St. Martin Parish President Cedars deals with Broussard’s 33-acre “nuisance” property by obtaining Court Restraining Order and grilling him on hay operations.

St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars as he posed arguments to the St. Martin Parish Council on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 regarding why it should adopt his proposed ordinance to ban the hauling of vegetative debris to sites within St. Martin Parish.

Fasten your seatbelts, folks!  We’re going to provide a ton of videos and documentation in this feature that speak for themselves.  We planned to spread this material out over more features, but Hurricane Ida foiled our plans; furthermore, we’re up against an important September 14, 2021 timeframe.  Everything will be presented chronologically:

Monday, June 14, 2021:  LSP Trooper Scott Lopez allegedly pursues farmer Billy Broussard’s driver, and angrily states to him, “You better not drive down MY road again if you know what’s good for you!”

Tuesday, June 15, 2021:  Lopez, who advised Broussard the day before that he was “working with Parish officials,” reportedly met with “several of them” to discuss Broussard.

Monday, June 21, 2021:  Six days after the meeting referenced on June 15, 2021, Attorney Lee C. Durio, representing St. Martin Parish, sends Broussard this certified Cease and Desist (C & D) letter demanding Broussard cease all farming operations on Duchamp Road immediately.  From the letter:

St. Martin Parish Government has learned by not only self-admission, but after an investigation that you are using the property for a commercial mushroom farm and as a dump site for discarded cut down logs and tree limbs from your tree service business.

Mushroom farming and the dumping of discarded logs and tree limbs do not fall with in any permitted uses for property zoned as (R-2) Mixed Residential pursuant to the St. Martin Parish Code of Ordinances. This actively is considered agricultural and commercial in nature.

Please consider this correspondence an immediate CEASE and DESIST of any farming, agricultural, dumpsite, and commercial activity on the property located on Duchamp Road, St. Martin Parish, Louisiana.

Should this activity continue St. Marlin Parish Government 1s prepared to institute litigation to enjoin you from continuing this activity.

Thursday, July 8, 2021:  Durio sends the following text to Broussard:

As we indicated on the feature linked on June 14, 2021 above, Louisiana State Police (LSP) denies being in possession of any surveillance material regarding any property on Duchamp Road.  Hence, such “surveillance” must have been conducted by St. Martin Parish personnel (with the most likely employee conducting any such “surveillance” being Ronald Solarie) or others hired by the Council (or perhaps as favors to the Council and/or President Chester Cedars?).

Tuesday, July 20, 2021:  Parish President Chester Cedars introduces an ordinance to ban vegetation, “cut from another parish being brought into St. Martin Parish.”  Cedars states that, “two of the three complaints reported to us (during the week of June 14) entailed burning.”  Cedars went on to state that the complained-upon properties are located on Duchamp Road (a clear reference to Broussard’s property), Division Road, and Armond Joseph Road, which is located next to Poche Bridge.

Cedars then went on to say that, on the Armond Joseph Road property, there has been extensive burning, “right next to a pretty well-developed subdivision.”  Cedars was silent on which of the other two properties (Duchamp Road or Division Road) entailed burning, but it is important to note that, by identifying one of the properties entailing burning (Armond Joseph Road) he implicitly admits that burning has been occurring ONLY on one of the two remaining properties (Division Road and Duchamp Road) which are the subject of complaints.  Hang on to that thought, folks, as it is going to be a very, very important revelation by Cedars which is captured on video at the preceding link (to be precise, at the 1:00 mark of the video).

Now, several Councilmembers indicated to Broussard that he would be permitted to speak at that July 20, 2021 Council meeting; however, those members were obviously unfamiliar with Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws.  Those laws provide that the public must be afforded an opportunity to speak on any item on the agenda prior to a vote on any agenda item.  Since the July 20, 2021 meeting was the mere introduction of Cedars’ ordinance and no vote was necessary, there was no public comment on the introduced ordinance.  The Councilmembers apologized to Broussard shortly after that July 20, 2021 meeting.

One consequence of the inaccurate information conveyed to Broussard by the Councilmembers is that it tipped Cedars off that a video-based media outlet (Sound Off Louisiana) would be present for the eventual deliberation of the agenda item.

