Louisiana State Police Retirement Board Executive Director Irwin Felps, Jr.
On September 4, 2014, a little-known, obscure public body had the responsibility of finding a solution to a law passed that year in total and complete secrecy during the waning moments of the 2014 Louisiana Legislative Session that bestowed an approximate $55,000/year pension boost to former Louisiana State Police (LSP) Col. Mike Edmonson. That obscure body, which had been thrust into the public spotlight to which previously it was unaccustomed, is the LSP Retirement Board (LSPRB).
Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns had no blog experience whatsoever in 2014, but he did (and does) have the ability to create free-standing websites, and he created a permanent, fixed webpage that chronicled the whole “Edmonson Amendment,” as the stealth theft attempt on Edmonson’s part became known. Burns made that webpage in the form of a “corruption play” with 18 acts and a 15-second intermission performed by the late C. B. Forgotston, who was corralling LSP Troopers throughout the state who were voicing their strong discontent to him over the attempted theft on Edmonson’s part which Forgotston would publish through his blog by his same name (which became inactive after Forgotston’s passing).
There was a fierce effort by the LSPRB to avoid transparency regarding the matter. Then-Treasurer (Now U. S. Senator) John Kennedy, who befriended Burns during the timeframe, provided both Burns and Forgotston with a plethora of evidence of the LSPRB’s attempts to avoid transparency. Subsequently Burns, through public records requests of LSPRB attorney invoices, uncovered the fact that the LSPRB was actively seeking legal counsel’s guidance on how to “rein in” Kennedy as they clearly viewed him as a renegade.
Most of that evidence Kennedy provided is available as document links on the preceding linked webpage. In fact, all one has to do is begin with Act 7 of the “corruption play” to begin seeing Sen. Kennedy’s demonstration of the obstructionists acts to include attempting to keep him from even seeing a copy of a Florida special counsel’s report on the matter, thus forcing Kennedy, as a sitting member of the Board, to have to make a freaking public records request for him to see the report! For the record, the Board quickly caved and provided Kennedy with a copy of the report, which Kennedy immediately made public, which was precisely what the Board and its Executive Director, Irwin Felps, Jr., sought to avoid.
Kennedy took matters a step further and, on September 4, 2014, he dressed down both LSPRB Chairman Frank Besson (who remains in that capacity to this day) and Executive Director Irwin Felps, Jr., who likewise remains in that same capacity to this day despite Felps’ repeated overtures over the last 2-3 years that his retirement is “imminent.” In fact, Felps’ position has been posted as the LSPRB, at least in theory, actively sought his replacement. We will not speculate on why a replacement was never selected or why sought-after replacements didn’t end up obtaining the position, and Felps continues to serve long after his “imminent” retirement.
Kennedy felt a need to dress down Felps and Besson after he uncovered the fact that they recommended (or, more accurately, posted a notice attempting to cram it down the public-at-large’s throat) a “public comment policy” calling for names to be randomly drawn from a hat. Only the fortunate ones whose names were drawn from the hat would be permitted to address the LSPRB regarding their sentiments on the “Edmonson Amendment” at that September 4, 2014 meeting. Furthermore, even those fortunate enough to win the “right to address the LSPRB lottery” would be permitted a grand total of two minutes each to express their sentiments. What we just relayed is not a joke and, for anyone who thinks it is, let’s take a gander at then-Treasurer Kennedy in action entailing said dressing down of Besson and Felps, shall we?:
September 4, 2014 LSPRB meeting during which then-Treasurer (now U. S. Senator) John Kennedy dresses down Chairman Frank Besson and Executive Director Irwin Felps, Jr.
The Edmonson Amendment was quickly declared unconstitutional by State District Court Judge Janice Clark once State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) filed a lawsuit as a taxpaying citizen in expressing his own outrage at Edmonson’s deceit and scam perpetrated upon both Chambers of the Louisiana Legislature.
