a hearing, that this was all over with. I went, me and Simien, which is a commissioner now, went with him to — went with me to his office. And that’s what he —
Q. So actually sat down and spoke to Governor —
A. I spoke to him myself in his office.
Q. — John Bel Edwards?
A. He called me and I went to his office.
Q. And the governor told you he was not going to ask you to resign?
A. That’s right.
Q. And he didn’t ask you to resign?
Q. Did you resign eventually from the
Q. What happened?
A. I didn’t resign.
Q. I mean, the commission.
A. I didn’t resign from the commission, I never resigned from the board.
Getting interesting? How about we advance to page 192 of Braxton’s deposition, to wit:
Q. Who wrote this? And I’m talking about the press release dated July 21, 2017 that has as the title “Calvin Braxton.” It’s a very short paragraph by you.
A. From what I’ve been able to determine, that Representative Katrina Jackson wrote this.
Q. Did Katrina Jackson have your permission to write this?
Q. When did you find out that you had resigned?
A. When I was in North Carolina when I
got — it hit the news and people started calling
me, telling me that I resigned. That’s the first I
heard of it. I was in North Carolina.
Q. Sir, is it your testimony you did not give Miss Jackson permission to —
A. Exactly. Oh, I’m sorry. Go right ahead.
Q. You did not give Miss Jackson permission to speak to the press on your behalf?
Since we’re on a roll, let’s advance to page 194 and 195, to wit:
Q. After you found out that you had resigned, that you say you never gave anybody permission to make on your behalf, what did you do?
A. I never resigned.
Q. What did you do when you found out that someone had resigned on your behalf without your permission?
A. I called her.
Q. And did you ever ask anyone to revoke this resignation?
A. I never sent it. She wrote it. I never asked — I didn’t know about revoking, I — no, because I didn’t authorize her to sign it, so what am I revoking?
Q. Yeah? Did you have any reaction to Governor Edwards as accepting of your resignation?
A. I respected him, but he was — he knew that I didn’t resign.
Q. Did you speak to Governor Edwards about
A. Senator — Representative Denise Marcelle went to him.
Q. Who’s Denise Marcelle?
A. And — she’s a — Representative Denise Marcelle went to him and told him and say, “Just to give you a heads up, Calvin did not resign off that board.” And I — based on — she told me she went and told him that. Do I know? That’s what she — that’s what I asked her to do.
Q. If you didn’t resign, why didn’t you go to the board itself and say, Look, I didn’t resign, I didn’t anybody permission for me to resign on my behalf, I’m still on the board?
A. You think I’m stupid? What did I just go through? You think I’m going to put — jeopardize myself into that? Go there for what? To be — news people? No, I didn’t do that. I just kept my mouth closed. I just kept closed and let time do what it do.
So, there’s the story from the “horse’s mouth” about how Braxton went from adamantly stating he would not resign to suddenly soon thereafter “resigning.”
Let us prepare to conclude this feature by answering a key question Braxton wanted resolved entailing LSPC liability pertaining to Derbonne’s strong-armed resignation. We are going to do so via a short table from which all numbers are derived from the settlement documentation linked above. Here’s that table:
|Itemized Cost Item for Derbonne v. LSPC||Dollar Amount of Item|
|Settlement check to Derbonne (see page 6 of above link of Consolidated Derbonne Settlement Documentation).||$86,666.67.|
|Derbonne Attorney Fees (Jill Craft) Paid as part of settlement (see page 7 of above link of Consolidated Derbonne Settlement Documentation).||$43,333.33.|
|Legal fees to The Kullman law firm in defense of Derbonne's litigation (see pages 8 and 9 of above link of Consolidated Derbonne Settlement Documentation).||$54,650.26.|
|Legal fees paid to Taylor Porter for defense of Derbonne v. LSPC (see pages 10 - 61 of above link of Consolidated Derbonne Settlement Documentation and also see notations from LSPC below).||$26,155.00|
|Conservative estimate of court costs (given appeal to First Circuit and to Louisiana Supreme Court though the SC declined to hear LSPC's appeal of the matter).||$12,000.|
|LSPC funds paid to Gov. Edwards' Super PAC Head, Taylor Townsend, for a written report on matters Derbonne was investigating which he NEVER produced (his contract was for $75,000, but he agreed to a reduced amount).||$50,000.|
Now, the LSPC communicated a few items to us for which we believe, if they wanted us to know, they likely wanted to world to know. Accordingly, we are going to reproduce verbatim correspondence we received as it pertains to the Taylor Porter invoices and the settlement with Derbonne in general. The commentary on the Taylor Porter invoices is actually contained on page one (1) of the Consolidated Derbonne Settlement Documentation link above. Here is that commentary:
Please note that the billing in many instances accounts for a combination of legal services provided by our general counsel and the total for any particular line may not be 100% related to the Derbonne lawsuit against the LSPC.
Our response is that it only takes a cursory glance at a few pages of the Taylor Porter invoices linked above to recognize that the items not pertaining to Derbonne aren’t even on the invoices (i.e. they’re the original invoices but with white space for any non-Derbonne matters). Hence, while there may be some small amount on any given line that is not directly related to the Derbonne lawsuit, in accounting jargon (Sound Off Louisiana’s founder is an inactive CPA), it’s simply not material. The number in the table above is therefore deemed applicable.
