Was prized transfer to LSP Detective of Col. Reeves’ son actually a big “thank you” for prior promotions of those approving the transfer?

Louisiana State Police Col. Kevin Reeves

In early 2017, Louisiana State Police (LSP) Col. Mike Edmonson “retired amid a widening controversy.”  Gov. Edwards opted to replace Edmonson with Kevin Reeves; however, Reeves’ appointment created problems for Reeves’ son, Kaleb.  Specifically, an ethics law entailing nepotism would bar Kaleb, who was scheduled to graduate (and did graduate) from the LSP Training Academy on April 5, 2017, from being hired by LSP.

What ultimately transpired is that Rep. Jack McFarland (R-Jonesboro) sponsored a bill in the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, HB-308, to essentially carve out a special exemption to permit Kaleb Reeves to be hired.  During consideration, Kevin Reeves indicated that no special treatment entailing discipline, promotions, or transfers would be afforded his son.

In today’s Sound Off Louisiana feature, founder Robert Burns examines an open question on the part of some rank-and-file troopers entailing whether LSP Colonel Reeves has lived up to his words.  Their concerns arise in light of a November 18, 2018 transfer of Kaleb Reeves to a Detective position which they contend, “transpired far faster than should ordinarily be the case.”  As notated by Burns in the following video and outlined on the remainder of this post, the circumstances surrounding that transfer have raised more than a few eyebrows among some of those troopers:

Burns covers the recent transfer of Trooper Kaleb Reeves to Detective

In the preceding video, Burns states that this transfer is a little bit of a “hot potato.”  One item appearing to buttress that observation is contained in the following highlighted text of an email response to Burns’ public record request by Faye Morrison, who is the head of LSP’s legal Department:

Also, as mentioned in the video, Major Doug Cain, Media Relations Spokesman for LSP, called Burns on the day the email above was sent by Morrison (Thursday, December 20, 2018) and essentially stated what is highlighted in the letter from Morrison below:

Now, here is the actual documentation provided by LSP; however, as is readily apparent, the names of the “approving officials” are illegible. Nevertheless, we were able to blow up versions of the pages below and tap our sources within LSP to obtain the identities of those individuals. Accordingly, we have hand-written their names in clear blue ink to assist our subscribers in knowing who the approving officials are:

Now, let’s take just a moment to examine each of the gentlemen approving Kaleb Reeves’ transfer above:

Level 1 Approval:  John Peters, whom Reeves promoted to Captain over Troop-F, Reeves’ former Troop, on July 10, 2018.

Level 2 Approval:  Wayne Vidrine, whom Reeves named as Commander of Troop-I (no change in rank, remained as Captain) on November 20, 2017.  Although no press release or other notice via Google search could be ascertained, Vidrine was obviously promoted to Major as Region III Command Inspector at some point after November 20, 2017 as evidenced by the preceding link.

Level 3 Approval:  Jay Oliphant, whom Reeves promoted to Region 3 Major on June 27, 2017.  Incredibly, and from what we are told by our LSP sources, Oliphant THEN RECEIVED A SECOND PROMOTION (to a highly-prestigious position of Lieutenant Colonel)  as  “deputy Superintendent of Patrol” sometime after June 27, 2017.  Again, as with Vidrine above, we could find no press release or other notice via Google search, but also as evidenced similarly to Vidrine above, Oliphant clearly got the second promotion as evidenced by the previous link.

Lieutenant Colonel Oliphant is perhaps the most intriguing player in the mix.  As long-time Sound Off Louisiana subscribers are aware, it is Oliphant who is the central focus of former Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) member Calvin Braxton’s defamation lawsuit against the Louisiana State Trooper’s Association (LSTA).  In essence, Braxton alleges that the material contained in a report authored by Oliphant, which can be viewed beginning on page three (3) at this link, constituted an orchestrated attempt by the LSTA to have him removed from the LSPC by having Oliphant produce a “fake” incident report which Braxton claims is completely false.  He also asserts in the lawsuit that the content of that incident report has defamed his character.