August 3, 2021: The Council takes Cedars’ ordinance (and, make no mistake, it is HIS ordinance notwithstanding that he utilized a Councilmember, Carla Jean-Batiste of District 2, to sponsor it) under consideration.  Let’s provide some video segments for your viewing pleasure, shall we?:


Broussard makes public comment on the proposed ordinance at the 8/3/21 meeting.  A few noteworthy observations:
1.  0:40 mark, Broussard clearly establishes that nobody is there to voice complaints about his property.  That fact is borne out by the fact that, on March 12, 2021, Broussard texted Calder “Pop” Hebert, St. Martin Parish’s Director of Administration, and inquired if he “has had any complaints about me or my farm on Duchamp Road lately?”  Hebert responded, “No one has contacted me.” See the text messages provided below.
One husband and wife indicated on the video above that they are there out of concern about the activity at the Poche Bridge property (the one Cedars identified as having burning transpiring).
2.  1:52 mark, Broussard emphasizes that one of the properties identified (and reported by State Rep. Huval – the Division Road property) entails “tires, batteries, etc.,” and Broussard states that he can understand concerns about that type of hazardous waste being dumped.
3.  5:04 mark, Broussard is practically prophetic in stating just how bad the “timing” of this ordinance is given that it is, “right in the middle of hurricane season.”
4.  6:45 mark, Broussard states that he would be “proud” for any Councilmember to tour his property.  It was his invitation that prompted us to provide this video tour of the property.

Now, here are those text messages between Broussard and Hebert:

Next on deck, we have the central player in this whole matter:  St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars.  Now remember, Cedars learned on July 20, 2021 that a video camera would be present for the presentation of the ordinance.  With that fact in mind, we want to strongly, strongly encourage everyone to watch this absolutely masterful performance on Cedars’ part (along with a little six-second clip of him being introduced to give his presentation):


After first obtaining a very special six-second introduction, at the August 3, 2021 St. Martin Parish Council meeting, Parish President Chester Cedars spends over 19 minutes conveying to the St. Martin Parish Council members arguing his rationale for why the Council needs to pass his proposed ordinance.

The video above speaks for itself, so we’ll make very little commentary on it.  We will point out, however, that Cedars makes the following quote at the 16:35 mark of the video:  “It’s a crying shame when we’ve got to go to court to keep somebody from burning something in a neighborhood!”  As we have indicated, Cedars was very careful to divulge on July 20, 2021 that, “two of the three” properties he cited entailed burning, yet given that only Broussard showed up to voice opposition to the ordinance, one could easily infer (Cedars was VERY careful not to say it but left it for inference) that Broussard is burning.  If he’s nothing else, Cedars is very crafty!

Let’s take a brief moment to provide video of the couple who justifiably complained about the Poche Bridge property on Armond Joseph Road, shall we?


Obvious and clearly objectionable burning transpiring on Armond Joseph Road right next to Poche Bridge in St. Martin Parish.

While we have made very little commentary on Cedars’ presentation, we’ll note that Broussard was not happy that Cedars portrayed that Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain called him the day before the meeting, on August 2, 2021, to talk about “your ordinance” (Cedars had to correct himself and back up and say, “or rather the Council’s Ordinance”).

Broussard was upset because he contends Cedars wanted to portray that “his” ordinance is so important that even the Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner took the time to call him about it the day before.

Broussard contends that Strain had no clue about the proposed ordinance (nor did St. Martin Parish Sheriff Becket Breaux) until Broussard called Rene Simon, Commissioner Strain’s Director, to inform him about the ordinance and that Strain then called Cedars only shortly after Broussard spoke with Simon and provided him (Simon) with a copy of the original ordinance.

Several people have asked us to break out Cedars’ statements about his phone call from Commissioner Strain, so we did so, and anyone is welcome to view just that 53-second clip of Cedars’ performance regarding Strain by clicking here.


Broussard and several Councilmembers discuss Cedars’ ordinance on August 3, 2021, after which a formal vote is taken.

Now, we’re ready to unpack a few things entailing the above video.

First, at the 0:13 mark, Broussard reveals that the other person who was on the site and for whom Broussard gave permission to place vegetative debris and mulch on the property, “is a judge in this parish.”   That  judge is Judge Anthony Thibodeaux, who, according to Broussard, originally grinded stumps but has since expanded his operations to include tree services, and Broussard has permitted him to utilize his property for placing the debris thereof.

Broussard has told us that he (Judge Thibodeaux) met with Cedars to clear up any confusion about exactly who the “other person” was who placed vegetative material on Broussard’s property.  As indicated on the video,  Broussard emphasizes that, “no money was exchanged.  There is no business being done on this property.”

At the 1:43 mark of the above video, Broussard makes it absolutely crystal-clear that there is NO BURNING transpiring on his 33-acre tract!  Crystal clear!

At the 2:20 mark, Broussard states:  “A picture is worth a thousand words.  I invited some of you all to come look at my property……”  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video tour of the property just may be worth 10,000 words, no?