The second commentary was sent via email and, we have no doubt, was likely dictated by LSPC Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr., and merely corresponded to us by its Executive Director Jason Hannaman. Here’s that correspondence:
The Attorney General represented the state in the lawsuit and the Office of Risk Management authorized any negotiated settlement. The State Police Commission did not sign off or vote on approval or disapproval of a settlement agreement in the case.
Obviously, the LSPC wants it made clear that this is not a settlement reached on its own but rather by Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office. We accept that fact without any qualification whatsoever. So, the LSPC had no say-so entailing the settlement. Point stipulated to. They had one heck of a truckload of say-so regarding whether the suit ever had to be filed in the first place though, no?
Now, our repeated efforts to have Derbonne on camera or at least to comment on the settlement were professionally and courteously declined. Nevertheless, we reached out to a number of sources trying to ascertain how the settlement figure was derived. We finally found one individual with integral knowledge of the matter who was willing to reveal to us that the logic used for the settlement figure was that Derbonne required six (6) months to obtain other employment. The goal was therefore for her to receive six months of her LSPC pay under the premise that, since she’d procured other employment after that six months, she was essentially on her own from that point on.
We can certainly understand Derbonne’s desire to place this whole episode behind her and, from our perspective, it certainly is now except for us using it to argue not only against the LSPC’s repeated requests for a part-time investigator (which could have been funded for 6-8 years with the money flushed down the toilet in the table above) but also to prove the political-hack nature of the LSPC.
If anyone needs further proof beyond the disgraceful 11-minute video with which we began this feature to prove the LSPC is an abject failure at having any usefulness whatsoever and is a complete and total political animal, let’s consider the 10th item contained in the Derbonne Settlement Agreement (see page 65 of the Derbonne Consolidated Settlement Documentation linked above). Here’s that item:
10. Derbonne waives any right of reinstatement to, or employment or re-employment with the Commission. If Derbonne applies for work, or reapplies for work, in the future with the Commission, then this Agreement will be a sufficient reason, by itself, for her not
to be hired or re-hired.
WOW!! Do we really need to say any more, folks?! So, someone who would possess the skills and knowledge to serve as the investigator the LSPC seeks is 100 percent, T-totally ineligible!!
Now, for the next LSPC meeting, the venue will be a Senate Committee meeting room (E). From the preceding link:
The next regular business meeting of the State Police Commission will be held on Thursday, December 16, 2021, at 9:00 A.M. in Senate Committee Room E, Louisiana State Capitol Building, 900 N. Third Street, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802.
Presumably, this next meeting will be coordinated with the first meeting of the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on LSP Oversight. We would recommend each member of that Committee review this feature to see why, as former LSPC Commission Member Lloyd Grafton states, “LSP has no oversight!” We believe more true words have never been spoken in anyone’s life!
If those Louisiana Senators truly want to enact meaningful reform to clean up the insidious cancer that now is LSP, here’s the first two actions that need to transpire:
- Abolish the LSPC and revert to at-will employment. After all, the Louisiana State Trooper’s Association (LSTA) is so jealous of the political influence of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association (LSA) that they are suing the LSPC to enable it to be able to make political contributions just like the LSA (though Sound Off Louisiana seems to be the only media outlet which ever covers that lawsuit). The problem? The LSTA wants to have its cake and eat it too. They want LSP’s Civil Service protection to remain (Sheriffs can hire and fire at will) but have the same luxuries as the LSA. The simple solution is to dissolve the LSPC, end Civil Service protection for LSP Troopers, and tell them, “start writing checks to politicians until your heart’s content!”
- Enact a Louisiana Statue to permit the Colonel of State Police to be hired from outside of the agency. Whichever candidate for Governor in 2023 commits to hire such an outsider to clean up the abject disaster that is LSP right now will win in a landslide! Louisiana citizens from every walk of life (rich, poor, white, black, male, female, young, old) are way beyond fed up with LSP’s corruption, coverups, lack of accountability, and in general giving Louisiana a black eye from its past (and quite likely current) piss-poor leadership which is a direct result of the existing Louisiana Statute requiring that an LSP Colonel come from within its own ranks. The culture of corruption is so massive that it simply isn’t possible to find anyone from within LSP’s ranks willing to clean the mess up. Furthermore, even if it were possible to find such an individual, the Civil Service protection referenced in # 1 makes it an impossible task!
Now, we want to finish this feature by stating one thing: The staff at the LSPC, from Executive Director Jason Hannaman down (and it’s not a large staff by any means) have exhibited nothing but professionalism and courtesy to us. We believe that they are top-notch employees. It’s certainly not their faults that the LSPC is the abject disaster that it is. In recommending abolishing the LSPC and Civil Service protection for LSP Troopers, it would be our hope and expectations that other employment opportunities could be provided for the staff at the LSPC within other agencies of Louisiana State government. It’s long past time, however, that this disgraceful entity which has brought embarrassment and shame to every Louisiana citizen in this state be abolished. We hope sentiments along those line are voiced at the upcoming LSPC meeting on December 16, 2021 in Senate Committee Room E!
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