Experts with whom we’ve spoken with ties to LSP have told us that the incident report, which is dated June 2, 2016, is highly suspicious as to its credibility because the actual incident transpired on December 5, 2015.  These experts have informed us that it’s unheard of for an LSP Trooper to draft an incident report some 180 days after the incident, and they’ve told us that the norm is for such a report to be prepared within 24 hours of the incident or 48 hours at the latest.

The timing of Oliphant’s report is also suspicious in that Braxton was known to be working with former LSPC Executive Director Cathy Derbonne regarding irregularities at the LSPC.  Most noteworthy among those irregularities were illegal campaign contributions into Gov. Edwards’ (and others) campaigns in 2015 by the LSTA.  A consent agreement was reached with the State Board of Ethics entailing those illegal campaign contributions which called for a $5,000 fine to the LSTA.

What makes the timing of Oliphant’s incident report (June 2, 2016) suspicious is that, only 47 days after it was drafted, Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones made a stunning revelation on a conference call for which he did not know Cathy Derbonne was listening in on via speakerphone.  Specifically, Derbonne contends that, on July 19, 2016, Jones stated that Gov. Edwards’ office had told Derbonne to “shut the f— up” about both the campaign contributions and the fact that she contended Gov. Edwards was making illegal appointments to the LSPC by not following Louisiana’s Constitution.  Derbonne’s contention about such illegal appointments actually mirrors the claim Attorney General Jeff Landry recently lodged against Edwards in litigation Landry has filed entailing an Edwards appointment to the Red River Basin Commission.

Another interesting aspect of Lt. Colonel Oliphant is a Facebook post he made in early 2017 which follows:

Because LSP is itself law enforcement, Oliphant’s social media post seems particularly inappropriate and may have warranted disciplinary action because of the horrendously bad message that it sends to the public.  Specifically, it sends the message that someone citizens have entrusted to be brave when being called upon to help them resolve their insecurities or fears actually openly admits in a wide-open, available-to-the-world Facebook post that he struggles to manage his own insecurities and fears.  His reference to doing “whatever is necessary to protect those who are near and dear to me; including myself” could very easily be interpreted as an LSP Trooper willing to take the law and legal process into his own hands, which is something any LSP Trooper would warn any citizen against doing.

Oliphant also appears to want to be cute in not naming the individual whom he references as instilling such “fear” into him, yet all the while he’s composing that post, and it’s being commented upon and shared, he knows full well that anyone reading the post will know full-well that he’s referencing Braxton.  We should also note that we have been informed by folk with strong LSP ties that making a Facebook post of the nature Oliphant has made is potentially a violation of LSP’s policies and procedures.  If it isn’t, it certainly ought to be because of the horrendously bad message that it sends to the general public.  Sources have told us that Oliphant deleted the Facebook post in short order, but not before the preceding screen-shot was taken and subsequently provided to us for the purpose of this Sound Off Louisiana feature.

Braxton has denied any such focus on Oliphant.  Also, his attorney, Jill Craft, who also represents Derbonne in her LSPC litigation, states in the following interview with WWL in New Orleans, how Oliphant should have handled any such concerns on his part (for which we wholeheartedly agree with Craft’s statements in that regard):


Craft comments on Oliphant’s alleged fears of Braxton and Braxton’s contention that he was the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the LSTA designed to have him removed from the LSPC.

It will be up to the jury in Braxton’s civil litigation to decide whether or not it concurs with Braxton’s very emphatic contention that Oliphant’s report is a fabrication and, further, if his name and reputation have been damaged by the LSTA and/or Oliphant, but we will make the following four observations on the matter:

1.  The matter of the political contributions was (and is) obviously highly sensitive to the LSTA, and that fact has been readily demonstrated by the LSTA’s recent lawsuit against the LSPC seeking to again make such contributions in the 2019 election cycle.