At the 3:49 mark, Councilmember Brook Champagne, who represents District 6 and is Broussard’s own Councilman, makes the VERY emphatic statement to Broussard that, “you are violating the zoning ordinance, and there’s no doubt about it!”

At the 4:09 mark, Champagne, even gesturing with both hands to illustrate quotation marks, acknowledges that Broussard, “is not going to burn.”  For reasons which will soon become very obvious, we want it to be absolutely crystal clear that anybody attending that meeting with even seven functioning brain cells could not possibly walk away with any impression that Broussard is burning!  It should only take seven functioning brain cells, folks!

Alright!  Time for the formal vote.  Here is that vote:

Now, we placed the paragraph about Broussard NOT burning above in bold and emphasized how anybody with just a mere seven functioning brain cells could not possibly walk away from that meeting with any impression that Broussard is “burning.”  We’ll now present just why we stressed that so strongly!

August 4, 2021:  The Daily Iberian publishes this feature REPEATEDLY making the claim that Broussard is “burning.”  Here are a few excerpts from the article, of which we have saved a PDF copy:

Broussard had bought a property in November that he was using to dump and burn material from his business.

Later, when parish officials learned that not only was Broussard burning his own leavings but was also accepting dumps of material from other contractors, the parish began working on an ordinance to prevent the practice overall.

He began bringing tree trunks and vegetation to the lot, first to dump, then to burn.

Broussard tried to continue, but District 6 Councilman Brook Champagne interceded.  “You are violating the zoning ordinance,” Champagne said. “You are hauling and dumping or burning in a residential area. You have been doing it for a year.”

Now, Dwayne Fatherree, the author of the above-linked article, could try to blame Cedars for his totally inaccurate reporting reflected in paragraph three above; however, as we’ve stated, Cedars, being a crafty lawyer, was smart enough to never reference that Broussard was burning (because he knows full-well that he is NOT).

Instead, Cedars very craftily chose to let the audience members or Councilmembers who may have sufficient intellect simply deduce on their own if they could so manage that Broussard is the one not burning when he said, “two of the three incidents entailed burning.”  Apparently Fatherree either isn’t bright enough to deduce what Cedars was crafty enough to avoid directly divulging, or he was crafty enough to know that’s the case but was so hell bent on writing a hit-piece feature that he wrote the above material in his article anyway!  After all, let’s take a look at what Fatherree had to say about Cedars’ performance, which could easily be interpreted as being in-the-tank for Cedars:

When he (Broussard) finished, Parish President Chester Cedars launched into a searing, excruciatingly detailed dismembering of Broussard’s arguments, including a timeline, in many cases down to the minute, of the interactions between Broussard and the parish.

Whatever the case on Cedars’ crafty wording to perhaps (trying to give the benefit of the doubt) play Fatherree for a fool, there can be NO EXCUSE for Fatherree’s quote of Champagne!

All anyone has to do is listen to the video file at the segment we referenced above.  Champagne never said, “dumping or burning,” but instead said “dumping.”  The audio is crystal clear, and we played it over and over to make sure Champagne didn’t say burning, and he flatly did not!  Furthermore, as we’ve indicated, Champagne, subsequent to the false quote Fatherree places in his article, actually subsequently went out of his way to indicate that Broussard is “not burning,” a quote which Fatherree aparently developed amnesia on as he drafted his article.

Perhaps it’s this kind of shoddy journalism that has the mainstream media becoming less and less relevant in today’s society!  In fact, we’re going to borrow a few words from Cedars’ video above that we believe are appropriate at this time:  “It’s a crying shame when a video blogger has to cover a meeting to expose the shoddy journalism provided by a paid mainstream journalist who attended the same meeting and printed repeated falsehoods about the meeting’s contents!”

August 19, 2021:  Cedars pursues this Temporary Restraining Order signed by District Judge Michael Pitman shutting down Broussard’s farming operations dead in their tracks pending a court hearing for a Preliminary Injunction scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

August 31, 2021:  Cedars files this Pre-Trial Memorandum and Witness and Exhibit List for the Preliminary Injunction hearing on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.  Here’s the witness list from the preceding filing:

We’ll note the fact that one of the key witnesses, Scott Lopez, is merely identified as an ordinary citizen.  There’s no mention of the fact that he is an LSP Trooper who, according to one of Broussard’s drivers, chased after him.  Broussard’s driver indicated to us that he did so with lights flashing and in official capacity.  Broussard’s driver also indicated that, the short distance between Lopez’s house and Broussard’s farm notwithstanding, Lopez sped out of his driveway with lights flashing, got over into the left-hand lane, passed up two other cars on Duchamp Road, and confronted him in the driveway of Broussard’s farm.

