LSTA plaintiff Trahan investigates Gov. Edwards’ casino visit, culminating in 8-hour suspension for disobeying direct order to reveal identity of Cypress Bayou’s Jack Darden.

Louisiana State Police Sergeant John Trahan, Jr., who appealed his 8-hour suspension to the Louisiana State Police Commission for which the hearing transpired on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

Louisiana has some of the strictest laws in the nation expressly prohibiting casinos from directly contributing to political campaigns.  Nevertheless, plenty of money effectively finds its ways into Louisiana elections via Democratic and Republican Governor’s Associations.  From the preceding article entailing Gov. Edwards’ re-election efforts last year:

Gov. John Bel Edwards at the statehouse in Baton Rouge. The Democratic Governors Association spent more than $8 million helping reelect him last fall.

At the height of the gubernatorial campaign last year, Gov. Edwards apparently decided to visit officials at Cypress Bayou Casino, an Indian-owned and operated casino in Charenton, Louisiana.  We’ll assume Gov. Edwards happened to be in the neighborhood and decided to simply drop in and say a friendly, “Hello.”

Soon after his visit, Louisiana State Police Sergeant John Trahan, Jr., who serves as the site Sergeant at Cypress Bayou [and who is one of the listed plaintiffs in the Louisiana State Trooper’s Association lawsuit against the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) in which it is itself suing for the right to make political campaign contributions — see plaintiff “m” on the preceding link] was tasked to investigate Gov. Edwards’ visit.

Upon him doing so and issuing an incident report on the visit by Gov. Edwards, Trahan referenced unnamed casino officials whom Trahan claimed openly questioned why Trahan’s supervisor, Lieutenant  Charles Lauret, had visited the casino while Trahan was on annual leave.

Lauret instructed Trahan to provide the name(s) of casino officials who wanted to know why he had visited the casino, but Trahan responded that the names of any such individuals was “not relevant” to his investigation of Gov. Edwards’ casino visit.  He steadfastly refused to reveal the identity of any casino manager at Cypress Bayou who had inquired about Lauret’s visit.

Lauret believed Trahan’s steadfast refusal to answer his question to be disobeying a direct order from a superior.  Louisiana State Police upper brass agreed, and then-LSP Lt. Col. Mike Noel suspended Trahan for eight hours without pay for his action.  Trahan appealed the suspension, and the matter was heard before the LSPC on Thursday, July 9, 2020.   Let’s take a couple of minutes to view Lauret elaborate on the matter:

At the 7/9/20 LSPC meeting, Lietuenant Lauret explains the circumstances entailing Sergeant Trahan’s 8-hour suspension for disobeying his order to reveal the identity of any Cypress Bayou official inquiring about his visit to the casino.

The next witness called by LSP was Lauret’s supervisor, Captain Kenny VanBuren, who serves as the commander of LSP’s gaming enforcement division.

VanBuren had scathing words directed at Sergeant Trahan, openly stating that he felt Trahan was “lying” about any official at Cypress Bayou inquiring about Lauret’s visit and that, based upon VanBuren’s investigation of the matter, Trahan had “no credibility with me.”  Let’s take a look at VanBuren’s scathing commentary entailing Trahan:

At the 7/9/20 LSPC meeting, Captain Kenny VanBuren has scating commentary regarding LSP Sergeant John Trahan, Jr.

The next witnesses called were Lieutenant Saleem El-Amin and Mike Noel, who was at the time of this incident a Lieutenant Colonel and LSP’s Chief of Staff (he is now head of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board).  El-Amin and Noel essentially reinforced the importance of following orders, and their testimony is available for viewing at the link below which provides the appeal hearing in its entirety.

As is obvious from the preceding video of Captain VanBuren, the identify of the individual Trahan alleged inquired about Lauret’s visit was ultimately revealed by Trahan:  Cypress Bayou Assistant General Manager Jack Darden.  As is also obvious by the preceding video, VanBuren testified that he contacted Darden directly and that Darden stated that he did not question Trahan regarding LSP’s visit.

When VanBuren made that revelation, we failed to swing the camera toward Trahan timely to get his reaction to VanBuren’s statement, but his body language and expression demonstrated that he was in stunned disbelief.

The final witness was Trahan himself, and he attempted to justify his reasons for failing to reveal Darden’s identity based upon four contentions which he felt justified his steadfast refusal to reveal Darden’s identity:

  1.  That it was “not relevant” to his initial investigation of Gov. Edwards’ casino visit.
  2. That he should weigh his obligation to obey Lauret against his duty to “protect the innocent or weak.”
  3. His purpose of providing the material in the report was intended to demonstrate a “lack of communication” and the fact that he was left “out of the loop” of communications.
  4. That he’d had a prior similar incident in the spring of 2019 and that Sergeant Robert Dowdy, whom he asserted had told Trahan to “stay out of my business” and that Dowdy had “scolded” both Trahan and the administrator of the casino.  Trahan said he felt “burned” by that incident with Dowdy.

The following video constitutes highlights of Trahan’s testimony before the LSPC:

At the 7/9/20 LSPC meeting, Sergeatnt Trahan pleads his case for his contention that an 8-hour suspension of him is “too harsh.”

The LSPC then went into executive session to decide the matter, and it was one of the fastest executive sessions we’ve observed in all of the meetings we’ve attended.  The following video provides the LSPC’s findings:

At the 7/9/20 LSPC meeting, with little fanfare, Sergeant Trahan’s 8-hour suspension is unanimously upheld.

Perhaps we’ll never know the results of Trahan’s investigation of Gov. Edwards visiting Cypress Bayou casino during the height of the campaign for Governor last year, but again, we’ll just go on the assumption that he happened to be in the neighborhood and decided to drop in and say, “Hello.”

The entirety of the hearing is readily available by clicking here.  

The Trahan appeal hearing constituted the only matter of substance at the LSPC meeting of July 9, 2020; however, for anyone interested in viewing the non-Trahan portion of the meeting can feel free to do so by clicking here.

If you would like to be added to our Sound Off Louisiana email list to be notified of future posts, simply go to our home page and scroll to the bottom (mobile devices) or to the top of the right-hand column (desktops).  Supply your email address within the subscribe box.  You’ll then receive an automated email from Word Press, and all you have to do is click on the blue “confirm follow” bar contained within that email, and you’ll begin receiving great posts such as the preceding one above.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.