2.  IF (emphasis on the word “IF”) the incident report by Oliphant is indeed a fabrication, then THAT would explain why Edwards sat on the report for over a year.  Fox8’s Lee Zurik hammered Edwards hard on that fact.  Either way, the optics look horrible for Edwards.  Only two possibilities exist:  1) the incident report is authentic, in which case Edwards looks horrible for sitting on it for a year and taking no action until Zurik exposed its existence in a very public manner; or 2) the report is a fabrication, in which case Edwards appears complicit in the effort to sandbag Braxton by sitting on the report unless and until it was needed to oust Braxton from the LSPC.

3.  When we made a public records request of the Edwards administration for a signed resignation letter from Calvin Braxton, his office could provide us with nothing more than this press release, which had been widely distributed through Gov. Edwards’ internal email distribution system.

4.  IF (and again we emphasize “IF”) the report is a fabrication as Braxton alleges, that would mean that LSP has gotten corrupt beyond comprehension in that:  A) the LSTA could deploy a puppet (in this case, Jay Oliphant) to remove someone on the LSPC whom they deem to be adverse to their own interests; and B) that puppet would thereafter be rewarded for his role in the ouster via two lightening-fast promotions, the most recent of which is to a very highly prestigious position of Lt. Colonel, for which there are only four such appointments of that rank.  If that scenario is indeed what has transpired, then LSP can only be described as little short of a Mafia operation!  Further, the public’s trust will be almost impossible to restore for an agency that is that corrupt short of a massive overhaul led by someone from the outside who has no prior LSP connections, and Reeves wouldn’t remotely qualify for meeting that criterion!

Was Reeves’ rapid-fire promotions of Oliphant a “reward” to Oliphant for his alleged role in assisting with an alleged plot to oust Braxton?  We do not know, but Col. Reeves is invited to appear on camera to respond to any and all aspects of this investigative report to dispel any notions of nepotism, a continuation of the Edmonson sleaze factor, or anything else for which he’d like to provide commentary.

Level 4 Approval:  Mike Noel, whom Reeves promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in June of 2017.

 

 Level 5 Approval:  Jason Starnes.

While Starnes has received no promotion under Reeves, the legality of his appointment as de facto Undersecretary has been called into question from the “darkest days” (to repeat a phrase uttered by Col. Reeves in December of 2017 at the Baton Rouge Press Club) of the Edmonson administration.  Those who have challenged the legality of Starnes’ appointment as de facto Undersecretary cite LA R. S. 36:406 to buttress their contention.  The relevant basis for the legality challenge follows:

 

Critics of the “appointment” of Starnes as de facto Undersecretary cite the following discrepancies with the preceding statute:

# 1) there was no “appointment by the Governor” but instead, Edmonson created a special position just for Starnes which wasn’t titled “Undersecretary” but serves as that function,

#2) the salary for the position was never “fixed by the Governor” but was instead falsely portrayed by Edmonson to not entail any increase in Starnes’ pay (when critics contend it actually did entail an increase in pay, a point readily stipulated to by several past and present LSPC members), and

#3) the Legislature never approved of the salary being paid for the position.

Former LSPC Executive Director Cathy Derbonne’s lawsuit against the LSPC references the irregularities of the appointment regarding Starnes’ position which are itemized above.

Starnes’ appointment was also the subject of the most hostile exchange between two members of any board or commission that we have ever recorded.  Those LSPC members engaging in the heated exchange were former LSPC Member Lloyd Grafton and LSPC Member Jared Riecke.  It’s shown in the following video:

Heated exchange at the 2/7/17 LSPC meeting between Lloyd Grafton and Jared Riecke entailing the Starnes appointment.  Things got particularly heated beginning at the 5:00 mark, and Riecke makes it clear at the 6:14 mark of the video, that he is, “sitting here having a conversation about Starnes.”

As one individual stated to us, “the optics of all this look horrible.”  Another individual soon thereafter chimed in, “It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

We’ve now concluded our presentation of the concerns of those who have contacted us, and our offer to Col. Reeves to appear on camera to comment on any matter in this feature stands indefinitely should he wish to accept that offer.  In the meantime, we have made the following public records request to provide LSP with an opportunity to document Kaleb Reeves’ credentials for the Detective position beyond merely being Col. Reeves son:

 

We’ll update this feature with any response provided to us.

 

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