Accordingly, we’ve made a public records request both for any bodycam and/or dashcam video of the encounter since Lopez was clearly ON the clock as reflected by his timesheet for that day.  We’d previously asked for any surveillance videos or photos in LSP’s possession entailing Duchamp Road and were informed by LSP that no such surveillance material is in the agency’s possession.

We have also requested audio copies of any incoming or outgoing phone calls to Troop I’s Headquarters between the timeframe of 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Monday, June 14, 2021.  LSP sources have informed us that LSP has a policy requiring the recording of any such phone calls and for the retention of those phone calls for a period of five years.  We made our request on August 8, 2021.  LSP responded that we should expect the records within sixty (60) days, which would be on Thursday, October 7, 2021.  We believe those recorded phone calls will be quite revealing, especially since Broussard states that Troop I, prior to ending the phone call he initiated to them immediately after the incident, concurred with Broussard’s assessment that, “Trooper Lopez may have just been having a bad day.”  Broussard also reports that Lopez himself called Broussard soon thereafter and sounded quite conciliatory.

Conciliatory tone of Lopez notwithstanding, we have received highly-credible reports that Lopez also went door-to-door asking for neighbors to support his efforts to work with “parish officials” to shut Broussard’s operations down.  One neighbor in particular, Blake Dubroc (see above witness list), even called Broussard and, according to Broussard, asked, “What did you do to piss Scott off?”  Broussard proceeded to ask Dubroc if Lopez was in uniform when he knocked on Dubroc’s door, but Dubroc reportedly responded, “I can’t remember.”

If Lopez was in uniform as he went door-to-door, the average person is likely to feel pressured to participate in such a request given that it’s being made by an LSP Trooper.  We also made a very expansive request for Lopez’s timesheets for the period of March 1, 2021 through July 28, 2021.  Here are those timesheets.  Once we obtain the timeframes that Lopez went knocking door-to-door, we certainly intend to establish whether he was on LSP’s clock when he engaged in such efforts.

We would hope that an LSP Trooper would not be so bold, brazen, or cocky as to engage in such activity either in uniform or while on the clock, but as we’ve reported on many LSP activities in the past, this is most certainly not a shy group of folk!

Even if Lopez was not in uniform, St. Martin Parish is a very small parish, and as is obvious, Dubroc clearly knew him by first name, and he most certainly knew his occupation as an LSP Trooper.

Let’s take just a moment to share a few text messages between Broussard and Dubroc, shall we?

For anyone driving out to take a look at Broussard’s farming operations, we’d like to invite you to take some time to visit Blake’s Auto Sales  located right across the street from Broussard’s farm.  We believe you can quite likely get a very good deal on a used car.   In fact, according to the company’s Facebook page, “We Buy,Sell and Trade…We have competitive prices and we are ready to pass the savings on to you.”

Broussard indicated that, what frustrates him the most is the fact that, when he initially purchased the property in September of 2020 (another minor inaccuracy in Fatherree’s article as he inaccurately reported that Broussard purchased the property in “November”), Dubroc had concerns, and St. Martin Parish Sheriff Becket Breaux‘s office was called out, and one of his Lieutenants was very successful in resolving everything peacefully and to everyone’s satisfaction.  Broussard and Dubroc reportedly became pretty good friends and neighbors after that date.

Broussard indicated that he never heard another word of prospective discontent from Dubroc until his name appeared on the potential witness list for the upcoming court hearing.

August 31, 2021: Cedars sends Broussard’s attorney, Michael Adley, correspondence seeking for Broussard to respond to the following questions that Cedars posed regarding Broussard’s hay operations:

 

Numerous individuals to whom Broussard has disseminated the above inquiry by Cedars are in absolute disbelief at the questions posed by Cedars!  Absolute disbelief!

September 4, 2021:  Broussard sends the above text to a prominent individual in the St. Martin Parish area who, upon seeing the text, immediately called St. Martin Parish President Chris Tauzin.  The individual asked, “What the heck is going on with Billy Broussard?”  We’ve been told that Tauzin responded, “We told Broussard to stop burning.  He did not stop burning, so we sued him!”