Thereafter, meetings of the LSPRB sort of went back to the usual boring affairs, and they faded from the public’s spotlight. We were contacted in the recent past, however, and we were notified that all is most certainly not well within LSPRB’s office. Specifically, we were informed that, notwithstanding consistently satisfactory performance evaluations up to August of 2018, 3 1/2 months later and immediately after Christmas (December 28, 2018 to be precise), Executive Director Irwin Felps, Jr. informed office assistant Shelley Sebastian, a classified civil service employee, in a letter that she would be terminated effective January 7, 2019. Who says there’s no Grinch at Christmas, huh?
Sebastian appealed her termination to Louisiana Civil Service (LCS) on January 22, 2019, noting many alleged inaccuracies in the documents submitted in support of LSPRB’s termination notice which Felps tendered to her. When confronted with the alleged inaccuracies, LSPRB filed a rescission to the termination with LCS on February 26, 2019, which was accepted by the Referee.
Sebastian was then scheduled to return to work on March 11, 2019. Sebastian has stated to us that, upon her return, within five minutes of her first work day on the job, Felps informed her that, “We are going to terminate you again. In the meantime, you are to sit in the Board Office, and you will be provided no access to any office phone, nor will you be permitted to use any computer nor other technology device in this office.”
Sebastian further indicated that an as-yet unidentified Department of Public Safety (DPS) uniformed officer was instructed to sit beside her in that conference room and monitor her for the entire work day! Sebastian indicated to us that, if she needed to use the restroom, she was escorted there and back by the unidentified DPS employee. When we asked how long that situation lasted, she responded, “two days.” Thereafter, Sebastian stated that Felps said, “Until we get this sorted out, it’s best that you not return to this office.” Sebastian also indicated that, upon her return, she was supplied with a 700-page Notice of Termination, which included the entirety of her 300-page personnel file.
Sebastian, via an attorney she’d retained, Tammeral Hills, began commencing with public records requests to include: “The calendar showing tardiness for all employees for each month of the calendar year beginning 2014-2018; any and all performance evaluations showing satisfactory in an attempt to assist employees in receiving a raise; any and all emails mentioning Shelley Sebastian; contract with Department of Public Safety giving special instructions to follow employee Shelley Sebastian when she reported for work on March 11, 2018 (sic); Invoice from Prison Enterprises from September 2018 is not required to be produced.”
When Felps contended that Sebastian is not entitled to receive the documents, Sebastian responded with a Writ of Mandamus seeking for a Judge (Tim Kelley, who drew the case) to order LSPRB to surrender the requested documents. The suit also seeks damages for the alleged failure to surrender the documents against both the LSPRB and Felps personally as the Custodian of Records.
The suit was filed at 5:27 p.m. on Friday, March 22, 2019, so clearly service has not yet been accomplished, but we certainly welcome LSPRB Members (and particularly Felps) to get an advanced sneak peek at what is in transit to Felps by clicking on the preceding link. Ah, heck! We’re feeling generous today, so let’s also provide Felps and crew with the accompanying memorandum in support to Judge Kelley regarding why Sebastain feels he should issue the Mandamus.
Writs of Mandamus are typically extremely difficult to prevail upon simply because the Plaintiff (Sebastian in this instance) must demonstrate clearly to the court that the Defendant (the LSPRB in this instance) has no discretion whatsoever on the matter and must, by law, comply with the action requested. Felps, presumably through an attorney, has, according to the Writ of Mandamus, asserted that the LSPRB does in fact have such discretion and is not required to surrender the documents until an appeal to LCS commences, an act which the LSPRB indicates would trigger Sebastian being “entitled to receive supporting documentation.”
Let’s take a look at a few select highlights from the suit and/or accompanying Memorandum, and provide some brief commentary, shall we (enter sarcasm mode as we find it to be one of the very few avenues for relief from the sheer frustration of the barrage of such instances in Louisiana State government and the absolutely massive legal fees associated therewith)?
Gee, where did it go, Mr. Felps?
