The Louisiana State Police Commission, which has been embroiled for the past few months by claims that both commissioners themselves and some troopers violated rules governing campaign contributions, recently received two new appointments.
The additions come as the commission is moving forward on an investigation — which must be completed by late July — into allegations of money being improperly funneled to politicians through an outside organization that collects up to half of its funds from troopers, who are not allowed to donate to candidates.
Specifically, the probe is reviewing whether any active troopers had a role in endorsing political candidates or giving funds to candidates through the Louisiana State Troopers Association, Cathy Derbonne, the commission’s executive director, has said. The association is an independent benevolent group that advocates for issues involving troopers, and some active troopers sit on the board.
The commission, whose members enforce the rules governing troopers and hear complaints against them, still has one vacancy. Three members resigned earlier this year after an independent probe found they violated rules barring campaign contributions.
Gov. John Bel Edwards in early June appointed the two new members: Eulis Simien Jr., a Baton Rouge-based partner in the law firm Simien & Simien, and Jared J. “Jay” Caruso-Riecke, of Covington, the CEO of a property management company called SECO Group.
Richard Carbo, the governor’s spokesman, said Edwards is still reviewing candidates for the commission and that there is no official timeline for naming the final member.
Derbonne said she expects Edwards to make another appointment in July. There are seven spots on the board.
Commissioners and members of the State Police, who are classified state employees, are bound by the same rules and laws, including not being allowed to give political donations.
Some retired troopers who are members of the Louisiana State Troopers Association complained in January that the organization’s executive director, David. T. Young, a civilian, acted as a straw donor to skirt campaign contribution rules and give thousands to politicians, including $9,500 to Edwards.
The governor, who received an endorsement from the association, which does not usually endorse candidates, returned the cash after the contribution arrangement was publicized.
Young has said there was nothing improper about his writing checks to politicians and getting fully reimbursed by the association because it’s part of his work as a lobbyist for troopers.
Now, the commission has until July 22 to complete the investigation, based on a rule that says probes must be finished within 190 days, Derbonne said. The complaint asking for the investigation came Jan. 14.
Some commissioners have been actively working on the probe, but for any results to be disclosed, the announcement needs to happen at a public meeting of the board with at least four commissioners present.
The three commissioners who stepped down — William “Bill” Goldring, Franklin M. Kyle III and Freddie Pitcher — each gave thousands to various candidates, the independent report found in April. Goldring, a New Orleans-based liquor entrepreneur and philanthropist, personally and through his companies gave at least $100,000 to political candidates and committees.
Derbonne said she plans to call a special meeting of the commission soon.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.