We’ll let Tauzin’s alleged statement speak for itself, but we’ll simply reiterate what we said about merely needing seven functioning brain cells to ascertain from attending that meeting to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Broussard is NOT burning.  Perhaps Tauzin could try to use as an excuse, “Well, that’s what I read in the newspaper!”  Nevertheless, what is disturbing about Tauzin’s alleged statement is that, given the date he made the statement (September 4, 2021), he had the added benefit of being able to take a video tour of the property from the comfort of his home or office, yet he STILL allegedly made the quote he made on the afternoon of Saturday, September 4, 2021.

Now, we’ll wrap this feature up with one concluding observation.  On the Cedars video above, he (Cedars) states that he believes the ordinance that he presented to the Council is “clear.”

We firmly believe something else is “clear,” and that is that any small business owner considering locating in St. Martin Parish needs to stay put!  Given the handling of Broussard’s matter as depicted above, it could not be more “clear” to us that St. Martin Parish is a Parish that is totally hostile to small business operators and/or farmers!

How appropriate that we publish such a feature on Labor Day and, by the way, Happy Labor Day, folks, and we promise to attend the September 14, 2021 Injunctive Hearing and report back with the results thereof.

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State Police Trooper Scott Lopez allegedly tells Billy Broussard’s driver, “You better not drive down my road again!”

 

Street view of Louisiana State Police (LSP) Trooper Scott Lopez’s home located on Duchamp Road in Broussard, Louisiana.  Farmer Billy Broussard alleges that, on Monday, June 14, 2021, Lopez, in uniform but at his home, got in his vehicle, chased down one of his employee drivers, and told him,”You better not drive down MY road again!”

Everyone in Southeast Louisiana is in our thoughts and prayers as so many Louisiana residents continue to struggle to either return to normal (mainly through power restoration) or at least be able to return home to assess the totality of damage left behind in Hurricane Ida’s wake.

Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns was working on several features before Ida struck and, since the Lafayette area was essentially spared damage, we’re going to proceed with a feature on farmer Billy Broussard and present the first installment on what will be a four-part (minimum) installment on his ongoing battle with a Louisiana State Police (LSP) Trooper named Scott Lopez.

In September of 2020, Broussard purchased a 33-acre tract of land located on Duchamp Road, which is in Broussard, Louisiana.  Broussard is a relatively small community located in St. Martin Parish.  Broussard’s intent is to grow mushrooms on the property once he has first adequately filled in several deep canyons located on the 33-acre site.  LSP Trooper Lopez resides on Duchamp Road in a very nice home which is very close to Broussard’s farm.

Let’s take a few minutes to permit Broussard to provide a tour of his farm and describe the encounter his driver had with Lopez on the afternoon of Monday, June 14, 2021:


Farmer Billy Broussard provides a guided tour of his farm and describes the encounter one of his drivers allegedly had with LSP on the afternoon of Monday, June 14, 2021.

Broussard states his case very professionally on the above video, so we’re not going to add written commentary to it and merely strongly encourage our subscribers and casual visitors to watch it.

LSP indicates that the agency is not in possession of any type of surveillance videos or photos taken by Trooper Lopez.  Hence, we can only assume that, if any such “surveillance” has been conducted on Broussard, LSP was not the agency conducting such surveillance.

We also requested from LSP all of Trooper Lopez’s time sheets from March 1, 2021 through July 28, 2021.  Let us provide his time sheet containing the all-important date of Monday, June 14, 2021.  Here’s the timesheet with the relevant timeframe highlighted:

Now, we spoke with Broussard’s driver, and he stated to us that the episode transpired on the afternoon on Monday, June 14, 2021, and he specifically told us that Lopez said, “You better not drive down my road again if you know what’s good for you!”

As we indicated, this is going to be a four-part (possibly five-part) series, so let us wrap up this first installment with a few relevant pictures and a couple of very brief videos which we believe are beneficial to augment Broussard’s tour video above:


Three-minute aerial drone video of Broussard’s farm.


28-second video of a small duckling in a small wooden house Broussard constructed and which has been used as a safe harbor by small ducklings until they age sufficiently to fend off predators in the ponds on the property.

Aerial map of Broussard’s 33-acre farm.

Several employees on Broussard’s family farm pose for a photo sitting atop hay which is about to be loaded onto an older 18-wheeler for storage.

Broussard’s farm shortly after being freshly mowed.

Cut tree pile shortly after Broussard pushed a pile similar to that featured on the video above off into one of the canyons on the 33-acre farm in preparation of making the farm conducive for mushroom farming.

An alligator snoops around for prey in one of the ponds on Broussard’s farm.

As Broussard indicates on the video above, the subsequent developments after his driver’s encounter with LSP Trooper Lopez on Monday, June 14, 2021 are going to be very interesting to report upon.  We wish Hurricane Ida hadn’t forced us to delay the publication of this first installment, but we promise to have installments two and three out within the next few days, and we believe everyone will find them most intriguing!