Really? Irwin Felps, Jr. is “afraid” of Sebastian! The big-bad, “I’ll tell you about public comment and you having nerve enough to think that, just because you’re an LSPRB Member and the State Treasurer, you somehow believe that you should be able to read a report that cost us around $32,000 to obtain, Treasurer Kennedy,” Irwin Felps? The $160,000/year Irwin Felps, a male, is willing to state he’s “afraid” of little $31,616/year female Sebastian (Sidebar: The LSPRB removed Sebastian from the prior link within minutes of this feature being published, but we screen-saved it in anticipation of same. Here’s the link for the LIVE listing of employees)! Well, okay whatever. All we can say is that, on the numerous occasions that we encountered Sebastian during our routine videotaping of meetings, a partial list of which can be viewed at this link, we found her to be unbelievably friendly, warm, courteous, and she could not have been nicer in timely notifying us via email of upcoming meetings! Well, perhaps we only encountered her on her “good days.”
Oh! So, if this statement is true, we now have Felps admitting that he’s willing to hand out “satisfactory” ratings to employees he secretly deems to be unsatisfactory for the sole purpose of fleecing taxpayers, huh? Wow! We wonder if that practice is pandemic throughout Louisiana State government? If so, it must be nice to work for the State of Louisiana! A decent lawyer would ask Felps on the stand, “Were you lying then when you said she was a satisfactory employee and you recommended a raise, or are you lying now in your steadfast resolve that she is an unsatisfactory employee, and you are bound and determined to fire her a mere 3 1/2 months after you assessed her as ‘satisfactory’?”
Sounds reasonable to us. If you’re going to terminate someone mere days after Christmas, why bother with adhering to Federal law regarding FMLA (and who cares about the technicality that said Federally-mandated leave has been “approved,”)? After all, when one gets on Felps’ bad side, she (since he’s the only male employee in the office) has got to go, dad gum it!
Also, when it comes to state government, isn’t a person who actually performs the work assigned to him or her literally just asking to be fired? You’d think some of these dedicated state employees who do their jobs would sooner or later get it through their thick skulls that it’s all about who you know and that there are plenty of deadhead state jobs as long as you have the right connections. This whole business of doing a job as assigned certainly was a novel concept decades ago, but everybody knows it was just a passing fad for which the whole trend has simply long-since lived out its useful life. Everybody knows that rampant payroll fraud is the “in thing” in state government today. Just ask the old boy at the LSU Vet School!
Now, in terms of deadhead jobs, it really helps quite a bit if you can: #1) have a really good connection of members of Gov. Edwards’ attorney cabal and, naturally, if you can engage in domestic abuse such as hitting your daughter in the face and left forearm with a closed fist, well, then, you’re pretty much “in like Flynn” as they say!
Regarding apparent confusion on Felps’ part in terms of who actually took sick leave due to illness, are technicalities like that really important? Surely “confusion” is acceptable, huh? We openly wonder if it was Felps, the Board, or just who was “confused” over initiating a huge timber investment made by the retirement system for which they were regularly discussing as we attended meetings a few years back as having literally lost their shirts (well, at least a sleeve or two as we understand some recovery did start to materialize) on said investment? After all, if the office can’t even accurately reflect who is sick and who is not and Sebastian is blamed for some other employee’s sick leave absence, we can certainly cut a little slack on other such minor issues such as slip-shod timber investments, huh? Heck, God only knows who previously owned the timber property? That prior owner obviously benefited handsomely from the investment disaster on the part of the Board, right? Surely the retired troopers don’t mind the sacrifice of foregoing COLAs for years on end to help the prior timber property owner out, huh?
Oh, we see now. Silly us! In other words, the office needs time to “doctor” public records, huh? That sure seems to be eerily similar to the altering of public records in St. Tammany Parish which we recently reported upon. Oh, that’s right, that alleged perpetrator now serves on the State Bar Association’s “Prestigious” Board of Governors! Well, no doubt they share notes just like the good old days in college! The absolute last thing we need is for the public to actually gain access to these public documents. Just ask contractor Billy Broussard! By God, if we turn those documents over to them, they may very well find out about fraud and collusion! No way can we have that!