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State Police Commission’s Riecke voices “anger” at Legislature over funding but ignores his own 2017 headstrong charge to terminate its Executive Director costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for legal defense costs.

Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) member Jared Riecke.

Well, when we presented the Woodward “shut up, or I’ll hold you in contempt” recent feature, we indicated that we’d certainly cover Woodward’s August 12, 2021 appeal of alleged improper conduct during a DWI arrest transpiring on March 24, 2021.  We certainly would have done that; however, for the second time in the last three months, the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) simply cancelled the meeting.  We’ll certainly cover that appeal assuming it’s still on for the September meeting and on the assumption that the LSPC doesn’t make it three-out-of-four on cancellations!

Let us now focus on yet another interesting matter covered at the July 8, 2021 LSPC meeting, which Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns missed due to the imminent passing of his mother.

At that meeting, LSPC member Jared Riecke expressed “anger” at members of the Louisiana Legislature for failing to adequately fund the LSPC in order for the agency “to fulfill our obligations.”  Let’s take a couple of minutes to listen to Riecke and LSPC Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr. cry like little babies, shall we?  [Note:  No video due to Burns’ absence]:


7/9/21 LSPC meeting during which Commissioners Jared Riecke and Eulis Simien, Jr. lament the Louisiana Legislature’s failure to fund their budget increase requests.

Why do we at Sound Off Louisiana find both Simien and Riecke’s complaints of the Legislature to be unbelievably galling?  The answer is simple; however, let us first provide a history to some of our newer subscribers.

Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns had never attended an LSPC meeting in his life until the meeting of January 12, 2017.  He was asked to attend that meeting and videotape it because there were two interesting items on that agenda.  Specifically:

5. Executive session for discussion of professional competence of Director of State Police Commission.

6. Consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.

In a nutshell, four of the seven  LSPC Members were hell-bent to terminate its then-Executive Director, Cathy Derbonne.  The only members of the LSPC from those days who are still serving today and who actively engaged in that despicable episode are Jared Riecke and Eulis Simien, Jr.

We can’t stress enough that this meeting was 4 1/2 years ago.  Mike Edmonson was sill Colonel, and LSP basically did whatever it wanted to do!  The LSPC served as nothing more than a lapdog for Edmonson and the Louisiana State Trooper’s Association (LSTA).  Anybody causing the slightest of problems (e.g. Cathy Derbonne or former Commissioner Calvin Braxton) was easily flushable via the LSTA’s extensive and dominating influence on LSP matters.

So, Cathy Debronne was the Executive Director being referenced on the above agenda.  How did she end up under the microscope?  Well, she did as she asserts she had been instructed to do by Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and reported improper campaign contributions by three (3) LSPC members who subsequently had to resign from the LSPC as a result of those contributions.  One of those three commissioners was Franklin Kyle, who is friends with Jared Riecke, with both serving on the Board of Directors at American Bancshares, holding company for American Bank and Trust, Covington, Louisiana.

The connection is tight between Kyle and Riecke, and it was Riecke who replaced Kyle on the LSPC.  That fact prompted then-LSPC member Lloyd Grafton’s act of openly accusing Riecke of coming onto the LSPC with “an agenda” to terminate Derbonne because of her actions leading to Kyle having to resign from the LSPC.

Let’s take a quick look at just how strong the Riecke family ties to American Bankshares are, all of which are derived from the linked Federal Reserve report above listing owners of 5% or more of the holding company’s stock:

Julian J. Rodrigue, Jr. (as trustee for Karen Smith Riecke inter vivos trust)   770,000 shares representing 27.31% of the shares outstanding;

Karen Smith Riecke   581,240 shares representing 20.62% of the shares outstanding;

Riecke and Associates   223,877 shares representing 7.94% of the shares outstanding.

Jared Riecke also is listed as directly owning approximately 27,689 shares, representing approximately 0.98% of the shares outstanding.  Raymond R. Riecke (relationship to Jared unknown), who also is reported on the 2017 report linked above as a member of the board of directors, is also listed as owning approximately  1,212 shares, representing 0.043% of the shares outstanding.  Finally, Edward T. Riecke (relationship to Jared unknown) is also listed as owning approximately 60,622 shares, representing approximately 2.15% of the shares outstanding.  Edward Riecke is  also reported as Chairman of the Board of the bank holding company.

For his part, Kyle, a Mandeville engineer and business owner, is listed as a board member owning approximately 36,994 shares, representing approximately 1.31% of the shares outstanding.

Interestingly enough, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, brother of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, also is listed as a member of the bank holding company’s board of directors.

Derbonne also reported other alleged wrongdoing such as the LSTA deploying its then-Executive Director, David Young, to serve as a straw donor to illegally funnel money into the 2015 campaign of then-candidate John Bel Edwards and others (the LSTA was fined $5,000 for making those donations), but it is likely the reporting of Kyle that was Derbonne’s downfall.  Why?  Because, as a former FDIC bank examiner, the one thing Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns can attest to is that members of any bank’s board of directors have egos that won’t fit in the Caesars Superdome.  Kyle’s resignation from the LSPC, especially given the manner in which that resignation came about, certainly lends credence to then-LSPC member Lloyd Grafton’s contention that Riecke, as Kyle’s friend and colleague on American Bancshares’ Board of Directors, likely did in fact join the LSPC with his top priority being “an agenda” to ensure Derbonne was terminated as quickly as possible.  If so, he certainly succeeded in fulfilling that top-priority personal agenda item.

So, at that infamous January 12, 2017 LSPC meeting, Riecke and Simien (along with the other LSPC members serving at the time, all of whom operated in secret in an executive session) allegedly strong-armed Derbonne into resigning to spare her a “public humiliation” which would transpire subsequently in the meeting out in the open if she refused to resign.  Derbonne therefore caved and signed a hastily-drafted resignation letter.

At a subsequent LSPC meeting on February 22, 2017, in an extremely rare move, Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns chose to directly address the LSPC entailing what he believed would be an imminent waste of a fortune in legal fees entailing an obvious whistleblower lawsuit that would seem almost certain to be filed by Derbonne.  Burns stressed that, “as a taxpayer,” he would far prefer the money be spent for actual services performed by employees of the LSPC rather than wasted on attorney fees defending a lawsuit.

At that point, the LSPC had not hired a replacement for Derbonne, and Burns encouraged the LSPC members to offer the job back to Derbonne or at least offer her a similar position so that the LSPC (and taxpayers) would not end up spending a massive amount on legal fees, not to mention the liability any potential judgment Derbonne may ultimately obtain may tally.

We think its worth the time to watch Burns’ very rare instance of directly confronting the LSPC members on what had transpired at the prior meeting and where he believed the LSPC stood on soon-anticipated legal expenditures:

2/22/17:  Sound Off Louisiana’s Burns seeks to have the LSPC conserve taxpayer resources by avoiding expensive legal fees entailing the actions of Riecke, Simien, and other LSPC members at the prior LSPC meeting regarding strong-arming a resignation letter out of its Executive Director, Cathy Derbonne.

Of course, Simien (who voted to accept Derbonne’s strong-armed resignation letter) and Riecke (who’d spearheaded the effort for Derbonne’s ouster with him being mainly motivated by her action entailing Kyle as outlined above), once he heard the roll call transpiring and heard Simien vote “yes,” on accepting Derbonne’s resignation (Riecke’s name was called last), quickly realized that his vote was no longer needed to obtain the four required votes, so he actually had the unmitigated gall to vote “no.” In fact, several people unfamiliar with Riecke or his slime ball tactics, contacted Burns later and stated that, “at least he (Riecke) was in her corner!”  Burns had to educate such viewers on a one-on-one basis as to just exactly what had gone down in that vote!  All of that notwithstanding, Simien still wants to now tout the high level of “integrity” on the LSPC!  Seriously?

So, what happened as time passed?  Well, as Burns indicated would be the case, on January 8, 2018, Derbonne filed a whistleblower lawsuit, even alleging in it that Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office, “had told her to shut the f— up!”  The LSPC then began expending taxpayer funds to defend the very lawsuit Burns told them in the video above was inevitable and which could have easily been prevented!

The LSPC first spent precious taxpayer funds to file a Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action.  The Commission got a temporary victory when 19th JDC District Judge William Morvant ruled that, relying on a New Iberia case he cited, a Louisiana State employee does not have whistleblower protection if reporting wrongdoing is part of the employee’s regularly-assigned duties.  He indicated that reporting such wrongdoing was among Derbonne’s regularly-assigned duties, and she therefore had no protection under Louisiana’s whistleblower’s statutes, thus prompting him to grant the LSPC’s exception.

It’s very expensive to appeal any district court decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, but that’s what Derbonne did.  Hence, the LSPC had to expend funds to prepare a brief and arguments before the First Circuit.  Now the legal bills are mounting up big time!