Oh, so that explains where the original went such that it now “does not exist.” We see now! Gosh, do we feel stupid for even asking!
[Exit sarcasm mode.]
Sebastian telephoned us yesterday, March 26, 2019, and informed us that she has now been officially terminated for a second time, with the effective date being immediate (March 27, 2019). What her official status was from the dates of March 14, 2019 (the first date for which Sebastian informed us that Felps stated that she should not report to the office going forward) through March 27, 2019, we’re not sure. We were told one thing, but we’re going to need to substantiate that through public records request before we actually publish what we were told as being accurate! Nevertheless, if the above allegations are true about “correcting” public documents, there may be four or five different “versions” of Sebastian’s time sheet for that particular period, but we guess they can place them all in a hat and pull the one they want to settle in on as “official” version (guess we had just a tad of remaining sarcasm we just had to get out of our system).
As evidenced at the start of the feature, Felps attempted to bully then-Treasurer Kennedy in attempting to deny him access to the Florida attorneys’ report notwithstanding Kennedy’s standing as a sitting LSPRB member. Kennedy quickly put Felps in his place as evidenced by the video. Now, Felps certainly appears (at least based on the Mandamus’ contents) to be back to his bullying propensities again, but this time with an underling who certainly lacks the clout of Sen. Kennedy. We’ll see if Felps succeeds, but in terms of credibility, Kennedy has already demonstrated to the world that Sebastian may very likely be in possession of more credibility regarding whatever has caused such an unbelievable rift between Felps and Sebastian.
Now, if anyone is wondering, “yes” we have been given more details; however, we believe it would be imprudent to publish them at this time. Instead, we believe the more prudent action on our part is to wait for the next court filing on the litigation, then for us also to provide the LSPRB an opportunity to weigh in and, as always, we’ll attend any court hearings, and we are going to strongly encourage Sebastian to NOT allow this Board (or any other body who will be assessing her situation) to go into Executive Session to discuss her character as she has the FULL right to demand that it be out in the open. Will we be there, camera in tow? Bet your very last dollar on it! If it turns out through some incredible revelations not yet revealed in court documents that somehow Felps is justified in his actions (which would presently seem almost incomprehensible, but we’ve learned that, especially with LSP, to never say “never”), we’ll certainly report whatever that vindication for his actions turns out to be. Right now, we’re just reporting on what the suit and accompanying memorandum convey.
Meantime, we did drop by the office today, March 27, 2019 to sort of “take the temperatures” of the LSPRB members during its Investment Committee meeting, and we did record about 12 minutes of that meeting. Mostly, the focus seemed to be on what discount rate should be used for computing the Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL). The higher the rate (and that rate is the assumed rate of return on assets), the smaller the liability. Felps did express a tad of frustration (albeit mild) that he feels Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, being the conservative CPA that he is, pushes for a rate that Felps deems a tad low. The effect of a lower rate is to increase the UAL because liabilities are also discounted back to today’s dollars. A lower rate therefore leads to a higher UAL, which makes the LSPRB’s financial position appear worse. For obvious reasons, Felps doesn’t want that to transpire, but we stress in fairness to Felps that there is no “right or wrong” answer on what rate should be used for asset return / liability discount purposes. We doubt many of our subscribers care to watch an extended video of such a discussion, so we’ve just provided the “wham bam, thank you ma’am” version in this paragraph.
Importantly, however, Felps stepped out of the meeting as we exited and provided us with a hand-written list of current members for which we were most appreciative. He also added, “If you need anything else, just call me.” We want anybody upon whom we publish features to have every opportunity to refute our material and, if they take us up on it (as did Louisiana State Police Commission member Jared Riecke both here and here), we promise to distribute the rebuttal. We extended such invitations recently to LSP Col. Reeves entailing potential nepotism for his son (Reeves declined our invitation) and to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera regarding Mark DeBosier, the former Assistant GOHSEP Director having stated that Purpera’s Office will, “just close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears, and we make sure that there’s no fingerprints on it,” (Purpera also declined our invitation). We certainly extend the same invitation to Felps. If he would like unlimited camera time to refute Sebastian’s allegations against him, he knows precisely how he can reach us and, should he do so, we can be at his office in five minutes, and we will be more than happy to accomodate.