On October 14, 2020, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Morvant’s ruling, thus costing the LSPC not only its own attorney fees and costs for the appeal but also Derbonne’s court costs associated with her appeal.

Still not content to cut its attorney fee losses, the LSPC appealed the First Circuit ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.  That entailed more legal fees to apply for the Writ.

On February 17, 2021, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied LSPC’s Writ.  From the previous link:

2020-C-01323 CATHY DERBONNE VS. STATE POLICE COMMISSION (Parish of East Baton Rouge)
Hughes, J., would grant and docket.
McCallum, J., would grant and docket.

On the initial audio file above entailing Riecke slamming Louisiana legislators for not granting the funding that he admits he appeared before them to “beg for,” it’s possible the Legislators may have assessed Riecke’s credibility not only for he and Simien’s propensity to flush money right down the toilet entailing massive legal fees from their supreme arrogance of seeking to fire Derbonne (and settling for a strong-armed resignation), but they may have also taken into account this Metropolitan Crime Commission post on Riecke, which was itself derived from Louisiana Voice blogger Tom Aswell.  From the feature:

“Should a person of interest in a murder case who refuses to cooperate with authorities and who refuses to take phone calls from investigators be allowed to serve as a member of the Louisiana State Police Commission?”

The question, apparently directed at State Police Commission member Jared Caruso-Riecke, a St. Tammany Parish resident, sent an excited murmur through the crowd and sent panelists fumbling for a diplomatic, if uncomfortable response.

Caruso-Riecke’s business partner Bruce Cucchiara was gunned down in the parking lot of a New Orleans East apartment complex on April 24, 2012.

The murder remains unsolved.

Cucchiara worked for the RIECKE FAMILY in Covington and at one time ran the Southeastern Louisiana Water & Sewer Co., before it was purchased by the St. Tammany Parish government in a controversial 2010 DEAL.

Caruso-Riecke had a LIFE INSURANCE POLICIY on Cucchiara with New York Life totaling some $5 million, his children said.

Cucchiara also has signed a promissory note as security on some real estate property to Caruso-Riecke only 20 days before he was killed.

CAITLIN PICOU, Cucchiara’s daughter, said Caruso-Riecke gave an initial statement to investigators but since then, the detective “has reached out to him but he declined to speak. They’ve reached out to his lawyer, as well, and he’s declined as well.”

“This (Cucchiara) was his best friend and he (Caruso-Riecke) won’t cooperate with investigators,” Chris Cucchiara said.

But, he added, Caruso-Riecke told him and Caitlin that he’d deleted some of the elder Cucchiara’s emails in an effort to “clean up” any personal messages.

Picou and her brother, Chris Cucchiara said when police did not clear Caruso-Riecke, thereby freeing the life insurance company to pay the benefit, “he (Caruso-Riecke) filed suit. Chris Cucchiara also said he was told by investigators that they did not want to clear Caruso-Riecke, “but we got a lot of pressure from higher-ups who live on the North Shore (St. Tammany) that we need to release the money.

It’s not clear where such pressure was coming from, but despite investigators’ having not cleared him as being implicated in the murder, Caruso-Riecke SUED New York Life on Aug. 7, 2012 to obtain the benefits of the life insurance policy on his business partner. Inexplicably, he filed his lawsuit in federal court in Baton Rouge instead of New Orleans, which would have normally been the proper venue for a St. Tammany resident.

Regardless, New York Life apparently decided not to fight him and the lawsuit was DISMISSED in Caruso-Riecke’s favor on Oct. 1.

Of course, Riecke was a controversial appointment to the LSPC even ignoring everything above given his past extensive involvement in racing teams bragging of evading radar detection by illegally switching out license plates.

At any rate, Riecke appeals to legislators who “watch or listen to LSPC coverage” (presumably through Sound Off Louisiana since we’re the only media outlet to consistently cover the meetings) to hear his July 8, 2021 commentary and specifically his plea for those legislators to sympathize with the LSPC and provide them with “much needed funding.”

Perhaps those legislators actually have been listening (or most times, watching) all along and, as a result of the forgoing absolute waste of massive amounts of taxpayer resources on the Derbonne litigation (with it being an open question when the LSPC may finally “cry uncle” and opt to settle with Derbonne to stop the bleeding from all those attorney fees), denied Simien’s and Riecke’s request.  If so, perhaps they have deemed Riecke and Simien to simply be piss poor stewards of precious taxpayer funds they’ve appropriated to them and entrusted them with in the past.   If so, we can only assume the legislators, in denying Riecke and Simien’s most recent appeals for more funding, may have been tacitly saying to them both, “Shut the f— up!”

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