In wrapping this feature up, we referenced at the outset of it that then-Treasurer Kennedy befriended Burns during the Edmonson episode. We know for a fact that Kennedy is fond of the camera, and he quickly liked Burns’ unedited videos such as this one where his sentiments can be conveyed in full and not sliced and diced to bits. Burns was stunned that, upon subsequent encounters with Kennedy, he vividly recalled Burns’ name and called him by his first name at a time when, for the most part, people in any public forum had absolutely no clue whatsoever who Burns was (sure do miss that ability to blind side as we once enjoyed, but in some ways we guess that’s a good thing such ability is now all but gone). We certainly appreciate the very kind words that we know Mr. Forgotston made to Sen. Kennedy in that regard and, as most subscribers know by now, it was Forgotston who repeatedly kept nudging Burns toward forming his own blog, and perhaps that makes it only fitting that the debut Sound Off Louisiana feature was then-Treasurer John Kennedy’s June 4, 2015 presentation to the Baton Rouge Press Club.
It’s also no secret that Burns strongly wanted Kennedy to run for Governor, and he deemed Kennedy to be an “easy slam dunk” win over Gov. Edwards (as did a whole host of other folk, likely secretly including Ole John Bel himself).
One of the most appealing features of Kennedy is that he has already been on record as detesting the status quo of rank corruption within DPS in Louisiana (see the highlighted bullet points Kennedy provided in his press release). Hence, he would have zero at risk in continuing to beat that drumbeat loud and clear and, in our opinion, offered a rare opportunity for a Governor to come in and clean house because, as the video above demonstrates, he is most certainly not a “go along to get along” type leader, and that’s a trait we very much admire.
Our fear after Kennedy’s announcement passing on the Governor’s race has been that neither of the other two Republican candidates would be so bold and daring. Why? Because the easier (and often higher probability of success) path is to do as Edwards did in 2015 and make the backroom deals that are clearly not in the best interests of Louisiana citizens. A perfect example: Edwards promising Edmonson’s reappointment even though he would never even admit he’d done so publicly despite Edmonson bragging that Edwards told him, “I never even considered anybody but you.” That’s the easier path to victory in a Governor’s race because it builds momentum to gain the “law-enforcement machine vote” of the Sheriff’s Association, the LSTA (legally or not, and they have actually sued to seek to make such support legal) etc.
The problem is that the winner of the Governor’s race who deploys that route to win ends up totally beholden to that machine vote and, given the mass corruption in law enforcement offices in Louisiana (particularly LSP), we feel that’s exactly why Louisiana is always listed first or second on the lists of states most corrupt in the U. S. (we typically trade places with New Jersey). We also believe it was those backroom deals Edwards cut that caused there to be so little change in many key posts from the Jindal days. Consequently, perhaps it should come as no surprise that we believe history books will reflect Edwards’ tenure in office as one riddled with corruption. We also can’t help but note the irony of that given his heavy focus on being “Holier than Thou” in his 2015 campaign ads entailing his so-called “Honor Code.” Anybody taking any bets on whether we see THOSE ads recycled from now through October 12, 2019? Didn’t think we could find any takers!
Fortunately, we’re hearing rumblings from within the Abraham camp that his quiet and calm demeanor shouldn’t be misconstrued for someone with a high tolerance for corruption, and that thrills us! We also have to believe that it’s Abraham’s positive attributes that have provided the impetus for what we deem to be a pretty respectable polling number given that, so far, Edwards hasn’t experienced the first shot fired regarding his abysmal track record of living up to his so-called “Honor Code.”
October 12, 2019 is a long way away, Governor, and in the political arena, it’s an absolute eternity. You just may want to refrain from counting all those chickens in the hen-house you had installed at the Mansion until they’ve hatched!
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